Auditioning Actors Part 1...
Auditions...how do you do them?
First, how do you advertise? There are always ways. There are some resources such as Backstage and Actor's Access, which are casting sites online, with Backstage also having a physical paper. But be careful: it depends on where you're shooting. Those two resources are mainly used by people in either the L.A. or N.Y.C. areas. If your shoot is in Ohio, you might not be able to pay actors to fly in from NY. So it might be a waste of time to advertise there. So what do you do?
My advice is talk to local theatres or film groups. They have to cast, and they'll generally know how to find actors in the area. They might even be able to give you recommendations! Don't turn up your nose at someone simply because they only do community theatre. It's your job to direct them and get the performance you want out of them, and talent is talent. Not every talented actor is on Broadway. If they give you a great reading, perfect!
For me, I had previously been advised to advertise on the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia website. It's similar to Actor's Access, but used by actors in the Philly area. Which is WAY closer to me.
Here again, we come to another issue: union vs. nonunion.
It's going to come up, especially if you're paying your actors. Which I recommend trying to do, even if it's only a small stipend. If you're offering any money at all, you'll generally get higher-quality actors who are willing to do more for you. Plus, that puts your work with them on a professional basis, and means you can expect them to act like professionals off-screen and on. So if you can, pay them. Plus, people should always be compensated for their time and talent. They are trying to make a living with their art, the same as you. At the VERY least, make SURE you budget enough to feed them, and feed them well. But pay them if you possibly can.
For us, we went non-union. Getting involved with SAG means lots of restrictions, paperwork, and having to pay more money. And you won't necessarily get better actors. I know plenty of SAG actors who are good, and plenty of non-union actors who are just as good.
The main issue is that you have to say. If you want a SAG actor, your shoot has to be on SOME sort of SAG contract. SAG actors can be fined for taking part in a non-union shoot if SAG finds out they did.
This brings me to another point. Some indie filmmakers will recommend trying to get a B-list actor interested in your project. In other words, someone with at least a vaguely recognizable name. That will make distributors more likely to give your film the time of day, since a name actor might be an audience draw. It's up to you. What IS true is that any B-list actor willing to do a micro-budget indie will probably be older (not so worried about making it and willing to branch out and take on interesting roles, and maybe they also aren't as busy), but they will definitely be SAG. So the only way I see you might get someone like that is that you are friends with them and they're willing to do you a favor, or you pay for them. Which means negotiating a SAG low-budget deal, and again, be prepared to pay a lot of money to make that happen. Between SAG fees and the minimum possible fee we would have to offer such an actor, plus a fee for a casting agent, we opted not to pursue that. It is our responsibility to make an amazing film, and I'd rather reserve the money for that rather than spending it all getting one single actor.
Next time, a few tips for running auditions!