For months now we have been in the phase of pitching both directors and talent for upcoming projects. A process that is both exciting and an exercise in patience and persistence. This is also a topic that keeps coming up on my consulting calls as many of the filmmakers I work with are either entering this phase as well, or feeling overwhelmed by the thought of it. So, I wanted to share a little of my process in attaching top talent to indie films.
These steps, in general, apply to films of all levels. The process will vary slightly depending on your resources and track record. Having a Casting Director during this process is always ideal, but for those of you who may not have that option, here are some tips.
Brainstorm a list of everyone who would be right for the role and keep brainstorming until you are exhausted… sometimes the best ideas aren't the first! Keep your list within the age and character types of the role.
2. LOOK FOR HOOKS
Are there musicians, athletes, influencers, etc. who may be a great fit and are looking to get into acting and therefore have a following (audience!), but who don’t get pitched as often? Is there an actor looking to get into directing? These are situations that give you an added hook to your pitch and gaining access.
3. CHECK AVAILABILITY
You can call any agency, ask for the office of whoever represents the potential talent (you can find this on IMDB Pro) and you will 95% of the time get the assistant and simply say:
“I’m calling to check the availability of XXX for January and February of 2022.”
Most of the time they will give you the dates, occasionally they will ask you to email more details. It is up to you if you are ready to do that. If you are ready to pitch that talent, I would mention the name of the project but if you’re not (your checking the avails of dozens for research), you can say:
“I’m not at liberty to say at the moment”, “I’ll ask the producers to email you that info”, etc.
Translating their response:
Avail- They are available
Tech Avail- They are available but likely have offers closing or on the table
Avail LA (or insert city)- This used to mean they are avail to work in LA only but you need to clarify because at some agencies, this means they are avail and are based in LA (hence where you would have to travel them from).
"Can you clarify please, are they based in LA or only available to work in LA?"
4. ORDER AND CHECK MARKETABILITY
Of course you want to consider who is right for the role and that goes without saying, BUT if you want to sell your film you should also consider marketability. I usually check IMDB scores (not the end-all-be-all, but it helps give you an idea). If someone will be meaningful to sell your film, they will likely be in the top 500, occasionally 1000. These days on a $3-5million, I aim for under 300 (the larger the budget, the more important that is). If you know a distributor or sales agent (a great reason to start networking) you can often ask their thoughts on who would be the most marketable choice. I have several great mentors who are willing to weigh-in or run names through proprietary software, or in the case of the projects where we have a distributor already, we always send them lists to double check that the talent will support the budget and distribution strategy.
*****KEY: IT IS ALWAYS A BALANCE. YOU NEED TO MAINTAIN CREATIVE INTEGRITY WHILE ALSO CONSIDERING MARKETABILITY. REMEMBER YOU WANT THIS TO BE A SUCCESS SO YOU CAN KEEP MAKING ALL THOSE OTHER FILMS ☺*****
NOW IT’S PITCH TIME!!
Next, it’s time to start pitching your talent or director! In coming weeks we will get into the materials needed and how to reach out to agents and managers.