This column is written by Sally Hassan, the creator of Ghetto Nerd Girl. In this column, I talk about how to get through the vital steps of making a web series as smoothly and painlessly as possible.
Congratulations on finishing your script! Now what? The pre-production process can be very daunting. Each aspect of pre-production can be broken down into the following.
Let’s talk about casting. As a filmmaker, you have to talk to actors. This used to be the scariest thing for me. I was so afraid that I made my 3 out of 4 films without any actors. Sad and strange I know! But also kind of creative if you ask me. I think my fear came from sharing my ideas with an unknown party who had goals different from my own. I thought they’d laugh at my idea, not care or downright disrespect me. I thought because I was some nobody filmmaker that no actor would give me the time of day. It didn’t help that I had zero confidence in my directing skills before Ghetto Nerd Girl. I didn’t have many friends who were actors (only one and she was automatically cast!) so I knew if I wanted to make a web series I had to hold auditions.
My illogical yet very real fear was hard to shake off so I had to recruit some help. Luckily, many of the steps to casting required little to no social interaction. I’m not the only one who has social anxiety when it comes to sharing work with strangers, but mine may be a little over the top. Aside from that, which I did end up working through, I learned that casting can be a very time-consuming process and can make or break your series. I’ve included a handy step-by-step guideline.
Season 2 cast of Ghetto Nerd Girl at the table read
Character Breakdowns – One for every character with significant lines. Give gender, age range, physical traits, and characteristics. Don’t forget to include payment, location, a short summary, and a rough timeline.
Casting Call Post – This depends heavily on where you live but I used Backstage & Actors Access. AA is free while Backstage is not, but you can use the actor search tool to contact actors on Backstage for free.
Sides – Pick a scene with the most emotional range per character that has 1 other character in the script max. You can save time by auditioning two roles at once! Some may advise against this, but I find that having an actor read with another actor can enhance their performance. Your selected scene should be a max of 3 pages. I think it’s unreasonable to have actors memorize lines from a scene longer than that.
Headshots – Let the submissions roll! As you comb through credentials keep in mind what you’re looking for. Do they have enough experience? Are they up for the challenge?
Invites – E-mail as many people as you’d like but keep in mind there are only so many hours. Include the same information from your post and any other key details. For example, I mentioned actors should be comfortable smoking for their role(s).
Schedule – I broke it down into 10-minute increments. We had 8 hours to audition 7 roles for Season 2 so we had to act quickly. Don’t forget lunch!
Callbacks – The toughest part. Thank everyone for showing up because they made the time for your project. Let them down easy. Rejection is sometimes difficult to take. Pick two top actors for each role and you may hold a second audition at this point.
Offering the Role – Contact your top choices. E-mail or call depending on how much detail there is. If it doesn’t work out you always have your second choice. Everything happens for a reason.
1-3 should be completed before posting casting calls. You will get lost in submissions with all the headshots, resumes, and reels. It can be a very entertaining yet time eating hole. Also under no circumstances should you hold auditions in a house or apartment. I know we are low budget creators but if you want to be taken seriously you should shell out some cash to rent a studio space. There are quite a few affordable options in the NYC area. Some people might not be available to audition the day you scheduled. You could offer them a video audition. I never had any luck with those but it may be a viable option for you.
As far as getting over my fear is concerned, practice makes perfect. I was a hot mess and probably more nervous than the actors themselves during Season 1 auditions, but seeing them act out my script for the first time was an amazing experience. It helped me realize whether actor or filmmaker we all have the same creative goals. To be seen. To be heard. To be recognized.
Watch Ghetto Nerd Girl here.