How to Get It Done When You Don't Know What You're Doing: When Actors Quit

(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #1

This column is written by Sally Hassan, the creator of Ghetto Nerd Girl. I talk about how to get through the vital steps of making a web series as smoothly and painlessly as possible.

As a virtual mentor for all you web series creators out there on Stareable, I feel it’s my job to prepare you for it all. I think about what I wanted to know when I started and this topic is high on the list. It can feel like there’s no way out, but believe me, there is. There are a lot of unglamorous things that come with the territory of making web series and this is definitely one of them.

You have your script written out, your cast is ready to go, and you may have even filmed a couple of episodes. You get that dreaded phone call, text or e-mail. They’re letting you know this role is no longer working out and you have to part ways. At this moment it’s important to know your web series dream is not dead unless you decide it is. Every situation is different, but here are a few guidelines that will help you get back on track.

Paul Epifan & Melissa Damas in Ghetto Nerd Girl Ep. 1.4 - Buzzed Off Boys N' Beer AKA Our 1st Actor Rewrite Episode

1.) Let Them Go – It is what it is. Chances are it’s their loss, not yours. You don’t want someone on your team who doesn’t want to be there anyway.

2.) Be Cordial – Make it a clean break and let it be known there are no hard feelings (even if there are). Don’t forget that if you filmed some episodes together, you’re still going to have to promote them too. Bad mouthing will only make you and your series look unprofessional. Put the personal issues aside and everything will be fine.

3.) Square It Away – Get your paperwork completed ASAP so you don’t have to chase someone down. If you didn’t have it before you won’t have it now. Cut your losses if you have to.

4.) Be Flexible – Have an open mind. Write the character out, recast, and/or do whatever you need to do to move on. You have the rest of your cast/crew to lean on to make the transition easier.

The more adaptable you are to changes the better off you’ll be. I’ve had multiple actors quit on me and the world didn’t end! There were understandable circumstances but I had to act fast to keep the series going. Luckily I was able to make some last minute rewrites before filming the next episode and everything was okay. It affected the final outcome but I think it improved our series overall.

Shayna Schmidt, Megan McGullam & Melissa Damas in Ghetto Nerd Girl Ep. 1.6 - V Is For Virgin AKA Our 2nd Actor Rewrite Episode

I wish I could tell you making a web series is great all the time, but it’s not. There will be frustrating moments and even some tears if you’re anything like me. It means you care a lot and that will keep you going. Don’t quit because I know if I can get through it then you can too. I mean what else would you rather be doing?

Do you have a similar experience? How did you get through it? Tell me your stories I’d love to hear them!

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The Art of Recasting
Teach Me Tuesday: Firing and recasting actors
(Bri Castellini) #2

Have you had to recast without being able to reshoot? Like replace an actor between seasons or episodes? How did you deal with that? Just say their name and hope people either don’t notice or don’t care? Make a meta joke?

(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #3

Funny you ask! Yes I have. I plan on going into detail about recasting in next week’s column post. Stay tuned.

(Mika Marcovitz) #4

Boy, is this some real issue with budget-less film making… I’d live to hear/ read all about your solutions!

(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #5

Thank you so much! I’d be more than happy to chat more about this. :smile:

(Laura Pepper) #6

I’ve had this experience in more than a few types of projects.

Feature film - (after several cast changes pre-production): Our first ensemble day (20 actors + extras), 3 no-shows. One of my ADs stepped into a minor role, another crew member who also acts stepped into a supporting role - and we shot around #3, while we locked a replacement.

Webseries #1: “Stuff & Nonsense” (sketch variety series) Season 1. We literally didn’t shoot any of the scripts I wrote. Everything we did was improv based on who showed up that day. Freeing, though stressful in its own way.

Webseries #2: “Friends 4 Eva” (reality tv show spoof; on a hiatus from production). Between our first 2 blocks of filming, two actors dropped out. SPOILER ALERT I added a scene that reveals they were imposters on set when one of the ‘real’ contestants shows up.

Sometimes you can rework what you wrote, or scramble to find suitable replacements. Other times, you may have to cut their scenes and/or reshoot.

I definitely agree with all of Sally’s thoughts on professionalism. It’s not only their loss for your project, but you can give honest feedback about their commitment without being nasty about it. We have small, close-knit communities, and should be supporting each other. If it’s an actor or crew member who flaked or abandoned your project for ‘greener grass’, it’s worth sharing your experience. If it was a ‘creative differences’ situation, you should temper your assessment with that fact.

(Yarnel Nicolas) #7

Been down that road before. Had to deal with health scares, bigger projects, you name it. But perseverance is the key to keeping those shows afloat.

(Marc Unger) #8

Thankfully, none of our actors quit but one of the most nerve wracking but, ultimately satisfying, challenges in filming a full eight episode season was learning to plot and write on the fly. All of our actors worked for deferred pay so, obviously, we gave them flexibility to shoot only when they had time on the weekends. Since I played the lead, I could write around people’s schedules but sometimes plans had to change last minute. Case in point

Nikki Estridge, who plays my character’s wife, was cast but, after shooting the first episode in late April of 2017, let us know that she was moving to Tennessee and would be based out of the Atlanta market. She really loved the project and my plan had always been to have that character be an integral part of the story and not just “the wife”. Thinking ahead, we shot two scenes with her (one being the chess scene as seen in the photo) in late July 2017 before she moved. The chess scene was inserted in episode 4. That same day, we also shot a scene of her in a corporate condo that, with the magic of stock footage and a title card, became a condo in Phoenix, Az. I wrote the chess scene to include information that she was travelling to Phoenix for work. Then in episode 5 we had her record her half of a scene on her iPhone and inserted it into a scene where it appears she and I are talking via skype. For episode 6, which was primarily shot in Feb-March of 2018, we inserted her half of the Phoenix condo phone conversation into a scene with my character.

The final part of the trickery was that we brought her to Baltimore to film some scenes the last weekend of January 2017 which were inserted in episodes 6, 7 and 8. For episode 3, we had a quick scene where my character comes into the bedroom and talks to his sleeping wife. It was very darkly lit and my actual wife was the body double for Nikki who recorded her dialogue in Tennessee and sent it to us.

There were also plenty of times where what was planned for a given weekend couldn’t happen because an actor wasn’t available or the location wasn’t and I found myself rewriting to suit what we had available.

Or, as is the case with the scene shot at the music venue, I wrote something because someone gave us the opportunity to shoot during a live concert and there was NO WAY I wasn’t taking advantage of that bit of production value so I wrote this music scene as part of a montage sequence where my character is working desperately to get cast in a play and sets out to embody the character he’ll be playing. If anyone wants to know more about what we did, how we did it or would like to see advance copies of the full season, message me here or you can go to www. and find us that way.

(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #9

Thanks for sharing your experience with us! I have also dealt with actors moving which led to recasting but I’m glad it worked out in your situation. Your web series looks intriguing. I’ll def check it out!