No Budget Guide To Filmmaking - Chapter AUDITIONS

Hopefully by now you’ve assembled a crew. One man cannot do it alone, nor should he, a mistake I still learn from! So your script is done, as was in my case, mostly done. I had penned the entire full-length as a period western. When I finally had the guts to shoot my western, I realized I needed to modernize the story. I’m working on this exercise daily, as there is no “can’t” in the vocabulary of a filmmaker, unless it is immediately followed up by “can’t right now,” and even then, that’s dangerous rhetoric. Having said that, at the time, I was convinced I couldn’t shoot a real period piece given the wardrobe, the sets, etc, so I scrambled after watching El Mariachi to re-imagine the events of my western into a modern setting. Needless to say, the script was 100% finished only days before shooting. I hear Quentin Tarantino does this with his scripts, even while in production. A little reworking here, a little reworking there, just to make it right. I don’t advocate this method; rather, you shouldn’t beat yourself up if this is the case when you shoot your short or feature film.

I don’t think Robert Rodriguez is the rule when it comes to limited resources. I think he’s the exception. He has a gift and a drive to match that gift. Every one of us who picks up a camera does as well; we all have drive - we may just take longer to catch up. I saw that time and time again when I was teaching math. Some people are just high-rep learners, and that’s just how they are wired. If we could live for 250 years, we might be able to catch up to ole Rodriguez. But whether you’re precocious with your 50 mm lens, or you really have to dig deep to find that creative spark, it doesn’t matter. Try, try, try.

What a preamble. Okay, you’re setting up your auditions. I highly recommend going somewhere neutral as opposed to inviting scores of strangers over to your house. For us, it was the fine guys at Innovative Inks. They are our screenprinting friends; they’ve worked with us and served with us on many different platforms. It’s just like any enterprise - you start with your personal network and grow from there. Innovative Inks is a silkscreen and embroidery shop in South Salt Lake City, and we used their shop a number of times in the film, some more obvious than others. They were first, however, the hosts to our auditions.

Bring out some light refreshments for yourself and any others you invite with you, block people into 20-minute blocks, and schedule, schedule, schedule. 30 minutes are too long, and 15 minutes just ain’t gonna cut it. This will allow you some time to connect with people. Don’t be that turd director that doesn’t make eye contact with the folks auditioning. Smile, suppress your introvertedness (if you have it), and engage them. Thank them for their time, and mean it. If you’re going to direct these people, you best start treating them with some respect. Some of these guys and gals will sacrifice much for the sake of your film (and even after the film with IMDB pages and referrals), and some of them will challenge you in ways you can’t even imagine. Some of them you’ll build up and get them started on their latent talents. Filmmaking is a people business, and if you’re not comfortable with that, you might need to stick to stocking the backroom at Target. And don’t forget; don’t forget. You have to know their availability during your shoot dates. This is CRITICAL. Know what their availability is and treat it like the footage you’ll be backing up. Preserve, save, preserve, share with your team, and backup the original info so nobody accidentally deletes the info on Google Drive.

The second day we had auditions, my wife and I set up shop at Innovative Inks, and we get a call from my friend Jorge. It was rather cryptic, but it was clearly a cry for help. My wife is a superhero, so she drove back to our apartment complex where Jorge also lived. It turns out he was loopy (and this was coming from a guy who to this day, wakes up at 4 am to study and jog, and then goes to bed by 8 pm - faithfully). Okay, that’s putting it lightly. My wife knew something was amiss, and in one of the rare instances of purpling (a term we coined for our youth group for a guy and a girl spending one-on-one time), she drove him to the ER. He was passing a kidney stone and was in excruciating pain. He was delirious, and there’s no telling what would have happened had she not gone.

That left me by myself for a chunk of the auditions that day. Not ideal by any means, but the moral of the story is try to block a team of three or more (including yourself) to handle auditions for a feature film. If it’s a short film, you be the judge. If you’re putting together an internal video for your business, you won’t be holding auditions, so jump to the next chapter. 5 or more seems excessive because then you’re inventing gopher jobs for that extra wheel. Few are ready and willing servants when it comes to gophering - we’re human after all. That’s not an excuse to try though, mind you. Our Father gave us the perfect example of servant leadership in His Son, so let’s keep that in mind when working in a capacity that’s beneath you.

Back to the auditions. Some folks will show up early, others late, and some not at all. I’m convinced whether it’s parties, film shoots, or Sunday school classrooms, anytime you invite a large number of people (10 or more), at least 1/3 will not make it. I swear it’s a consequence of the law of large numbers, so I call it as such. The same is true with auditions, though the number is smaller, but nonzero. In other words, PEOPLE WILL BAIL. At this level, you will see very quickly with budget limitations (i.e. in many cases, no budget as the title of this book suggests) that there are some folks that are in it for the money. Others have lower thresholds of risk. I get it. I do. I’ve had to turn down a number of jobs because the return on investment (ROI) wasn’t worth it. Suck it up, don’t take it personally, and move on.

Now, I prayed about this film. I did, and I sensed God saying it was a fork in the road, and in retrospect, I can clearly see that. I didn’t have to do the film, and at the same time, I could. I picked the latter, fueled by this inner drive to be the next Rodriguez. Whatever your motivation, don’t let it be about money. Especially at this level - keep in mind they say about 98% of independent films do NOT recuperate their budget. Don’t let that stop you either, just realize you will be in this heart, mind and soul, so it can’t be about money. If you love telling stories and don’t quit (at anything), go for it. Set up your audition space, hit up your local networks (Facebook, talent agencies, etc.), and be transparent. You’ll be surprised at just how contagious your passion can be. People that want to be a part of filmmaking just as much as you do really exist. They do. The worst thing you can do is not ask. The saying goes you know what happens when you quit. You don’t know what could happen when you keep trying