Because of Mama

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Directing the Short Film: Casting Your Actors

    The first two questions you'll hear when you pitch a story idea in Hollywood are: What's it about? and Who do you see in it?

    By the time you cast your film, you have already made certain assumptions about your characters. You are looking for the girl next door, a vamp, an ice queen. The challenge in casting a film is that you have to try to make these assumptions "fit" a specific personality, a specific energy, a specific face. But no one actor is going to be a perfect "fit" to the character you've created in your mind. Therefore, when you cast a film, you have to change your assumptions about a character. In the process, your screenplay may find itself in some way "revised."

    For example, Taxi Driver would have been a different movie if Dustin Hoffman had played the lead. The character would have been less angry, more desperately lonely. What about Jack Nicholson? He's closer to DeNiro as a type, but his "take" on the character would have been (we think) funnier. Could you cast a woman in the role? What if Jodie Foster were interested in doing a remake, but this time she plays the disenfranchised taxi driver? Think of the sort of revising a move like this would require!

    When developing Because of Mama, the challenge of casting the boy led us to rethink and to revise the script. We had cast all the other characters, and they were very "true" to the characters we had in mind as we wrote the screenplay. But the boy was presenting more of a problem. Originally we were looking for someone a little angrier, a little sneakier, a little less innocent. But when this kid walked in, with the face of an angel, other possibilities arose. We soon realized that if you start the film with a child who looks like an angel, it's that much more poignant when he's driven to violence and rage. We went with this boy, and made subtle changes in the script to accommodate him. It turned out to be a great decision.



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