Blog 7: Casting – A Producer’s Perspective
Another reason why I wanted to make a horror was because I believe it is a genre you can get away with doing (and selling) without having to have a ‘named’ actor. Contrary to comedies or romances (genres that often have an ‘A’ lister or famous stand-up turned actor to sell them), and particularly in slasher and gore horrors, actors in a way are just fodder. But The Harsh Light of Day is neither of these types of horror. Many of the roles, not least our protagonist, are quite demanding, so we knew we had to get quality artists on board.
Having very little money, and being completely inexperienced at casting for features, I decided that we would undertake casting the film independently, that is to say without a casting director. In hindsight the money we spent on audition venues in London could have probably bagged us the assistance of a half decent casting director.
We decided to try and aim for (near) the top with a British ‘B’ list actor (who is now doing rather well in TV drama stateside) whom we both felt would suit the role well. After pestering his agent for many weeks, who wasn’t even prepared to consider the film for her client because of the budget and the fact that we were both inexperienced, she finally agreed to read the script. Again, a good script can work wonders for you. The agent loved the script and so made an exception and passed it to her client, who also loved it and wrote us a ‘letter of interest’ in playing the role of Daniel, subject to finance. And there was the catch – ‘subject to finance’.
With this letter, I possibly could have gone away and spent maybe another 6 – 12 months trying to raise the finance to afford this actor. Or we could find an amazingly talented, unknown actor and shoot the film when we had planned. We went with the latter, and so began our repeatedly arduous coach trips to London to hold audition after audition following the hundreds of responses to our casting calls.
Whilst this was going on, Dan Richardson was busy sunning himself in Canada, after recently wrapping
another feature over there. By the time he got back we had no money left to get back up to London for more auditions, still hadn’t found our Daniel and were about 2 weeks away from shooting. Damn it! In a last ditch effort Ollie and I trawled the various casting web sites to try and find our protagonist. When we came across anyone who looked a bit handy, we had to write to them asking them if they would come to Bournemouth to audition because we couldn’t get to London. A handful of people came, including a very tanned Dan Richardson, along with his surfboard. Again, with the actors who came, they came because they loved the script and moreover the character they were to read for.
For me, Giles Alderson was a shoe-in for Infurnari pretty much from day one. He just had the right look. We invited him to an audition when we were in London and Ollie was impressed not only by his abilities as an actor, but the way he tuned into the script and the role. He was also well experienced with low-budget features with a strong list of credits to his name. Most recently he freaked the shit out of me in low-budget horror The Torment.
In terms of how the casting process worked, the search process was very collaborative. It was a bumpy road and for a number of the final cast, it wasn’t what Ollie had originally intended. Maybe this is common problem for a writer/director, especially when you have a tiny budget, no track record to entice people and no casting director. When it came to the final decisions, unless I was particularly adverse to any of Ollie’s choices, I would let him select his cast. But generally we were pretty much on the same wavelength. And in spite of the up hill struggle, I think we were pretty damn lucky with our final cast.
Useful links and books:
– The iron triangle to film making: Cast, Distribution, Financing
– Film finance and casting