The Director’s Chair Issue #2 – May 12, 2000 (Working with Actors: The Casting Session)
THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
Free Monthly Ezine for Film and Television Directors
May 12, 2000 Scene 1 – Take 2
Published once a month – with special editions during the year.
Publisher: Peter D. Marshall
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2. Quote of the Month
3. Feature Article – The Casting Session
4. Directing Tip – Directing Comedy
5. Links of Interest – Virtual Film Schools
6. Short Ends
7. Out Takes
8. Suggestions & Comments
9. Copyright Information
10. Subscribe & Unsubscribe Information
Welcome to Issue # 2 of The Director’s Chair (May 12, 2000)
a) The Feature Article this month is on the Casting Session and
how you can quickly find out if an actor is right for a part.
b) Calling all Volunteers!
If you would like to contribute articles, tips, links of
interest, industry news, interviews, special event dates or other
resources to The Director’s Chair, please email me at:
Peter D. Marshall
2. QUOTE OF THE MONTH
FILM QUOTE: “You know, sometimes you do your best work when
you gotta gun at your head.”
Chili Palmer (John Travolta) – Get Shorty
3. FEATURE ARTICLE – THE CASTING SESSION
Working with Actors: Part 2 (The Casting Session)
(C) 2000, Peter D. Marshall
Last issue we discussed the importance of knowing a “character’s”
personality traits and how you can use a “character personality
chart” to help you.
(To get a copy of this quick reference personality chart, go to
http://www.actioncutprint.com/chart.html and print out the page.
This chart will give you a clear understanding of who a character
is and what their motivations are – as well as help you with the
actor’s interpretation of the character.)
In this issue, we will discuss the casting session and how to
quickly find out if an actor is right for a part.
But first, here is a quick guide on the casting process.
When a director first gets a script, you read it through several
times to get a feel for what the story is about and who the
characters are. (NOTE: In future articles, we will discuss the
Director’s script breakdown in more detail.)
As you read the script, you will get an impression of the
characters. You then have a meeting with the Producer(s) and the
Casting Director to share your ideas of the characters.
(NOTE: This is an important meeting for the Director, because it
is where you find out what the Producer(s) are thinking and if
you are on the right track. Remember: television is a Producers
medium and they have the final say in everything – including
After the meeting, the Casting Director goes away and puts
together a list of actors that fit the character traits and
specific looks discussed in the meeting with the Producer(s).
The Casting Director then has her own casting session where she
videos a “short list” of actors for you and the Producer(s) to
view.(Sometimes you will only cast from these tapes – other times
you will make a short list from the tapes and then to go to a
Okay – you have now arrived at the casting session. You walk in
with the Producer (usually late because you had to get a
Starbuck’s latte) and you meet the cameraman (who puts the actors
on tape) the reader (who reads the script with the actors) and
the Casting Director.
You then get a piece of paper listing all the auditioning actors
and the roles they are portraying – then the actors enter and do
When the session is done, you have a headache, the Producer(s)
don’t agree with anyone you like, the casting Director is already
on the phone setting up another session, and there is a message
from the production office informing you that there is a complete
revision of the script waiting for you when you get back!
Okay, let’s back up a bit.
The Casting session (actors call it “the audition”) can be a
terrifying place for any actor. It takes a lot of guts to walk
into a small, windowless room and have about 5 minutes to “show
your stuff” in front of complete strangers – some of whom could
make or break your career!
But it is just as tough for the Director as well! How can you
decide, in less than 10 minutes, who is right for a particular
part? Because you never have enough time to work with the actors
in a casting session, here are three qualities you should look
for in an actor when they audition for you:
1) do they look the part?
2) do they have range?
3) can they take direction?
Yes…I know there are many, many more, but these three can
usually give you a enough information about an actor – in under
1) Do they look the part?
I call this the “50%” rule – 50% of any role is cast when an
actor enters the room! He(or she) doesn’t have to say anything –
they just LOOK like the character (they ARE the character) when
they come in!
This is especially true of a TV series. You don’t have a lot of
time to build a character in Television, so if an actor looks
like the character, that is the first step in making them
believable to a TV audience.
2) Do they have range?
This is basically saying, “Can they act?” and you need to find
this out quickly. Can an actor give you both ends of the
spectrum. Are they believable when they are in a tense, dramatic
scene? Are they believable in a comedy?
3) Can they take direction?
Any good actor will make a choice when they enter the casting
room. They will decide who this character is and give you their
Many times, this is not what you had in mind, BUT…they were
great! So, what you need to do is give them some “direction” –
ask them to read the part again but do something totally opposite
from what they just did. This gives you an idea if they have
range, and if they can take direction.
Some actors have a problem getting through the audition. They are
very good actors but they are nervous and tend to blow their
audition. And other actors will always “give a great reading” but
they end up a dud on the set.
Remember – casting sessions are not perfect. You will never be
able to fully tell if an actor has the qualities you are looking
for in just 10 minutes. But these three tricks will help you to
see if an actor has range, and if they can take direction – in
less than 10 minutes.
TIP: If you are seriously interested in an actor, ask for a
“call-back” where you can work with this person one-on-one for a
longer period of time. This will help you decide if the actor is
right for the role.
A good performance happens when both the inner and outer self are
portrayed. So when dealing with any actor, remember these three
important words: Motive Determines Behavior!
Motive (what a character thinks-inner)
Behavior (what the character does-outer)
NEXT ISSUE – Director Prep: Breaking down your script.
4. DIRECTING TIP – COMEDY
Nothing can kill a comedy scene quicker than the lack of pace.
The pace of comedy needs to be faster than drama – but not so
frantic that there is no time for reactions.
And never over rehearse a comedy scene – use rehearsals to block
out actor movement, then turn on the camera and see what happens!
5. LINKS OF INTEREST – VIRTUAL FILM SCHOOLS
1) Cyber Film School – http://www.cyberfilmschool.com/
2) Film and TV Connection – http://www.tvconnection.com/
3) Lee Garmes Cinema Institute – http://home.mecfilms.com/lgci/
6. SHORT ENDS – “THE WEST WING”
One of the best TV shows on the air right now is “The West Wing”
Wednesday’s at 9:00 (NBC)
Why? The dialogue, acting and directing are superb! And it is one
of the few programs you can enjoy – even if you have no idea of
what they are talking about!
7. OUT TAKES!
MOVIE CLICHES – HEROES
If the hero has a psychological/physical problem which has
prevented him from effectively dealing with problems, you can
rest assured that this problem will disappear at an opportune time.
The hero always misses the villain leaving the scene by seconds.
Stripping to the waist makes the hero invulnerable.
The hero will always be paired off with a female character. The
sidekick never will.
The hero’s best friend/partner will usually be killed by the bad
guys three days before retirement.
The hero’s new wife will be mowed down by 80 machine guns right
after the wedding or during the honeymoon.
Heroes can go without food or sleep, with no measurable drop in
physical or mental faculties, for at least 72 hours.
The hero will always have a small trickle of blood in the right
corner of his mouth after a fight. His lip will never be split in
the middle, and his upper lip will always be invulnerable. He
will wipe the blood from the corner of his mouth with the back of
his hand, then look at it. If his face displays any other injury,
it will usually be a small abrasion on his right cheekbone. He
will wear a band-aid on this for one day, after which it will be
The hero will always refuse the assistance of friends or medical
personnel after a fight.
If the hero gets into a second fight, his most injured body part
will always be punched or kicked.
A hero will show no pain even during the most terrific beating,
yet he will wince if a women attempts to clean a facial wound.
When a hero is paired with a weak sidekick, that sidekick will
invariably save the hero’s life at a crucial moment, or show
remarkable proficiency with weapons in a key scene.
If the hero is a white male and has an assistant/sidekick who is
either not white or not male the assistant/sidekick will die,
preferably in an act of heroic sacrifice.
If the movie hero has a sidekick and he mentions his family in
the first two minutes of the film, the sidekick will surely be killed.
The movie hero is (almost) always divorced, but he still has some
contact with his ex-wife who tells him that she could not stay
married to him because she loves him too much.
8. SUGGESTIONS & COMMENTS
Send any comments, suggestions, questions or advice to:
9. COPYRIGHT INFORMATION
Peter D. Marshall
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Read Issue #3 of The Director’s Chair (June 12, 2000)
Feature Article – Script Breakdown (Script and Scene Analysis)
Copyright (c) 2000-2009
Peter D. Marshall / All Rights Reserved