Last week I had a meeting with a filmmaker about the development of First Signal. While he knows I watched his work, what immediately struck me was that he watched some of mine as well. Isn’t this what the process is all about? Learning about each other’s work before you work together?
When I’m in a pitch meeting with a possible producer, I might not watch all the movies they’ve produced, but you can be sure I’ve watched some. When I’m looking to cast an actor, I read their resume to see if we have any common background or talking points. Likewise, when I’m cast in a project I always look up the director. You never know where a conversation of mutual interests can take you.
I figured the meeting was going to go well, but you never really know until you have a face to face. The result of that meeting was a change in process on the production of First Signal. While a table read was nearly cast and scheduled, the decision was made to go straight to auditions in April with production in August.
The decision to forgo the table read really came down to a few things. First, there were some scheduling conflicts in early March, a preliminary working budget was largely agreed to and it appeared to be an extra step in the process that we just didn’t need. Naturally, once the actors have been cast the requisite rehearsals will take place prior to shooting. A formal casting notice will be posted on Backstage and New England Film in late March, but for now please visit this link for more information.
The process of making a feature film is an exciting one, but also a careful one. It all comes down to planning and execution. When I think of the days when I produced some major events (some out of the country), and what has gone into my film projects, I’m a firm believer in the importance of pre-production. A film is like a train. Once the train leaves the station it’s almost impossible to stop. Best to have everyone board at the station rather than trying to jump on while racing down the tracks.
From actors I’ve cast in past projects to learning about new talent in the region, since the notice went live I’ve been very encouraged by the quality of the submissions. However, for this project I’ll be reaching out to additional sources for certain roles. The goal of the table read isn’t just to hear the script, it’s also about casting possibilities for the feature film itself.
The character of Cedric Yonah is particularly important to the overall story. Not only does the actor need to be great at his craft, but he also must have a certain look. I can almost say that I’ve received enough quality submissions for all other characters, but I’m still looking for this one. This isn’t exactly “The search for Scarlett” but let’s just say the search is ongoing.
This reminds me of the classic sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still. As I understand from the development process, director Robert Wise didn’t want to have a recognizable actor walk out of the spaceship as it wouldn’t have been believable. But it had to be an actor with gravitas and a certain look. The casting of Michael Rennie as Klaatu/Mr. Carpenter was brilliant.
Casting is not an easy process. I remember the three hundred plus submissions for Justice Is Mind. While I was fortunate to find some of the leading roles from the short film version Evidence, there were numerous parts that I needed to cast. In as much as you want to see a quality audition, it’s also about how you get along with the actor during that brief time. I do believe it comes down to the sixty second impression.
However, what I still don’t understand is how simple submission instructions aren’t followed. When I submit for a project I make sure I follow the instructions to the letter (why wouldn’t I?). If you refuse to follow submission instructions, how are you going to be during filming? I kid you not I received a submission that literally said here is my IMDb link and Google me. Sorry, if you can’t submit a required headshot, resume and link to your reel you just get relegated to archive.
But this is just part of the development process. Every project takes on a life of its own. I always find it interesting where a project gets its start. First Signal started at the Naval Justice School. But Justice Is Mind actually got its start when I wrote the sequel to First World and was researching mind reading technology. Thus my discovery of the 60 Minutes story from 2009 on thought identification being developed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Four years after that story Justice Is Mind screened at CMU.