COSMOS MOVIE PRODUCTION BLOG 11: CASTING THE ‘Astro-Nuts’
“I always take great care in casting my movies… you develop good characters with good casting.” — Ridley Scott
Every Director will tell you… Casting is everything.
The history of film is littered with examples of both good and bad casting. In the hands of an experienced actor, the corniest dialogue can effortlessly bubble with life… but an inexperienced actor can just as easily murder a film’s chances of success. Will your film serve as an inspiration to others… or a warning?
Watch this short video of director Ed Burns and commit his golden-nuggets of advice to memory…
Good filmmaking is 95% good casting — Ed Burns, Director.
Committing to finding the right actor for the right role is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as a filmmaker. You can only make a good film if you cast good actors… and be under no allusion — good actors are hard to find.
The Casting Process
The process of casting actors can be long and slow, especially on a tight budget but don’t cut corners! The quality of your film hangs in the balance, make one false move and you’re doomed!
Traditionally, the process of casting actors involves a series of auditions with a Casting Director, which are documented on video for the Producer and Director to analyse later. Character Breakdown sheets (formed from the Script Breakdown) are provided to auditioning actors offering a brief summary of a character — age, gender, personality, backstory etc. Later stages of auditioning involve groups of shortlisted actors performing scenes together, allowing the Director to judge the chemistry of the group.
An actor may even audition in a one-on-one session with the Director. This video features Hugh Jackman auditioning for Wolverine with director Bryan Singer for X-Men back in 1999 — it’s a fascinating glimpse into the casting process of a Hollywood Blockbuster.
This next video is an example of a more improvised style of casting, and showcases the electrifying performance that won Henry Thomas the role of Elliott in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. –Listen out for an excited Spielberg exclaiming “Okay kid, you got the job!” at the end.
For COSMOS we auditioned actors in a process similar to the one above, searching for the three main characters in the film — Harry Knight, Roy Kennedy and Mike Webster.
Our first round of auditions were all video auditions — the first step was to request the actors record a video of themselves delivering a scene to camera, using a webcam or iPhone or whatever! (We didn’t care at all about the quality of the video, just the performance).
We auditioned all our actors using one particular scene from the film — this scene was only one page long and consisted of a monologue-type speech by the character, but it was a scene that we felt most encapsulated the tone of story and the depth of characters we want to create. It didn’t matter which actor we had in mind for which character, they all auditioned using this same scene, all receiving the same direction. With this audition scene we also supplied a music track that we felt captured the sentiment of the speech and scene.
Our goal with these video auditions was to quickly establish what the auditioning actor’s natural instincts were. How did they interpret the basic direction? How did they react to the music? Were they naturally ‘clicking’ with the speech or where they missing the mark?
We’ve never used this technique before; we’ve never really auditioned actors before! But this uniform system allowed us to quickly judge different performances and acting styles and consequently, move forwards with the actors who we felt were instinctively in sync with the type of film we want to make.
We met with the actors who delivered strong video auditions and worked on honing that audition scene even further. With their gut instincts already channelling them in the right direction we were able to sculpt some lovely performances together. Sadly in the end there were several great actors up for just three roles and unfortunately we couldn’t cast everyone, but we’d like to extend our personal thanks to you all for your hard work and support for the film (you’re top blokes… you know how you are).
After deciding on the three actors who’d play the main characters we brought them together to read some scenes and judge their chemistry, first in pairs and then as a group — we were certain we’d found three great guys who would instantly gel and we were right, and we are excited to announce our lead actors.
Josh Ford as Harry Knight. Harry is a Research Scientist currently assigned to advise the development of photographic instrumentation for science satellites. Harry is the founder of the amateur astronomy society “The Astro-Nuts”. At the weekends he pursues his passion project; the ongoing upgrade of his own super high-definition telescope with which he photographs local star systems.
Arjun Singh Panam as Roy Kennedy. Roy is an Aeronautical Engineer responsible for developing science satellite guidance and control systems, and long time colleague and friend of Harry Knight. Roy is also the other founding member of “The Astro-Nuts” society, spending his weekends tracking satellites orbiting the Earth; specifically those that he’s personally worked on.
Tom England as Mike Webster. Mike is a young and enthusiastic Radio Astronomer who works under Harry Knight. Mike is pioneering a potentially industry-changing space imaging technology but with investors threatening to cancel his funding, he’s running out of time to prove to his new systems works. As a fellow amateur astronomer and wannabe member of “The Astro-Nuts”, he dedicates all his free time to developing his imaging system.
We’ve already started a process of developing character backstory with the cast and we’re soon heading into a period 0f in-depth rehearsal to really refine the scenes and character relationships.
Zand & Ell
Thanks for stopping by,
Elliot Weaver, Director @CosmosMovie