Getting A list actors to star in independent films

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  • Getting A list actors to star in independent films

    How do you sweeten the deal on your film that you know you have a good idea (of course, we all think that); how do we make it easy to attract A list actors and not have to pay them extremely high amounts of cash considering budget.

    Any ideas of celebrities that are interested in independent films and how do you get in contact with their agencies to know the next step.

  • #2
    Hey Hazard,
    Welcome to the forums.
    This is a really good question. As many filmmakers know, but often times neglect, having talented and recognizable actors on board for a production can have a tremendous impact on the success of a film. Not just because of their ability to connect with audiences in front of the camera, but also because of their ability to connect with the people behind the camera.

    My excuse for not being able to work with stars is that I myself haven't become one yet...
    I believe in the "network".
    And the best way to initiate your connection into the network is to start a relationship with your film commission.

    Your city's film commission should be an excellent resource, or at least I know the one here in Houston is, especially for Indies/students. Although, I hear that in LA and NY, it's practically impossible to get any real assistance as an indie or student from the commission, because they're flooded with high budget studio productions. I'm not sure if all of the commissions are non-profit, but I know the one here in Houston is, and they're often times the best way to go for locking locations, actors, crew, etc... Consider your city's film commission as your primary production database. I hope that helps.

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    • #3
      When A list actors commit themselves to an independent film is when the script is really good, or they feel they can accomplish artistically a good film. It's really not about the money because they know they won't get paid a lot for an indie film.

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      • #4
        what if my town doesnt have a film commission. The place I live is Williamsport and how do I get these scripts in these stars hands in a short period of time?

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        • #5
          If you really want to attempt A-list actors, I wouldn't think in the "short term"... unless you're lucky, it might take a while.

          You could try your state film board, or the film board in the nearest big city.

          Also, another good resource is IMDBpro... from there you can get their agency listings & the contact information for the agencies, major studios, and more...

          However, if you want to go about contacting them, I'd suggest writing a letter to begin with... try to be confident, but not over confident... a prospecting letter would be the best way to describe what you'd want to write... basically a letter asking permission to contact them to discuss your film...

          Another consideration to make, is that it will always be better if you can put some sort of budget together before attaching an actor... it'll just make their agent more likely to put the script in front of them...

          Tough subject... There aren't any other suggestions that I could make off the top of my head right now... when I get back from AZ & CA maybe I'll have something more for ya.

          For now, good luck & good hunting.

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          • #6
            Here is my list of how to get A-List actors onboard:

            1. Become very good friends with them!

            In all seriousness! You may not become great friends iwth them, but you can at least become aquaintances. Go to film festivals, go to parties, be at events, go out. Over time, you will develop a relationship with them. This becomes very important. But, a caveat: NEVER TALK BUSINESS! They get it all day every day. Find something else to talk to them about. Talk politics, ask them where they got that shirt, tell them about the best burger in town that's located in the most obscure hole-in-the-wall joint, ANYTHING, but business. Schmooze is the word!

            2. Become very good friends with somebody who is very good friends with them.

            This is probably the best way to do it. An agent will rarely take a look at indie films if it is a MAJOR star. Maybe look into A-Listers who haven't really broken out to be come huge stars, or haven't done a picture in a while. The first is like some Scarlett Johannson films over the past few years. The latter is what Tarantino did when he got Keitel onboard with Reservoir dogs.

            3. Stalk them (Kidding! I'm kidding!)

            4. Write the part to be a supporting role, but a major emotional role.

            This is so that the actor really wants to do the part. Also, because it is a smaller part, their time is not constrained as much by schedules and they have a better chance of being available to do it.

            5. Write a great script (obvious)

            6. Talk to the people funding the project, or look for actors who identify with the theme.

            Kal Modi did this recently. You may recognize him as Taj from Van Wilder and Kumar from Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. He recently did a SHORT indie film called "American Made" (which I highly recommend). While this is only speculation, I can bet the fact that it dealt with being an Indian in the US today, as well as the Indian heritage of the filmmaker and financial backers played an important role.

            7. Find a connection with somebody.

            I know that many people like to come back to their roots. For instance, I live in Kansas. If I wanted to, I would go to people like Chris Cooper who grew up in Kansas City, Dennis Hopper who grew up in Dodge City, or even talk to Dan Glickman (now head of the MPAA) whose family still lives in Wichita.

            8. Go to film school.

            You might make connections here. But, I digress, I talk about this in another thread.

            9. Go to film festivals regularly.

            Become a staple. Be the guy that everybody expects (and, preferably, wants) to see at film festivals. THis goes back to number 1.

            10. Become the next Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, or Kevin Smith.
            Tyler Emerson
            CEO Wasted Time Films Inc.
            To contact directly about collaboration, email me directly at [email protected]

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            • #7
              So I have a great script and I have actors that I want to pitch the project to and their Agent's contact info and their Managers contact info.

              Who should I talk to and what is the best thing to say, especially if it is my first time writing and directing a feature and my only experience is with film school and shorts.

              I know it is all about the pitch and getting people excited in the project - but what are some things to avoid saying and should I talk to the manager or the agent. Is it unprofessional to pitch a project to someone if they happen to be at your workplace and you happen to have a script handy or is it best to go through their agent/manager whatever.

              A fast response would be cool considering I am going to be pitching in a few days.

              thanks in advance.
              Jared Isham
              Filmmaker
              Director: "Bounty" - Lionsgate, "Turn Around Jake" - PureFlix Entertainment
              Editor: CW Seed, Nike, Ugg, GoFundMe, Disney, Hulu, Panini and more


              IMDb
              Filmmaking Resources
              YouTube Channel
              Portfolio Website
              Stage Ham (my production company)

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              • #8
                Try your best to bypass their agents/ managers/ lawyers. These people want their client working shows that are paying them good money. After all, their income is provided via a percentage of what this actor makes. What is 10% of 0?

                Do what was stated above; make a connection to them personally.

                The above said, there is another school of thought on this matter:

                Going to the actor's representatives, and selling them on the project so that they will approach the actor with your script lends you a large amount of credibility as it came from their trusted representatives.

                That said, I doubt you have the swooning skills that would enable you to get an agent/ manager excited about your project. In my career, I think I have only met one person who is this good.

                The key is have a good product, and work on the actor.


                Kevin Zanit

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                • #9
                  These people want their client working shows that are paying them good money
                  On the other hand, they also want their client working on projects that will improve their career: so a great script that showcases their acting ability might be worth working on even if they don't make much money from that particular movie. It's always going to be a tough sell though.

                  Certainly it's not impossible to get agents to look at low-budget scripts for name actors, but I don't personally know anyone who's got it past the agent so far.

                  I guess you could always try the Roger Corman approach: put a name actor in various scenes in your script, but ensure you can shoot all their scenes in a couple of days so it's not hard for them to fit it into their schedule. 'Highlander', for example, did the same with Sean Connery, shooting every shot where his face was visible in a few days and then having other people stand in for him in the rest of the movie (not that you're likely to get Sean Connery for a low-budget movie these days ).
                  Sony Z1, P4-3.06/2GB RAM/2500GB IDE/SATA. Avid Media Composer, Lightwave, Eyeon Fusion 6.

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                  • #10
                    If you want to get with A list stars, get with washed up A list stars. Alot of them are tyring to get back into the movie making business. The girl from Full House wants in a movie, the amazing actor Jacob Tierney still wants in. These were once popular actors who got lost in the crowd. Amazingly, You can find the phone numbers and addresses to these people on the internet. You don't have to have undiscovered talent on your team, but can have rediscovered talent.

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                    • #11
                      that would be considered a B list actor.
                      Jared Isham
                      Filmmaker
                      Director: "Bounty" - Lionsgate, "Turn Around Jake" - PureFlix Entertainment
                      Editor: CW Seed, Nike, Ugg, GoFundMe, Disney, Hulu, Panini and more


                      IMDb
                      Filmmaking Resources
                      YouTube Channel
                      Portfolio Website
                      Stage Ham (my production company)

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                      • #12
                        Many free actor and casting sites

                        A google search will avail some free actor sites. You may be able to post your project there. Try this one:

                        http://www.independentfilming.com/agency

                        They encourage casting personnel as well as actors at no cost.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by sandor View Post
                          A google search will avail some free actor sites. You may be able to post your project there. Try this one:

                          http://www.independentfilming.com/agency

                          They encourage casting personnel as well as actors at no cost.
                          Yeah, I'm dreaming to shoot sometime some celebrities. Would be cool to have some even short shoot but with famous person. For example, an episod Famous People With Interesting Talents. Looks like good idea as for me)

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                          • #14
                            Great ideas here. Someone made a good point of just trying to hire an A list actor for one day instead of making a whole movie about that actor.
                            Ryan Pickett
                            Director of 6-time award winning short movie LOOK and short movie You Only Loved Me Twice
                            www.ryanpickettproductions.com

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                            • #15
                              This seems to be an old thread but very useful one. Some learns since my last post.

                              IMDBpro is a great tool. Find actors you are interested in and their agent information is likely to be listed. You can contact the actor that way.

                              When you do contact the actors you need to make sure that you are bringing value to them, give them a reason beyond money to want to be in your film. Make sure your character is super enticing, unique and would be fun for the character to play. Also, an important addition -- YOUR SCRIPT MUST BE GOOD! If you can win some screenplay awards for the script then you have an even better chance at landing the talent.

                              When you do call to make an offer, usually you need some money set aside for them already and you need to have dates already scheduled. These actors are busy so having your dates set will help in securing them. You also should consider casting these bigger name actors in minor roles that you can shoot out in one day. The last film I directed we had Michael Madsen come in for a day and we shot about 12 mins worth of the movie with him that day. Then scatter it around the film to make it feel like he had been there longer.

                              Also, you aren't required to live in NY or LA, but you will have to likely pay their way to get to you. It really comes down to picking up the phone and calling along with a good script.

                              Hope this is helpful. Good luck to anyone's next project.
                              Jared Isham
                              Filmmaker
                              Director: "Bounty" - Lionsgate, "Turn Around Jake" - PureFlix Entertainment
                              Editor: CW Seed, Nike, Ugg, GoFundMe, Disney, Hulu, Panini and more


                              IMDb
                              Filmmaking Resources
                              YouTube Channel
                              Portfolio Website
                              Stage Ham (my production company)

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