How NOT to write a casting call
The following was an actual ad. Names have been removed, but the text is exactly as I found it:
I need a Lead Female (“Kristina”) for my low budget horror movie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, ASAP. Its being filmed in my home state of New Jersey. Its an amazing story and screenplay that I have written and need to come to life. I am filming the movie as it is told, in a “Blair Witch” fashion, home movie style which makes it lots of fun and easy to shoot. I have a make up person and someone working on the great soundtrack. You to be able to work a hand held camera as well. We are shooting the movie in High Definition. I want to start shooting ASAP. I am looking for someone between the age of 20-45 in good shape, small to medium build. I am very serious about casting someone now!! I am offering a percentage of all DVD movie sales through a contract, so it’s a great opportunity and great exposure! I am not paying travel, but I will supply food and overnight stay, if needed at my wife and I’s house. If seriously interested please let me know ASAP by sending a head shot and body shot to xxxxxxxxxxx.com or by calling or texting me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. The movie website is www.xxxxxxxxxxx.com and you can see me at www.xxxxxxxx.com
This ad was placed on Craigslist many years ago, and there’s no way to be charitable. It’s so wrong it’s spectacular.
Let’s look at every reason why, line by line.
“I need a Lead Female (“Kristina”) for my low budget horror movie [xxxxxxxxxxxxxx], ASAP.”
OK. Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The entire ad reads like English is the author’s second language. But this line in particular immediately tells the world “I’m a dude making a home movie”! A few more mistakes:
Actors don’t care about the name of the role until you get to character descriptions. The only important information here is that a lead role is available.
I removed the title to protect the privacy of the filmmaker, but it had no italics, bold, capital letters, quotes, or anything to denote it. It was also really, really weird. So the whole thing read like this (using a fake title):
“I need a Lead Female (“Kristina”) for my low budget horror movie unusual the seeker, ASAP.”
Titles are important. Try to make them better than word salad.
“Its being filmed in my home state of New Jersey.”
No one cares where your home state is. Just say that the film is being shot in New Jersey.
“Its an amazing story and screenplay that I have written and need to come to life.”
How do I put this gently? No. It’s not. Because it’s obvious the author does not rewrite things. And because good writers never tell people how good their own work is. It’s difficult to say more without trolling, so I’ll simply move on.
“I am filming the movie as it is told, in a “Blair Witch” fashion, home movie style which makes it lots of fun and easy to shoot.”
Blair Witch Project (titles need italics) was already several years old when the ad was placed, and it was shot by the actors. So yes, that would make it very easy to shoot; very easy for the director. If this film is anything like Blair Witch (titles need italics), the actors will be sleeping out in the woods and burning through videotape for days. That may or may not be fun for them, and it might be worth mentioning up front.
“I have a make up person and someone working on the great soundtrack.”
In other words, these are the only other people attached to the project.
“You [need] to be able to work a hand held camera as well.”
This line is redundant.
“We are shooting the movie in High Definition.”
WHY??? You’re shooting it home movie style! Guerilla filmmaking is low tech and gritty and shot on consumer formats. At the time of the posting, though, High Definition was new and sexy. It was pretty obvious the author had fixated on it.
“I want to start shooting ASAP.”
There are so many things wrong with this. This guy has just admitted that there is no shooting schedule. So there’s no way to know how long the shoot will take or how long the shooting days will be. No schedule also means that no arrangements have been made for locations, props, costumes, food, or to allow cast and crew to arrange time off from other work or projects. This sounds a lot like this person expects people to just show up and say “let’s go”.
This is how actors end up being on set for 12 hours when they agreed to work 8. It’s also a very good way to gather a lot of people who end up getting bored and goofing off because they’re endlessly waiting for a scene.
“I am looking for someone between the age of 20-45 in good shape, small to medium build.”
So…the only requirement to play the lead is that the actress be neither a child nor a senior citizen, and exercise a lot?
That’s really all you need for this character?
“I am very serious about casting someone now!!”
No shit. That’s why you’re placing the ad.
“I am offering a percentage of all DVD movie sales through a contract, so it’s a great opportunity and great exposure!”
This is a trifecta of bullshit. “Great exposure” is a benefit offered when projects can’t offer anything of actual value. The rule of thumb with deferred payments is that they don’t happen. Responsible filmmakers know this and know that actors know this. Lastly, distribution payments just don’t work like this.
On demand streaming is replacing the DVD/Blue Ray distribution window. And it is changing the way filmmakers get paid. Even so, nothing about movies and money is ever simple.
“I am not paying travel, but I will supply food and overnight stay, if needed at my wife and I’s house.”
I found this ad in Philadelphia. Remember, he lives in New Jersey.
“If seriously interested please let me know ASAP by sending a head shot and body shot to xxxxxxxxxxxxxx or by calling or texting me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.”
Just to be clear: this guy wants any and all athletic women between 20 and 45 to send him pictures (no resumes, just pics), so that he can then ask one to find their own way to his house, and then follow him into the woods with a camera.
Nope. Not shady at all.
“The movie website is www.xxxxxxxxxxxxx.com and you can see me at www.xxxxxxx.com.”
Advertising the web pages is actually a very good idea.
I visited both web sites. The web design looked cheap and dated, almost like they were made with a geocities template. My guess is he made them himself.
If the author ends up reading this, I hope that he understands that it is not my aim to insult or embarrass him. He works hard, he has a dream like we all do, and he deserves the chance to realize that dream.
But the world chews up filmmakers like this all the time.
One must learn the most important word in filmmaking: logistics.
What do you need? When do you need it? Who do you need to talk to? What do these people need to know?
A better ad for this film may have read like this:
Actress needed for low budget horror movie. Athletic body type. Age not important. Must be able to use a video camera as this film will be shot “Blair Witch” style. The location will be in New Jersey. Payment will be deferred and no travel expenses can be paid, but food and lodging will be provided. If interested please send a head shot and resume to XXXXXXXXXX at XXXXXXXX or visit our web site at XXXXXXXXXX for more information.