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10/07/2005 - CASTING CALL

During a recent stint as a contest judge, I read a script wherein a rebel Elvis in a post-apocalyptic Sacramento was chased across Tower Bridge by 10,000 angry gorillas. "Didn't you mean to type ?guerillas'?" I asked the writer. "No," he said, "I meant gorillas. Of course, they don't have to be real gorillas. We could use actors in costumes." This begs several questions. For instance, where does one get 10,000 gorilla suits? Where does one find 10,000 actors willing to don them and run around in triple-digit Sacramento temperatures? How, for that matter, do you make California's state capital look post-apocalyptic? Did the writer, perhaps, not read the rules that said winning scripts had to be no longer than 10 minutes, shot within 3 days and at a cost of less than $200?
While there's nothing wrong with thinking big, there's more to be said for thinking practical, especially if your fledgling projects will be in the hands of people who have boundless enthusiasm but limited resources. If you're writing a short script that you and your friends plan to film yourselves, you know your available talent pool better than anyone else. To that end, you need to consider what's feasible in terms of casting. Is it a story about a Chinese basketball team that decides to operate a daycare center? That's going to call for a bunch of really tall Asian actors and a lot of little kids. If you have ?em, great. If not, that terrific script you write may take a lot longer than you want to actually get produced.
Even for screenplay competitions or pitches to feature film producers, it's always better to err on the side of moderation in terms of cast size/type/look, keeping in mind that actors not only need to have costumes but also need to be paid and fed.
(Hey, they're going to want SOMETHING for wearing that gorilla suit all day...)


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