Graham Miles

One man in his time plays many parts

Graham Miles is a Vancouver based actor trained in New York City.

6 Ways to Find Great Actors for Your Indie Film in Vancouver

So, you've decided that you want to make an indie film in Vancouver and you're looking for a way to find actors. You don't want to put just anybody in front of the camera, though. After all, you want this movie to establish you as a real filmmaker. You need professional actors who will bring vitality and authenticity to your production. The question is: how do you find them? Fortunately, I can offer some guidance. Keep reading to see my tips on how to find great actors for indie films in Vancouver.

What do I Know About How to Find Great Actors?

My name is Graham Miles, and I'm a Vancouver actor with a Master's degree from The New School for Drama—one of the top 5 acting and performing schools in the United States. As a result, I've been involved with my fair share of independent film productions. Some of those projects have been wonderful, while others have been decidedly less so. I won't name names out of professional courtesy, but suffice it to say: these experiences have made me very careful about who I choose to work with now. The same is true for most experienced actors.

That might sound a little snobby to you. After all, it's a competitive industry. Shouldn't actors jump to take any job they're offered? The answer to that question is actually "yes", but only to a certain point. It's true that actors without much on-set experience or formal training should take every possible opportunity to put themselves in front of a camera. You can learn a lot that way, even (and especially) from mistakes. However, actors that have already developed real skills and experience have to spend time more judiciously. We made our biggest mistakes in school so that we wouldn't make them on your set—and we want to work with directors and producers who show just as much professionalism.

These 6 Strategies Will Help You Cast Great Actors in Vancouver Right Now

There are a few simple things you can do to make sure that some of the best actors in Vancouver right now will hear about your project and take it seriously. The first three points on this list are about setting the conditions that skilled actors will look for when choosing new projects. The last three are about putting yourself out there so that you can cast and hire incredible actors for your independent film.

How to Make Your Project Ready for Great Actors

  • Make Your Material Castable
    Great actors love great parts. If you want to work with the most interesting actors in Vancouver right now, you need to make sure your material is equally interesting to them. You'll also need to make sure that it has roles for the kinds of actors you want. Many of the trained actors within your reach will be in their late 20s or early 30s—old enough to have training, but not so established that they're working on bigger projects. Make sure you write dynamic, consistent, and clearly motivated roles for them.
  • Have an Experienced Crew Ready:
    New directors often look for professional actors but aren't as careful about choosing the rest of their team. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Your film crew is responsible for making sure your project actually happens. Make sure that you have an experienced production manager to round up the necessary personnel so that you can stay organized and ahead of schedule. Actors may avoid projects they doubt will ever be finished, but if you stay on top of things they'll be eager to work with you. An experienced crew helps you accomplish this.
  • Secure Your Financing:
    Budget problems can delay any production, so you want to avoid them at all costs. The best way to do this is to make sure your film is fully financed before you start. Crowdfunding is one smart way to look for the money you need. You can also apply for a grant through the Canada Council for the Arts. Of course, it should go without saying that you must make room in your budget to pay your actors, even if the production is non-union. Don't expect them to work for the experience alone—if they're talented, they already have experience.

How to Cast Actors for a Film Once the Project is Ready

  • Post in the Right Places:
    Once your project is ready for high-quality actors, you have to make sure they know it exists. When deciding how to find actors for indie films, you'll probably want to post online. The trick is to post your breakdown on websites that will increase its legitimacy instead of making you look like an amateur. Avoid Craigslist at all costs. Instead, use sites like Actors Access and Casting Workbook. For location-specific websites, try the Vancouver Actor's Guide auditions section.
  • Reach Out to Vancouver Acting Agents Respectfully:
    Some filmmakers are worried about reaching out to Vancouver acting agents, especially if their projects are non-union. However, you shouldn't let this scare you. Agents will more than likely consider your project as long as it pays the actors enough for them to earn a reasonable commission. My agent is Lisa King at King Talent Management, and she submits me for all kinds of smaller films. Just make sure that you are courteous and clear when you contact any agency. Vancouver acting agents and their assistants are extremely busy representing their clients, and their time is valuable.
  • Encourage, Don't Intimidate at Auditions:
    Let's assume that you've done everything else on this list, and you're finally ready to start auditioning some of the talented actors who want to do your indie film in Vancouver. You've done a lot of work to make it to this point, so you want to make sure you're going to see these actors at their best. Make it easy for them by running your auditions smoothly and setting the right tone in the room. Even the best actors can shut down when they feel judged or ignored, but if you're friendly and open they'll often make choices that delight you. Ideally, your biggest problem should be choosing your cast from all the talented actors who auditioned!

And finally, you know that list you've been making—the one with the ideal cast for your project? Throw that list away. You probably can't afford A-list celebrities, and you shouldn't settle for their imitators. Remember: great actors aren't talented because they make predictable choices. They're talented because they make choices that are true to themselves. The best actors will never do exactly what you expect, but if you give them a chance they may very well bring something truly original to the work. The results could make your film stand out enough to succeed with film festivals—and maybe even with distributors.

You don't have to struggle with how to find great actors for indie films in Vancouver. Just follow my advice on making your project ready for professionals, and on how to cast actors for a film when the time is right. Have questions or want to point out something I missed? Feel free to leave comments below this article, or contact me directly if you want to learn more.

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