(As promised, I’m reprinting The Indestructibles’ film journal here at my blog. I’m going to republish about two a week, until we catch up. This was originally published at the Apex Blog.)
Pitching The Indestructibles to Actors
You might think it’s next to impossible to pitch The Indestructibles to actors, since they’re asked to do it for free. Most of the ones I approached actually jumped at the chance.
First I told them who I was and where I come from, including being an SF author and having done a feature-length low-budget SF film. Then I started my pitch: Now I want to do a big, massive science fiction epic. But the thing is, I have absolutely no money. So this is what I decided to do: I’ll write the script the way the ancient Greeks did. They also didn’t have a Hollywood FX team. They put three people in one room and let the audience experience the epic events through them. If done right, it should be as amazing as watching the events themselves. Then, when the movie’s shot and edited, I want to release it on the web, in the most democratic, immediate, and open form I know, and let people react to it honestly. So that’s what I did. I wrote a forty-five minute script, built for the web. It’s one story, broken into seven parts that come one after the other. I’ve got one actress that’s on screen almost all the time, and she’s the one who speaks. I’ve got another actress that’s on screen all the time, but never speaks. And I’ve got an actor who also speaks, and he comes in two minutes before the end. If you’re interested, I’d love to send you the script.
You’d be surprised how many actors and actresses jump at the chance. Unlike regular people, actors like to do things that are new and exciting, that allow them to express themselves in a way other projects don’t. I know because I’m the same way, and I’m sure they hear it in my voice when I pitch my project.
Auditions are exciting, because you get to see great talent one or two feet away from you, and there’s nothing like seeing truly talented people at work. Auditions are also a rough experience, because most actors really want the job, almost no matter what the audition is for. If they came after hearing my pitch and reading the script, then they really want it even if it doesn’t pay. They want it even if they truly don’t fit the part. They want it whether they’ve talented or not. Deep inside most of them, they hope that this audition (for The Indestructibles or for any other project) may be their ticket to their future success and fame. So when you’re inviting twenty actresses to audition for two open positions and ten actors for one position, you already know that regardless of how good they are, you’re going to have to tell most of them no.
That’s the part of auditions I hate.
My Wildest Audition Story
When you hold auditions, you have to be ready for anything. I mean literally for anything.
Acting well means you’re going to be emotionally exposed, which means that rehearsals as well as auditions can become very personal. A lot of personal stuff comes out. I’ve learned (to my surprise) that when I hold auditions, you can tell me anything, and I’m going to react to it with absolute calm and acceptance. I want the actors to trust me, I want us to be able to work together on a personal level later on. The last thing I want any of them to feel is judgment from me.
If I sat across an actor in an audition and he told me he’d just shot a guy, I’d say “Oh, yeah? How’d that happen?” and my face would not even show surprise. That’s the state of mind I find myself in when I audition.
Here is the incident that led me to realize this was my state of mind during auditions. Almost ten years ago, I was holding preliminary auditions for a few female parts, a couple of which had female nudity. After I asked the actress about herself and she asked me about how I was going to shoot and direct the project, she asked me about the nudity. I explained, and she said, “So, you want me to take my clothes off now?” and started to undress. Without blinking, I said, “No, thanks, that’s all right,” and gestured for her to sit down so we could go over lines.
I saw a few actors and actresses after her that day, and only when the day was done, I realized I had experienced a true Hollywood moment.
She didn’t get the part, nor did I ever actually audition for nudity; I only auditioned for talent. People look the way they look, and that’s what the audience is going to see. A few years later, events led me to understand she would have slept with me for the part. Had I realized that at the time, I would no doubt have said, “No, thanks, that’s all right,” and gestured for her to sit down so we could go over lines.
The Auditions End
The auditions for The Indestructibles took about three weeks. They had two cycles. In the first cycle, I saw everyone. In the second cycle, I re-invited the actors that best fit the roles I had written.
Once the second cycle was over, I called everyone to let most of them know they were not chosen or, if they want it, that the role is theirs. And that’s how rehearsals began. But we’re going to talk about that next time…