Ricki G. Maslar started off as an actor, coaxed into
performing by a high school teacher who threatened
to flunk her if she didnt take theatre. Yet, despite
Maslars venture into the acting world, she found
that she was better at casting other actors than
acting herself. Maslars now been a casting director
for the 30 years, having cast big studio flicks
such as Twister, as well as numerous Indies.
She also runs a production company,
Unconditional Entertainment, with Jason
Connery, Sean Connerys son, with several films
currently in development.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Maslar
about the trials and tribulations of casting for
independent films and how the right cast can push
your film to the next level.
H: What is the importance of casting with
regards to Indie films?
M: Well it depends on whether you are
casting for a creative vision or for a marketing vision.
you cast from a creative standpoint, you obviously
just want the best actors available, like in The
Brothers McMullen. When they did that, they
went for really solid actors. Most people when they
are casting for independent films, they want that but
they also know they have to have a marketable
name in the film. So, its important to look for what
they call the "essential element. They look at the
script and find where that essential element needs to
be, and who it needs to be, for the final sale of your
H: What do you think the biggest
misconception is when it comes to casting Indies?
M: Most people think that their projects are
the most wonderful things on the face of this earth.
Their shortfall is that they cant imagine why anyone
would not want to do them. So, they have unrealistic
expectations of what actors will and wont do. There
are wonderful scripts, and I only work on Indies
because I love the creative process of them. But, I
also like my filmmakers to be realistic in knowing that
Brad Pitt isnt going to come down and do their movie
with a 200K budget.
H: What is the most difficult part of casting?
M: Getting the material directly to the actor,
because so many times the actors do respond to the
material but you have to go through so many
gatekeepers to get to the actor. That can be a real
challenge. But saying that, there are some agents
there who are really friendly to Indie projects and
their clients, such as Marisa Tomei and In the
H: Do you find that Indie films tend to cast
more unknowns than the big studios do?
M: Studio films can afford the name actors.
Indie films need to depend on really solid, wonderful
actors. And we do find them and honestly, those
well-known actors end up coming to the forefront
and win awards. I did Dahmer and Jeremy
Renner, a wonderful actor, was not Jeremy Renner
when I cast him. And the film helped propel him. So
Indie films are really important showcases for talent,
not just up-and-coming talent but for established
talent, as well.
H: Do you think its getting more popular for
established actors to start doing Indies?
M: Absolutely. Nothing is quite as much fun
for an actor as them having a lot of creative input
and Indie films give them that opportunity. Youll find
more and more well-known actors looking at the
independent film scripts, but again that is if the
filmmakers can get the scripts to them.
H: How do you go about getting top talent for
your Indie films?
M: Getting a good casting director is the first
and most vital step. One of the mistakes that Indie
filmmakers make is that they get the money for their
film and they get really excited because they are
going to make it with their friends. And so, they cast
their friends in it and they end up not being able to
sell their film. They may have a good product but
unless that film is seen, it wont do anything for
them. I always suggest that they contact a casting
director who actually has the ability to delve deep
into the process and bring the best talent to the
H: How to go about becoming a casting director.
M: A lot of casting directors used to be
actors. I was an actor at one point and I found that
I was much better as a talent advocate. So, I would
say you should study film and play in your head how
you would recast it. You should read scripts and
character development and the breakdown of the
character. Understand that the vision isnt
necessarily your vision but a shared vision.
Communicate and bridge that gap between producer,
director and actor. Those are the things that casting
directors need to be able to do. They also need to
value themselves as to what they do. A lot of
casting directors say oh, its not a big deal. But its
a very big deal. Casting is very much like painting.
You have a palette of colors and a blank canvas. You
need to be able to create the full-picture and that
runs all the way down to the background. There are
no small roles and every actor fulfills a specific
H: Whats the best advice about casting that
you have received?
M: To listen and to be flexible. Again, the
vision is not your vision but the vision of the total
project. You need to be able to meet that vision, be
open and communicating. Understand that everyone
is in it to make a good project. Keep a good
attitude and remember that we are all people.
Respect people, whether they are directors, actors
or an office assistant. We are all there to do our job,
and it is a job. Its not your life. If you understand
that and work together with respect, then the
projects become healthy and much more fun, which
is what this process should be.
For more about Ricki click
If you are a filmmaker and have a fully funded
project and are looking to get a great cast contact
Riki via me at Karina@ifilmalliance.com