July 7th 2006
Independent Filmmakers Alliance Newsletter
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We talk to Ricki G. Maslar about one of the most important aspects of Indie Filmmaking: Casting. Also, the 2006 Emmy Nominees.

Casting from the Heart
By Karina Halle

Ricki G. Maslar started off as an actor, coaxed into performing by a high school teacher who threatened to flunk her if she didn’t take theatre. Yet, despite Maslar’s venture into the acting world, she found that she was better at casting other actors than acting herself. Maslar’s 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 Connery’s 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. If 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, it’s 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 product.

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 can’t imagine why anyone would not want to do them. So, they have unrealistic expectations of what actors will and won’t 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 isn’t 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 out there who are really friendly to Indie projects and their clients, such as Marisa Tomei and In the Bedroom.

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 it’s 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. You’ll 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 won’t 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 forefront.

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 understand character development and the breakdown of the character. Understand that the vision isn’t 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, it’s not a big deal.” But it’s 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 vision.

H: What’s 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. It’s 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 here
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

Find out more....

The 2006 Emmy nominees are announced....

The 2006 Emmy nominees are out and already they’re creating controversy; missing are last year’s Best Drama winner Lost, as well as the critically acclaimed My Name Is Earl and Everybody Hates Chris. Notable actors such as Hugh Laurie, James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and Michael Chiklis were also overlooked. However, Canada’s own Kiefer Sutherland is nominated again for 24, which, along with Grey’s Anatomy, got the most nominations.

Outstanding Comedy Series Nominees:
"Arrested Development"
"Curb Your Enthusiasm"
"The Office"
"Two and a Half Men"

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Nominees: Steve Carell for "The Office"
Larry David for "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
Kevin James for "The King of Queens"
Tony Shalhoub for "Monk"
Charlie Sheen for "Two and a Half Men"

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Nominees: Stockard Channing for "Out of Practice"
Jane Kaczmarek for "Malcolm in the Middle"
Lisa Kudrow for "The Comeback"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "The New Adventures of Old Christine"
Debra Messing for "Will & Grace"

Outstanding Drama Series Nominees:
"Grey’s Anatomy"
"House, M.D."
"The Sopranos"
"The West Wing"

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Nominees: Peter Krause for "Six Feet Under"
Denis Leary for "Rescue Me"
Christopher Meloni for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
Martin Sheen for "The West Wing"
Kiefer Sutherland for "24"

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Nominees: Frances Conroy for "Six Feet Under"
Geena Davis for "Commander in Chief"
Mariska Hargitay for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
Allison Janney for "The West Wing"
Kyra Sedgwick for "The Closer"

Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series Nominees: "The Colbert Report"
"The Daily Show"
"Late Night with Conan O’Brien"
"Late Show with David Letterman"
"Real Time with Bill Maher"

Outstanding Made for Television Movie Nominees: "Flight 93: The Flight That Fought Back" (TV)
"The Girl in the Café" (TV)
"Mrs. Harris"

Outstanding Miniseries Nominees: "Bleak House"
"Elizabeth I" (TV)
"Into the West" (mini)
"Sleeper Cell"

Find out more....

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