I get pitched projects all the time. More often than not, when I get pitched a film package, particularly a lower or micro budget film, the attachments include actors that may be recognizable but likely have no name value or bankability.

3 Rules of Thumb For Casting

There are three general rules of thumb when casting talent that determine value for a lower budget film:

  1. The actor has played an iconic role in their career. If an actor played a principal or standout role in a large iconic film at some point in the past, that actor will have an inherent international value.
  2. The actor is a household name. If an actor is known internationally BY NAME, they will have an inherent value.
  3. If you have to list an actor’s credits, chances are they do not bring the value. Just because an actor has some supporting credits in big films or shows, does not make them bankable. In addition, just because an actor worked opposite a major star in a big film, also does not make them bankable.

Casting for Name vs Recognizable

Most smaller films don’t have the budget to afford an above-the-title name. That doesn’t mean you cannot cast recognizable faces. There are endless character actors whose faces are recognizable, and thus lend credibility to a film, but do not necessarily have name value.

There is a difference between credibility and bankability.

Character actors and recognizable faces will help a small film get recognized by festivals and boutique distributors. In other words, recognizable faces will prioritize a film toward the top of the pile for consideration.

It does not guarantee that the film will inherently do significant business, but it will definitely set the film apart from the many films with NO recognizable cast.

The Scoop on TV Actors

TV actors tend to be low-hanging fruit for independent filmmakers as well.

TV actors can be more attainable, but there are two things to consider: Does the actor play a significant series regular role on a network show, AND has the series traveled beyond the United States? Just because a show has been successful domestically, does not necessarily mean that it has been successful – or even released – in foreign territories.

How Do Soap Opera Actors Rate?

Soap Opera actors are often presented as attachments to independent films.

Again, this is definitely not a bad thing because you’re getting recognizable talent that give you credibility and will likely give you a great performance. The unfortunate reality is that unless a soap opera star has successfully transitioned to feature films or a network series, their fanbases are typically not reliable.

More often than not, when a soap actor is known and beloved by their fans for playing the same character on a soap opera for an extended period of time, the fans do not often embrace the actor playing a different role.

Do Reality Stars & Influencers Give Credibility?

Reality stars and Social Media Influencers are another category of talent that get propped up in independent film proposals.

This category of talent may ultimately help drive eyeballs to a film once released, but they rarely drive significant distribution offers. Particularly in the social media celebrity category where their fans are used to watching them in very short format as their online persona, it’s tough to convert those fans to watching them play a character in a film for 90 minutes.

What Does it Mean For A Film?

None of these talent assessments are meant to dissuade you from casting character actors, soap stars, TV actors or social media influencers. They are all value adds to lower budget films.

But when it comes to attaching talent that will drive significant distribution and foreign sales, abide to the best of your financial and creative capability to abide by the three general rules of casting above.

Now How to Use Them…

Finally, getting the right name is only the first half of the challenge. Figuring out the right way to use that talent is the second half of the challenge.

Distributors are savvy to “stunt” casting, when a big name is brought on to play a very minor role. Not to mention, fans are savvy to it as well.

Fans get very deflated when they invest their time into a film to watch an actor they enjoy only to find that actor appear very briefly in the film. They feel they have been misled or that a film is false advertising.

But even if you can afford a name actor, independent budgets rarely allow for you to cast them in a starring role. Regardless, that doesn’t mean you should under-utilize the actor. Figure out creative solutions in development to maximize the noteworthy actor’s appearance in order to spread them throughout the film across multiple scenes and make the audience believe they are truly a principal part.

Next Steps

If you’d like to learn more about how casting affects your search for financing and how to create a killer pitch deck, consider joining in my free training, The Ultimate Film Financing Plan. In this training, I’ll share my Proven 9-Step strategy for building a compelling pitch deck that gets films financed. Click here to join.