Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Confessions from the Audition Room, Pt. 4

Dear Actor,
We have wrapped our set of auditions in NYC. Had four days where we saw close to 40 people a day, for about 8 or 9 roles. Since some of these roles have to sing and dance, we auditioned that as well as the acting. I was pleasantly surprised by the level of singing and dancing in NYC.

There were some of you who even read this blog that came in to audition. I wish I had a part for every talented person that read. But for various reasons, many were not selected. And it's a numbers game. If we read 40 people for one role, 39 are not going to get it.

However, there were some that came and read that weren't right for the role and I've mentally logged them in-- to keep an eye out in the future for a role. This has happened several times. I've cast actors in other movies that came in to audition and didn't get the role.

We got lots of responses on my question concerning wearing the same thing to callbacks. Most of the comments on the Facebook mirror site for the blog. If you want to know my perspective to this question, and it's only one director's opinion, I would like to see a little variety. I understand if you got the callback, then you must be doing something right-- why mess with that. But most of you got to read the script-- I think you could do a good job guessing what the character might wear. Several of you went all out in audition to wear what the character might-- and it was appreciated.

And as far as callbacks, I was really surprised by a couple of things. First, one of the people who came in on the first audition and knocked our socks off was flat for the callback. And another person really shined. I didn't expect that I would change my mind, but I did. Secondly, I really enjoyed working with two and three actors and teaming them up to see the chemistry.

And there are a few roles we haven't decided yet even now. For one character, we really didn't find the right person in NYC. For another, the person we cast depends greatly on who accepts another role. The leading contender looks just like the actor we went out to for the other role and should he/she accept, then we have to go with our second choice.

Again, thank you actors for coming in to a tense situation, and leaving it all out there. I applaud your guts and determination, and your talent. I wish I had a cast of 80.

Finally, a couple of notes from a director. I'm also surprised how different some people look on tape then in person. Several of you I changed my opinion after watching tape. And by the callbacks, I had a monitor in front of me to see what it looked like on screen. I will endeavor to always now have a monitor in front of me. And, as always, I'm surprised by how much headshots can "lie" one way or the other. I understand you've got to make it beautiful, but I've gotten to the point I don't even look at the headshot anymore. I do like the multiple headshots-- especially if they represent several different looks.

Feel free to drop me a note.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Special Announcement for Rising Stars

I was approached by New York City producer Andrew van den Houten, after he watched "The Imposter" to make a similar movie for the secular high school age. A family movie, driven by music. One of the pleasures I had when making "The Imposter" was being able to combine my love of film and my love of music.

I have grown up on Christian rock. When I was five years old, the records we listened to were Love Song, 2nd Chapter of Acts and later Amy Grant, Keith Green. I listened to easy music like The Imperials and hard music like Rez Band.

So having icons like Kerry Livgren, Jeff Deyo and Kevin Max was a dream come true for me on Imposter. When Andrew basically said go make something like that and has given me a lot of room to do so, I thought it would be great to get another Christian music star to be in this movie. I had met her dad/manager in Nashville last February and he said she was doing more and more movies. So this has really worked out.

Joining our cast for "Rising Stars" is Rebecca St. James. The Australian native has won Dove Awards and has had many hits on the Christian charts. She is starring in several movies that are coming out.

For Rising Stars, she will play the role of "Kari", the dutiful assistant to an uber-agent who is running the whole Rising Stars competition. We are very excited to have her joining our shooting in Dallas-Ft. Worth in August.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Question for Actors

I've got to run to the airport, having just finished second auditions, but I have a quick questions for you actors.

Several of the actors on the callbacks came wearing the exact same clothes from the first audition. Is this something taught in audition seminars and what's the strategy behind it? I actually liked seeing different looks. So pipe in and educate me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What Exactly is "Rising Stars?"

"Rising Stars" (RS) is the title of my latest movie to write and direct. It is being produced by Andrew va den Houten and William Miller out of New York City. The Production Company is Doberman Entertainment, a new family films brand. Many of the same crew that helped out on "The Imposter" will be working this show. It is scheduled to shoot starting August 11 through August 30 in Dallas/Ft. Worth.

RS is the journey of some talented teens as they learn some lessons in the entertainment world. A national talent contest, "Rising Stars" is the brainchild of uberagent MO. He selects the top three musical acts and the top three teen filmmakers, partners them up and pits them against each other to see who can create the best song and the best music video. Winners gets fame and fortune. Losers enter adult life wondering what could have been.

The kids learn that the pressures grownups have heaped on them, have caused them to be "little adults" for a long time-- they've never been allowed to just "play." So in the end, they learn to play, to the angst and anger of Mo.

It's a different "talent show" kind of movie-- focusing not only on the talent of the kids involved, but on an important issue hitting our society. Children that don't learn to play grow into dysfunctional adults with dysfunctional families.

Most of the paid crew has been filled. We are looking for some volunteers, or college students looking for intern credit late this summer. If interested, contact me. We will be starting local casting right away. Please contact your DFW agent for submissions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Confessions from the Audition Room, Pt. 3

So here we are, about to break for lunch. Today is hectic. Instead of ten minute schedules, we've gone to five. And the last two people haven't shown up. I'm told NYC is like this. I do know in Dallas, we don't have the number of no-shows that we get here in NYC.

We've got a shorter lunch today as we work in more people. But I did get time to check email. I had put a status up on Facebook about being in auditions. Then I got messaged from an actor demanding why I hadn't informed him we were auditioning.

I can't speak for other directors and filmmakers, but I get inundated with actors. From email, websites, facebook, friends and family making recommendations of their actor friends and family. It's a mountain and very difficult to keep up with. My standard response is to ask them join the Facebook group, the yahoo groups and I try to keep everyone up to date via announcements.

Also, for you actors, as a director, I think it's better to get yourself in front of Casting Directors. Since I am a director, I don't do as many films as a Casting Director in a year. And when I do a movie, I'm looking for very specific types of people. Like this current movie-- it's all about high schoolers.

Now going back to the audition sessions, after four full days of casting, it does start to be a beatdown. I've noticed I'm a bit quicker to release an actor. Especially when we've overbooked and we've got to hurry. But for you actors, it doesn't mean you're not it or getting a callback-- one of the shortest auditions today is a lock for one of the roles.

In a little bit, after the last audition, we're going to go through and pick callbacks. A couple are locks in our mind, but we'll call them back to see how the others might read against them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Confessions from the Audition Room, Pt 2

Dear Actor,
We saw another 30 or 40 people today for about 6 or 7 roles we're considering. I'm writing this second confession in hopes that you can gleam any info from it that might help you-- so you can see through the eyes of the stares on the other side of the table.

Today, twice, I had an actor apologize for something they confessed they weren't good at. For instance, the role might require that the character "rap." The audition called for some rap (in addition to the read). This actor let us know that she wasn't good at rapping. Why are you here then?

The second case was more egregious and speaks right back to the heart of the Insecurity post yesterday. This character needs to be able to play guitar. So the actor apologized right when he pulled it out that he's not very good at guitar and then played and sang a song. If he hadn't "apologized" for his inability, I would have NEVER KNOWN that he doesn't play guitar.

One of the Hollywood actors that I've worked a lot with tells a great audition story. He was sitting outside the room waiting to go in. The part was for a Jamaican. The previous actor steps gloomily out, mentioning they were looking for a real Jamaican-- not just someone doing an accent. So my actor friend went in there speaking like he was from Kingston. I don't advocate lying. He did get the part. For the whole shoot, they all thought he was from Jamaica. At wrap, he walked by the Director and said, "hey man, thanks, I'm from Jersey." And he walked off. I don't think the Director was happy being tricked. But it's an interesting story.

Anyway, I feel for the Monday morning auditioner. That can't be easy. About four or five people in though, one guy came in and like the girl on Friday, just knocked our socks off.

So how do you knock the director's socks off? Some of it is out of your control. For instance, you need to have the look the director is searching for. Then, you confidently attack the role and the audition. A lot is nailing the read like the Director is looking for. While hard to know, you can research him and the project and try to get a sense of what he wants. You could ask him too when in the room.

Finally, I have not read any books on how to audition. I haven't attended any workshops or seminars on the audition process. What I want to impart is just one Director's perspective. Hope it helps.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Center of the Onion

As my mentor explains after twenty-five years of counseling, when you peel back the dysfunctional onion layers of a persons life, you usually find Insecurity and/or Feelings of Inferiority at the root of most problems.

So in celebration of the casting process, why is that actors have a stereotype of being especially "insecure?" Feel free, all you actors or experts to comment in on this.

To me, it's very simple. It's not that actors are generally more insecure, it's just that, as artists, they have to expose themselves more than the non artist. Exposing yourself is a very, very scary position to be in... Extremely vulnerable. And any insecurity in there will be brought out right away. So you actors, it's not that are more insecure, it's that your occupation exposes it.

Now, to me, the key is exposing-- revealing, pulling down the masks, removing the Imposter. The more honest I become, the more I understand Truth, the less insecure I become. For me, the closer I draw to God, to Jesus, the more I see who I really am-- my true identity. Knowing... comprehending who I am is the best pill for the disease of Insecurity.

Playing on the Balance Beam

I had the opportunity today to go to a recital at a very prestigious New York City public school for the arts, right across from Julliard. It was an incredible display of young talent. Here are children who are really being pushed towards artistic perfection.

Which is the very thing "Rising Stars" will question. I do believe training children is excellent. But as in all things, there needs to be balance. Young girls who mess up their bodies to be Olympic gymnasts at the pressure from grown-ups, is just wrong.

I don't know if any of the parents or teachers are pushing these kids too hard-- but I hope they have balance. I hope that these children aren't spending every waking moment practicing and rehearsing. I hope these children get time to be children. To laugh. To play. To make mistakes. To grow up without the adult pressures and responsibilities inherit to grownups.

I hope parents aren't living vicariously through their children. Or pressuring them to succeed so that they'll look like better parents. And I know it's an excellent post to think about as I train my own children.

Free to play. These children grow up to be healthier adults.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Confessions from the Audition Room

I'm here at the audition table with two producers, casting assistant and the reader. If you're wondering what's going on in the minds of those intimidating faces, waiting for you to leave it all out there in a cold room, well here it is.

We're not without heart. Actors come in and many leave everything out there. I recognize they have to become incredibly vulnerable and I'm sensitive to that.

Part of me wants to set you at ease when you walk in, and I might even joke a bit. But probably not, unless it's after lunch and we've gotten a bit goofy. But since this is an audition, I want to see how you might react to awkwardness-- to the pressure of the set. So setting you at ease might not reveal how you'll handle that. So I might not say anything and not even smile. Later, on the set, I'll do everything I can to set you at ease.

One thing we do is to ask you if you have any questions about the character or the sides you're about to read. Most don't. But the actors who do come in with a good question, give a strong impression-- they're interested in the part... they've taken some ownership to find out more. I like that.

Here's my biggest note to all actors in auditions: Calm down. Since we decide on just a few lines, you want to pour in to it all the emotion you want us to know you have. What results is a way-over-the-top reading. Today, we read 40 people. I'd say 30 of them were way too big. My most common direction during the audition is to ask them to read faster, flatter, simply to try and bring it down.

BTW, what I like to do is test your acting abilities, by giving you a totally different emotion to play the scene you just read. instead of anger, which may be the way it was written, do it this time playing pain.

Nervous? Well that's okay. Out of the 40 people, there was ONE who KNOCKED OUR SOCKS OFF. And her hands were shaking. That's okay. Just don't draw any attention to it.

Some no-no's. Don't be late. Don't complain if you had to wait. (No one waited more than a few minutes today because we were ahead, although I'm writing this while we wait for the last person of the day who is late).

Just remember, you could be the best actor of the day and just not have the right look. And there's sometimes when someone with a different look actually makes me rethink the role. You never know.

Sometimes, an actor's audition will be short because they nailed it and I have nothing left to see from them. Other times, they're a strong possibility and I work them over and over to see if they can make it.

There have been times that someone was not the right look in the audition, but because they so impressed me, I cast them in a future project or in a different role. Actually, this has happened a lot. So remember, the role your auditioning is misleading-- you're also auditioning for the director for all future stuff as well.

Another long day in the audition room in NYC.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


We just got back from Colorado where we went fishing and in one magical place, we got a rainbow trout with every cast we made.

But that's not the kind of casting I'm going to write about. One of the more frequent questions I get from filmmakers is how I cast, especially getting Hollywood actors to be in small, independent films.

The first step for new filmmakers is to hire a good LA or NYC Casting Director. This person will come ready-made with connections to agents and managers. There is a directory of casting directors in the HCDOnline. You will need a great script and your funding mostly in place.

After you get your casting director, they will send out a breakdown of the characters and agents and managers will start making submissions of their clients. But you'll also work on a list with your CD to start making offers to. These are for the name actors. Then, you'll approve the offer and the CD will send it out to the agent/manager.

One of the large hurdles filmmakers face is the Catch-22 of "I need an actor to raise the money and I need the money to get the actor attached." That is a hard one and in a future post, maybe I'll address that question. :)

For now, it's been a great vacation, now back to work-- Casting sessions in NYC.

Monday, June 15, 2009


In the title of this whole blog site, it appears I'm into flagellation. Or self-mutilation. But that is far from the truth.

When the Apostle Paul writes about the "flesh," he talks about killing it. Jesus mentions that he who tries to save himself, will lose himself. I believe that the word flesh encompasses the desires of the flesh-- the very desires brought about by Adam's disobedience in the garden. Otherwise known as "ego." So that we're on the same terms, please understand that I use the word "Ego" for the "Flesh" that is mentioned in Paul's epistles.

So self mutilation is stupid. Killing the Ego is crucial. And recognizing the true identity of who I am, the person God created (Psalm 139) is also crucial. So on the one hand, I dedicate myself to killing myself, and on the other hand, I dedicate myself to loving myself. Because, as Jesus spoke about the greatest commandment is to Love the Lord with all heart, soul, mind and strength, the second greatest is to "love your neighbor as you love yourself." If I hate myself, how can I love my neighbor?

So for you non-Disciples out there reading this-- yes it seems schizo. Because there are two of me. And there's two of you. Hopefully the one that God created hasn't been totally squashed by the Ego.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Greenlighting Yourself

One of the things I get asked a lot by beginning filmmakers is how to get started. First you need an Idea. Then a Script. Then Money. With Money and a Script, you have greenlit yourself.

Some people will work on writing the killer script and ship it for the money to make it. The problem there is that most epople in the film business, if your script is actually as hot as that, will want to purchase it from you and make it themselves. But alas, you want to attach yourself to direct.

The Ben Younger route is a lottery chance. He's the one who wrote a killer script and turned down six figure offers for a purchase because he wanted to direct. Finally he did get the chance to direct and Boiler Room is the result. And his career is off and running.

Another route is to raise the money from private investors. Still very difficult, you will need to spend money to raise money. First, setup an entity, like an Limited Partnership or LLC. Second, you will need all the legal documents. As always, consult an attorney for this part (thus, the spending money to raise money).

Draw up a Business Plan that is well thought through. Think about what your potential investors want. Research.

Then, be prepared for a lot of no's. But hopefully, you'll get your yes's sprinkled in.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fishing Lines

Today we went fishing. We found one place where every cast brought back a rainbow trout. It was magical. With the kids, it's also amazing how tangled the fishing lines can get.

Recently I thought about the duality of man that the Apostle Paul puts forth, especially in Romans. The spirit versus the flesh. Purpose versus ego. The task before me is to more quickly identify my own flesh and put it to death. When the flesh has it's way along down the road, the damage is more monumental.

That's where the fishing lines come in. The spirit and flesh are like two tangled fishing lines. What I have to do is identify and cut out the flesh one. And others around me can identify it a lot faster. So if I put away my insecurities and actually listen in humility, I'll be able to accept the help and more readily cut out the ego.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Some churches are really working on promoting their screening of "The Imposter." Here are some things your church can do:
* Bulletin Announcements
* Playing the trailer in your church service
* Playing the trailer from your churches website
* One church even creates their own "trailer" using the created one, wrapped inside announcements of their own
* Put up posters, not only in church, but the local Christian book stores
* Contact the local radio stations and let them know about your event
* Get the radio station in contact with me and we'll get them some of the music from the movie to start playing
* I find tickets help attendance-- even if the event is free. Tickets seem to cut down on the "no-shows."

We have a support website for churches that purchase an exhibition license that has posters, trailers, ticket templates, bulletin announcements and more.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rising Stars

Some people have asked what's next, and we now have that answer. Doberman Entertainment out of New York City has asked me to write and direct a film this August, about teenagers on the verge of making it big in music and film. The movie is called "Rising Stars" and will be shot in Fort Worth, Texas.

The movie will be comparable to "The Imposter". It will be music based (but not a musical). The subject deals with the pressure kids have these days to grow up too early-- resulting in adults who don't know how to play.

Repeating their crew roles from Imposter will be: Stewart Young as our Line Producer/1st AD, Ron Gonzalez as our Director of Photography. Jeff Rodgers as Co-Producer and local casting, Courtney Price as Associate Producer, Mike Gonzalez production sound. I'm going to start working on confirming others. There won't be that many paid roles and we will be looking for volunteers.

We're close to signing on big Christian music star and we're making an offer today on a major Hollywood star. But all these have to be confirmed before we can announce it.

If you'd like to help the movie, let me know!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ohio Movie Night

The Willoughby Hills Friends Church near Cleveland recently bought the movie. Jim David, the man who programs the church's monthly "Movie Night" heard about "The Imposter" and inquired. He ordered it and previewed it. The movie will show in July. Here's a video they put together along with the trailer.

Also, Jim was kind enough to review it. I really appreciate when we get feedback from the churches. Here's what he had to say:
When first watching the Imposter film I was a little nervous after seeing the trailer as to what to expect. Although we are fortunate of having a church family that is made up of mostly active kingdom thinkers vs. ritualistic religion, I was still concerned that perhaps the film content may be a little more than they bargained for. I was pleasantly surprised. The film gives a feeling of quality right from the opening credits in the beginning. The music throughout was first class and flowed well. I especially like Kerry Livgren’s updated version of “Carry On Wayward Son”. It’s always better when the original artist is involve in updating a classic.

Although there were some rough spots at times (as did another faith based film I saw recently called “A Letter to Dad”), it was very acceptable for a church crowd. After all, doesn’t life throw us all some rough spots at times? This film does a great job at displaying some true realities in the church today including hypocrisies of those in power – from an evangelist to his son the Christian rock star! At the same time the film depicts true believers who want nothing more than to focus on following Jesus. I like it that Prof. uses the term “believer” in place of Christian in the film and even goes so far as to say that when the term Christian comes up, his response is “you mean a believer” ! We live in a day and age with so many Christian dominations and affiliations, that the term “Christian” is a loaded word which means a lot of different things to a lot of different people depending on their experiences. Unfortunately, many of them negative. I also like the mysterious homeless person who although has mental illness issues, has a gift of reading people and pointing out bluntly what he sees. No “Facing the Giants/Fireproof” ending here. Don’t get me wrong – I loved both of those films and found them very inspiring, but many times life doesn’t turn out that neatly. This film has what I would call a realistic yet satisfying ending & illustrates that just because we accept Christ doesn’t mean we can turn on our cruise control. Ultimately you leave this film with hope!

Friday, June 5, 2009


The image of a Hero that I've grown up with is Indiana Jones jumping from truck to truck, improvising by whatever resources he has. Or Luke and Han escaping from the Death Star.

Today, our culture is preoccupied with heroes. People with extraordinary gifts who do extraordinary things. We've got movies, tv show, and cartoons. Medals are given out to heroes-- in the military, even in the community.

In the Royal Rangers, a boy scout-like program with the Assembly of God, there is a medal for courage and a medal for valor. One is rescuing someone's life, and the other is rescuing the life at risk to your own. But here's one very interesting caveat: You, the rescuer, cannot have been the cause of the other person's peril. You can't get a medal for pulling someone out of a burning tent if you set the fire.

Well, lately, I'm having to re-define what a hero is in my own life with my own family. Uh-oh, our family is facing Big Problem, so I rush in and through quick thinking and ingenuity, defeat the Big Problem and save the family. But where was I when the Big Problem began?

In other words, why didn't Han just turn the Millennium Falcon away from the Death Star when Ben said to? Later, he's no hero for getting out by the seat of his pants. The real hero doesn't get trapped by the Death Star.

I want to be a Hero to my wife and to my kids. It will require planning instead of reaction. Won't be as recognized. But I'm not looking for a medal. Anymore.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hello Lydia

My friend Tim Williams told me about an interesting principle yesterday-- one he called the Lydia Principle. What he said was that a minister talked about Lydia from Acts and how she was a person who rose up in that area and was a catalyst for Paul.

So I looked it up this morning. Acts 16 is the only place Lydia is mentioned. In verse 13, Lydia is among a group of women that Paul is preaching to. He went to this area hoping it was an area of prayer, but found a bunch of women instead. Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth. A business woman in a day and age where that looks to be extremely rare. It also said that she was a woman (before this encounter with Paul) who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul had to say that day.

That day she was saved. And this new believer talked the man himself, Paul, into staying at her house. It says in verse 15 that she persuaded him.

So now Paul had a home base-- a Headquarters for the work and ministry done in that area. A woman rose up that became a huge help to Paul's ministry.

Later, when Paul and Silas were beaten and the Lord saves them from the jail (and the jailer converts), Paul and Silas went to Lydias, where they saw and enoucaraged the brothers. And then left. Again, clearly, the place of refuge, of support, is Lydia and her house. This business woman.

Now what my friend was talking about was praying for the "Lydias" in the arenas that we're walking in to with the movie "The Imposter." Praying that in radio, someone will rise up that can help us-- be a support. That someone or several in the arena of Church Exhibition will be there to become a base of support. And later, as we move toward the home DVD of "The Imposter", that there will be a Lydia or two who will help us.

I'm adding something to my prayer this morning. I'm praying that God does indeed prepare the way and prepare the hearts of potential Lydias as we walk down this trail and that Imposter can speak a healing and freeing message to it's audience.

The First Steps Towards Pre-Production

Filmmaking. As I've discussed, there are 6 Phases: The Idea, Development, Pre Production, Production, Post Production, and Distribution. We've talked about Development and raising money which is the second hardest part of filmmaking. But let's say you've got that, what's next? As Development stage ends, there are some key steps for getting ready for Pre-Production.

As a Producer/Director of your own indie film, the most important next step is bringing on an experienced Unit Production Manager. This person will be one of the most important team members-- they will pull all your bottom line crew together and if you're a newbie, they will help direct your steps.

Then as you progress towards Pre-Production, also called "Prep," you will need a preliminary budget and script breakdown (the UPM can do this). Then it's time to set up a Prep start date-- the day the production office opens. My formula is 1.5 times the shoot period. So if it's a four week shoot, then it would be a six week prep.

And finally, first steps will be choosing the other key department heads, starting with your Director of Photography. Now it's coming together and prep is about to officially begin.