In my last blog, I explained how our Chaldea cast is divided into two groups of characters: VO (Voice Over) and VOLO (Voice Over with Likeness rights and Option to film). Now let’s take a closer look at the casting process for the VOLO characters. And I’m going to stop saying “VOLO” for now; for the rest of this blog, all my references to characters and actors are of the VOLO variety.
There are a number of ways to manage a casting process. You could run ads or use your friends network to get the word out and do everything yourself. Or you could work directly with a talent agency that represents actors. And that would work well, I’m sure, but the agency represents the actors, and I want someone advising me in the process who works for me.
So, we use a casting director (or casting agent). A casting director sits beside me, works for me, and manages the entire casting process. The casting agent works with multiple talent agencies to cast the broadest (and most appropriate) net. A casting director will also work with independent actors, or untried actors, who aren’t represented by any talent agency at all.
In addition to having connections in the acting community, a casting agency (that is, the casting director and the people who work for him or her) takes a tremendous amount of work off our hands. First, the agency is a place to send everyone who’s interested in trying out for a part. They are set up to organize information about actors and manage communication with them. They help organize auditions and call-backs and they put all the auditions up on a private website so I can share the auditions with Steve or other collaborators.
With this strategy in mind, I reached out to Amey René at Amey René Casting. Amey served as our casting director for The Devil Walks in Salem and also for the Chaldea pilot, Chaldea: War Room. I flew down to L.A. and took Amey to lunch and updated on her plans. She loves our work here and immediately agreed to help us out. One thing I was worried about was whether she’d be open to looking at actors from the geek community. I want this for two reasons. First, geek culture is my home base, so of course I want my extended geek family to have a shot at roles in this project. Second, geek actors—even if their followings look small compared to Hollywood celebrities—have followers, influence, and credibility in the geek community from which I want to build my base.
But before I got around to asking Amey about this, she suggested it! “Peter, I think it could really help you market this in the geek community if you got some actors from this culture.” Naturally, I jumped on this. I asked her if we could advertise this on Facebook and she said, “Yes. Bring me the geeks!”
Call me silly if you like, but I’m old enough to remember when there was nothing cool about being a geek. When I was playing Dungeons & Dragons in 1978, trust me, no one thought that was cool at my school except for the two guys playing with me. We’ve come a long way, my friends!
So, Amey and I spent the rest of lunch creating a plan for casting 40 VOLO characters. I had come prepared! I had already created a spreadsheet that summarized key information for each of the characters. I can’t think of any reason why this would be a big secret, so here’s a sample of what I showed Amey:
The table is pretty self-explanatory, although I should explain the color-coding. The colors represent a grouping of characters that could all draw from basically the same pool of actors, like Arab Women or Japanese men. These lines often get blurred a bit because ethnicity, and age doesn’t always operate along sharp boundaries. For example, if a white woman shows interest in our production, we can look at this chart and quickly narrow the possible characters to consider her for from forty characters down to seven (Calla to Olivie on the above table).
Amey loved the chart as a way to organize our thinking, but we both knew it wouldn’t be enough to start auditions with. She agreed we would go ahead and announce the casting process so we could start getting the word out. But before auditions could begin in earnest, Amey would need what I started calling an “Audition Brief” for each character on the list.
Audition Briefs will be the topic of my next blog. And you might also be wondering about those two columns to the far right. They’ll be my topic for the blog after next.
Peter D. Adkison
March 26, 2016