Since completing our last feature, one of the most common questions we are asked is “How can I get a recognized name to act in my move?” The short answer is, you pay them. Of course there are a few details that we can address, such as how to establish contact with the actor or their representatives. What actor should you contact? How much should you expect to pay? But first, we should probably address why you would even want a name actor to perform in your movie.
Hiring a name actor will do two things for you. First, it will legitimize your project as a “real move” in the eyes of potential investors and your cast and crew members. Secondly, it will make it easier for you to secure distribution. If you are a first time film maker, one of the biggest obstacles you will run into, is getting people to take you seriously, because a lot of people talk about making a movie, but very few actually do. So if you can get someone who is already recognized as being a part of the movie industry attached to your project, this will go a long way in helping you gain legitimacy in the eyes of others – in particular, potential investors. You will also find that once you have a name actor attached, you will be able to attract a better grade of actor for your remaining roles. If you plan on pursuing a traditional distribution route for your movie, or if you plan on selling foreign rights, having a name actor will result in distributors being much more open to taking on your project.
The first step to getting a name actor attached to your project is to first decide on a list of potential candidates. Don’t have your heart set on getting any one specific actor, because even if they want to work on your movie there is a good chance they will be unable to due to their involvement with other projects and other scheduling conflicts. So rather than focus on one specific actor, make a list of actors. When making your list, consider actors who have performed in movies similar to yours and in the same budget range. For instance, if you are making a horror movie, look at actors who have performed in other horror films that have similar budgets to your movie. The easiest way to do this is to get a subscription to IMDB pro, and either search for actors directly, or search movies similar to yours and select actors from their cast.
IMDB pro will also provide you with the information necessary to contact the actor directly or to contact their representation. When first contacting an actor or their representative, be brief. Simply tell them that you are interested in them performing in your project. Give a brief description of your movie. Expected dates when you would need the actor and compensation. You should also mention whether your shot is a union or nonunion shoot. On a side note, many beginning filmmakers believe that they cannot get a SAG actor to perform in a nonunion shoot, however this is simply not true. Many SAG members are what are known as FICORE (financial core) members, a category that allows them to work in both union and nonunion shoots. So don’t exclude a SAG actor just because your movie is a nonunion shoot.
Once you have contacted the actor or the representative, they will either say “yes”, “no”, or indicate a willingness to negotiate terms. If the answer is yes or not, your work is pretty much done. If they indicate that they are interested but only if certain terms can be negotiated, then you now have a dialogue that may or may not result in you coming to an agreement.
Here are a few things that you may want to keep in mind when trying to get a name actor attached to your project. Odds are this actor will be your most expensive actor, so when writing and planning your movie, keep this in mind as you will likely want to organize your shoot so that you can shoot through this actor’s scenes in as short a time as possible. One way to minimize your costs is to simply make sure this actor’s role is not very extensive. However, you should also be aware that if a part is too small, many actors will not be interested in the part. Not because they aren’t making as much money from a small part, but because most actors just like to have as much screen time on a project as they can get.
One benefit of having a name actor attached to your project is that you will be able to attract a better caliber of actor for your remaining roles. Even if you are holding open auditions, you will now get better actors to show up who would not have shown up before. Another way to land more good talent for your movie is to ask your name actor if they have friends or people they have worked with that might be interested in working on the project. If they do, ask them if they would establish contact for you. Often actors have groups of people that they enjoy working with that they can bring on to your project and who would be willing to work for a price you can afford simply because they enjoy working with each other.
It is also worth mentioning, when you try to attach a name actor to your project, you don’t need an A-list actor to attract attention to your movie. Any recognizable name will do, including reality TV actors, and in some cases even actors from the adult film business. I especially think an adult actor who is right for a role and who has good acting abilities, brings a lot to the table – because they are often very interested in working in a mainstream movie, are willing to work at a very reasonable rate, and often have a fan base that is far more loyal than those of many A-listers.
As always, if you have some thoughts on the subject, we would love to hear them, so leave us a comment below.