How to get an A-list star in your D-list budget movie
If you’re a serious filmmaker, it doesn’t matter how much money you have or whether the project is even totally financed yet – you can get a big star on board. A-list actors are actual people, after all, and if you can just get in contact with them and pass on your script, they’d surely agree to be in your film just as long as you covered their taxi fare to and from the set (which will likely be your apartment).
And you won’t need to go contacting any casting directors, agents, producers, or any of those bozo’s – you can just do it over Twitter or something. Also, don’t have contracts, don’t play to their egos, and certainly don’t conduct yourself like a highly-skilled professional. And if they turn you down, remember to cause a scene!
Of course, all of the above is false. If you’re really looking to book an A-lister in your D-list budget film, let’s take a look at a few ways you could attract a Keanu Reeves (John Wick) to your Alex Winter (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) project!
Step one: Craft a solid script. Don’t just read it yourself and decide it’s good (it very well might be) – get other people to read it. Not just friends either, but people who will be honest with you. That work colleague who you get on with in the office but you would probably never hang out. Ask the homeless guy outside your favorite coffee shop to read it. Buy him a coffee and a bagel and maybe some cake to say thanks too (and if he has any good suggestions or maybe some experience of indie filmmaking, maybe make him an associate producer on the project). Cross reference what everyone says about your script, see if there are any elements everyone likes or dislikes, and use them to improve your screenplay.
Before you contact anyone, make sure the project is all planned out for them and plan ahead so that they’ve got time to think about it. They might turn it down initially due to genuine scheduling conflicts, so be open to that. Perhaps a couple of months down the line you might get a call from their agent saying that your film idea really stuck with them and they’re wondering what the next stages are. It’s at this point you tell them the position is still open!
Parts like this don’t come around that much
Play to their age, size, shape, ability to do a Boston accent, ability to skydive – whatever their traits may be. Also, if it’s the type of character that you know they’ve never done before, this can also be a way to prick their attention. If you’re lucky enough to get their ear, tell them whatever they want to hear.
Casting directors & agents
These are two gatekeeper roles in the industry. If you can get past them (or get on with them), it’ll make your project a hell of a lot easier. When contacting casting directors via phone or email, always try and be charming, memorable, and professional. If you can develop a good relationship with them, it really can pay off when they mention you to that agent they know who represents some of those big names you’ve been trying to attract. And always be sure to ask them, “What do you think?” It’s always nice to hear and they might even end up believing that you care.
“Well, I got the script to them and they like it.” You drop your phone, do a handstand, and start writing your Oscar acceptance speech. “They’ve got a few thoughts though.” Yep, although it’s not part of their job description, all big name actors will have thoughts on the script and probably suggestions. If you’re precious about the script, you’re not going to get far. Be willing to listen to peoples’ ideas – who knows, they might even be good!
Treat them like royalty
If you’ve gained interest from an A-lister, you’re going to have to work around them, and if you can’t afford to pay them their usual salary (which you definitely can’t), make sure they’re taken care of like royalty at least.
Work around them
Your A-lister might say, “I can give you two days in three months.” If you know you can nail it with two days in three months, schedule for it and do it. That way you can shoot everything that doesn’t require their presence in the meantime and then you know you’ve got two days filming with a bigass Hollywood star to finish things off with.