A very common question I get is "How do you pick your cast?" Actually,
I think what people are saying is, "I am bored and drunk, say something."
In case any of them were really serious, here is the answer. To cast Ever I used the standard
indie filmmaker/desperado method:
This can be a terrible way to cast, but, having studied theater at college, I actually knew some people who were actors (not just my Uncle Frank who just happened to have a lot of free time since the downsizing at AT&T) and, being slightly aware of the grandness of my ignorance, I decided early on that I would keep casting simple. I didn't need the variables of new people or the hassle of casting calls to rock my unstable conviction.
Eric Singdahlsen, I decided, was perfect for the leading male. This was inevitable: Eric had been in all my major works to date(and
Eric and I enjoy each others' work and company, and we are not very good at being
critical of each other, so he was willing to sign on to the project without my even having a script.
Next came Ben Kimmel. We had worked together before, but he actually wanted to read the script. Novel concept, and I am proud of him for thinking of it. He
had to wait, though, since it wasn't really ready yet.
When he did get it, he signed on fairly quickly. I think he just wanted to make sure
there was no unjustified nudity.
I picked Jim Allen to do the part of the brother based on the fact that he looked like he could be Coco's brother. I had acted with him in High School so I wasn't worried I was being overly casual about it. Also, at this point, the role had only the one appearance in the cemetery scene (His big scene was only added the week before filming). Most important of all: Jim was a friend so I could give him the above reasons, instead of having to make up more glamorous ones. I told him as much one night and he said, "Sounds cool."
So basically, long before shooting, I had done all my casting except the one part I really had to do: The lead.
The lead was particularly difficult, because not only was she the focus of the film, but the character was developed as a hybrid of two of my friends who couldn't act to save themselves. So I had a very clear-minded idea of what I wanted, but I didn't really have anyone to do it.
Getting the first draft of the script really helped me. Since Rob was writing actual dialog and changing around the story quite bit, I was becoming freed of my initial prejudices. And then, I thought to myself, I came up with the perfect answer: Coco Palmer.
I had never directed Coco before, but we had both been theater rats in college so we had been in the same plays, the same acting classes, worked on stage crews together, and just
generally had every
sort of professional relationship we could have except actor-director. So there was an element of
familiarity even if there wasn't a track record.
More over, I enjoyed watching Coco act: She did so both elegantly and intelligently (smooch, smooch). I had some doubts, but none of them were that Coco was my best option. I tracked down her phone number in Asheville and gave her the pitch. She was interested. I was bringing a script up to Eric in Brevard in a few weeks, she wanted one as well. She mentioned having just been in a film for another person from school. This was good, I thought, someone who
done film work.
I called Vickie and made arrangements to stay with her.
I spent the next couple of weeks imagining Coco as the lead. It was a nice fit, but the image was hindered by her obvious apathy in our phone conversations over the next few weeks. But, the time came, and off I went to Asheville.
I got in on a Friday night. Got up Saturday and tried to call Coco. No luck. Vic and I headed off to Brevard. Eric was staying at a summer camp which is abandoned for the fall. I gave him a copy of the script, then Vic and I wandered around the woods while Eric read it. He loved it. I thought this was just bonus, because even though I was definitely going to encourage him to not do this unless he really wanted to, I was sure he would do it anyway.
I called Coco from Eric's. I reached her at her job, she had to be brief. She can meet this evening at Vic's at 6. Good. Just before she hangs up, she says, "This isn't going to take to long, is it?" "Why?", I replied. " I have to go out with some friends at 6:30."
I remember this conversation verbatim to this day. I think I always will. I was despondent. This was far too much. I discuss casting options with Eric and Vic right there. I discuss them with Vic during the whole drive back to Asheville. We come up with some options that are okay but Coco still remains my best option. My best option if she actually shows enough excitement for me to think she will show up.
I am not going to shun off all the responsibility for this behavior on Coco. We are definitely different people, and while we always got along fine when we hung around, there was always
something standoffish between us, a self-generated screen to prevent us from confusing what was there
with anything else.
When she met us, she blazed in. I gave her the script. She put it in her bag. I asked her to read it. "Now?" "Now, please." I'm irritated. She acquiesces. I go outside and smoke.
It doesn't take long to read. It's only thirty pages and, since Rob is still in college, the importance of big
type fonts with lots of white space was not lost to him.
And when she was done, she was someone I had never met before in my entire life. She looks up slowly and said, "Wow."
Her (wide-eyed) - "Wow."
Me (unassured) - "Oh."
Her (reassured) "This is a real script."
Me (relieved)- "Yes."
In retrospect, I suspect that Coco wasn't expecting that this project was going to be much more then a bunch of people screwing around with a film camera. I suspect it is easy to get that impression from me.
But then suddenly everything was different. The three of us make plans. I take pictures. We discuss giddily what it will be like to shoot. She is free for Christmas Break. All is perfect. As she goes to the door to leave, several hours late for her evening, she pauses at the door to say something that escapes her, so she just leaves. I feel like I'm in a damn movie myself. I glue myself to Vic's ceiling.
Thank God I had Rob to write me a real script. I hope I never forget the lesson of 'have a good script'.