Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Casting and creativity

Casting is discussed in the coursework guide; your post/s on this should follow a range of steps, which you might do as separate posts:
The original scream queen: Janet Leigh
Final girl archetype 'Laurie Strode'
  1. start out by describing your characters (if you have 10 characters provide 10 profiles/descriptions!): their look, clothing, attitude, gender, age, size, hair colour ... whatever seems relevant to the role. THIS IS YOUR IDEAL, IF YOU HAD 100s OF ACTORS APLYING FOR THE ROLE!
  2. now consider (stereo)typical comparable characters in existing films (critically, providing still images and/or video clips to do so)
  3. even if you are going for a COUNTERtypical approach, show your knowledge of the genre conventions before justifying your choice to go against/challenge the convention
  4. have you backed up your claims/analysis of typical representation with references from websites AND books? to help get into the top marks range you should try to back up your analysis of the codes and conventions of genre/'existing texts' with book (or newspaper/journal) references as much as possible
  5. if going for countertypes, explain why - perhaps linked into gender issues? either way, the theories associated with feminist film critics such as Barbara Creed and Laura Mulvey could be discussed here
  6. having clearly set out what look you want, and shown you've thought through the semiotics of this (how the auidience might respond if they followed your preferred reading, but also considering possible negotiated/oppositional readings - perhaps for potential non-UK viewers not familiar with UK culture?), now discuss your casting process
  7. of course, you may be limited in your choice here; provide stills/video of any casting session, and images of your actual cast, clearly identified as specific characters (repeat character details if this info is not in the same post)
  8. does the look of any of these impact on your original ideas/intentions? maybe your scream queen is now sporting the conventional final girl look? have you made adjustments for this in your script/storyboard? can you think of any low-budget films you've seen where financial restrictions appear to have impacted on casting?
  9. now you're ready to start shooting with your cast - think about their needs: build in rehearsal time (a good means of shooting video to show one of you taking on the directing role - perhaps the producer can be shot organising the casting?), provide with script/call sheets etc

You'll note the post is entitled casting AND creativity. Partially, and this is nothing to worry about, you may wish to make notes now for a long-distant A2 exam part of which asks you to analyse your own productions (its easy to forget the decisions you made so far in the future!). One possible topic there is 'creativity'. To finish up, a nice example from commercial casting, usually the preserve of specialist, qualified professionals (casting directors), of how random effective casting can be...
Towards the end of the video (can't embed it, follow the link) you'll see the contemporary auteur Darren Aronofsky discuss how a key supporting actress role was cast through iChat on a Mac (following lead actress Natalie Portman's recommendation of her friend)!
Watch the video at http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/video/2011/jan/18/darren-aronofsky-black-swan-interview 
I can't recommend watching some of this director's work highly enough - especially Requiem For a Dream, which introduced a range of cinematographic techniques widely copied ever since.

I'd forgotten about this article - click 'read more' or here for the article and comments on the Guardian site - which considers some infamous casting decisions, and contains nice footage of auditions. The concept of the commutation test, by the way, is commonly applied to casting; there are many web pages which consider some of the near misses where classic films have almost, usually due to some bone-headed studio executive, badly miscast key roles that went on to become iconic but which would have been fundamentally altered with a different actor. (basic eg: picture Arnold Schwarzenegger in any Hugh Grant romcom role...or vice versa! "I'll, um, gosh, be back" anyone?!)

Clip joint: auditions

Casting can deal a death-blow to even A-list egos, as proved in cinema's most toe-curling scenes of actorly aspiration
Mulholland Drive
Casting directors aren't always right... the audition scene in Mulholland Drive
In Singin' In the Rain, A-lister Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) tells a Hollywood gossip columnist that "dignity, always dignity" drove him to stardom. A fat lie. It was his willingness to take a punch that snagged him an on-camera spot; his "audition" saw him smacked in the face, flying across the set of a silent western. He hit his mark and was hired.
Dignity can be pretty elusive when you're a jobbing actor. Still, it's worth remembering that casting directors aren't always right. George Clooney tried five times to snag Brad Pitt's part in Thelma and Louise, Robert De Niro was turned down for a role in The Godfather (part 1), while Fred Astaire's screen test report at RKO was, notoriously: "Can't act. Can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little."
Then there's those that didn't even intend to audition. Mel Gibson got a very lucky break when someone smashed his jaw in a bar-room brawl. Next day he accompanied an actor friend to the Mad Max auditions. So taken was the casting agent with Gibson's dystopian look, he was handed the starring role then and there.
Black Swan 1) In Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky's forthcoming thriller set among New York's "bun-heads", Natalie Portman's character must combine precision with sexiness. Doable? Not if this audition is anything to go by.
2) Lacking Tallulah's chutzpah, songstress Blousey Brown eventually lands a gig at Fat Sam's Speakeasy due to her beau, Bugsy Malone. It's all about who you know…
3) Here's a fake screen test from Tootsie: actor Michael Dorsey (played by Dustin Hoffman) auditions for the role of a nurse Dorothy in cheesy soap Southwest General.
Shakespeare in Love 4) Gwyneth Paltrow auditions for the role that will see her donning a 'tache to take the lead in Shakespeare's surefire hit Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter …
Black Dahlia 5) Doomed wannabe Betty Short will say and do anything to win a part, including claiming that she knows David O Selznick.
Before Christmas on Clip joint, nilpferd gave a rare helping hand to henchmen. He writes:
You excelled yourselves in fulfilling Harvey Korman's Blazing Saddles demand for mugs, pugs and thugs of all shapes and sizes. After the smoke has cleared, here are the five henchmen and women who were left standing …
1) I wondered whether Kim Novak's role in Vertigo was really henchwomanly enough, but by the time she melts into Jimmy Stewart's arms, breathing "muss me a little", Jennieside had me convinced that Novak's character was the perfect pawn who turned.
2) With henchman corpses piling up left and right, Roannais reminded us of the blighted lives left behind with this compassionate clip from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
3) "Can't we change places?" Tanarus gave us Peter Cook's Lucifer articulating every henchman's secret desire in Bedazzled.
4) "He's Watson to Megamind's Sherlock Holmes" … evidence that the complex henchman is as relevant as ever came from Steenbeck.
5) This week's winner is Rowingrob, who in a "gadzooks" moment suggested the deliciously rakish Basil Rathbone as Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood. He was run close by Prisoner of Zenda's Hentzau, who in the end displayed just a fraction too much initiative to qualify. Instead Rathbone's legendary sword skills, fabulous outfit, and immaculate facial hair put him ahead of the pack, while his use of every dirty trick in the book and his graceful swan-dive to end the famous sword fight scene cemented his position as cinematic henchman number one.

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