9 Reasons To Find
Brilliant Actors

By Tim Barrow

Actors make films.

Our favourite movies are dominated by mesmerising performances of incredible power, charisma, beauty, and truth that lift films into the realm of greatness, thrill audiences and inspire generations of film students – Apocalypse Now, The Killing Fields, The Deer Hunter.

In independent film the greatest assets you have are the performances of your actors. You don’t have a massive budget, Avatar levels of CGI, or a studio-backed marketing campaign, so you must capitalise on great performances from good actors that will make your film stand out.

Here’s nine reasons why time taken to find your actors pays off.


Your actors are the film’s lifeline. How do you get the prefect ones for your project? You have to fall in love a little. It’s a key relationship – it takes nurture and trust. Cast the net wide. Follow up hunches and recommendations. Audition if you can – it’s a good way to meet actors, learn about what they do, and refine your story decisions – and within 3 seconds you’ll know if an actor could be right for you or not. Casting your film is like falling in love – you don’t know what’s right until you find it. And then nothing else will possibly do.

2. Great Performances

The camera follows performance – it’s a very intimate relationship between actors and camera. Great performances are always picked up. Actors are ephemeral, dynamic, creative beings and good ones are hungry. If you satisfy their hunger with a great part, you stand a chance of turning a fine story into a great film. When asked, actors usually say it was the script that drew them to the project. And because there’s no money in independent films to pay astronomical fees for stars, they’ll do it for other, better reasons.

The Inheritance 3. Star Quality

The difference between a decent actor and a film-star, potential or otherwise, is immeasurable. Star quality comes in all walks of life, but onscreen is magnified and works to best effect. Stars are magical and very rare – if you get to work with them you are very lucky indeed. Cast actors who have star quality, or as close to it as possible – anyone who proves fascinating to watch onscreen. In harness with your direction, they will raise the level of your work.

4. Production Value

A leading actor will lift the worth of your film, contributing greatly to your production value. Good actors will carry that responsibility, relish the challenge and produce the goods. The industry always notices great actors doing fantastic work in indie movies – such as Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson. Leading actors understand and bear the weight of their film’s expectations on their shoulders, and then go to work. Choose your actors carefully and your faith in them will bear fruit. And your film’s value will rocket.

5. Dream Project

Sometimes it’s fate. You have the project you’ve always wanted to make and your leading actor has always wanted to play Hamlet on screen. Synchronicity. Also, if you work with good actors, find out what their dream projects are. Dreams may overlap. It’s well worth asking your actors’ advice on scripts – they’ll be honoured having ideas heard and their hunches and insights can be invaluable. It may well turn into their greatest opportunity. Mickey Rourke rediscovered Hollywood acceptance with The Wrestler and it’s hard to think of a more perfect dream project for him or vice versa.

The Inheritance6. Danger

Elements of danger and risk work brilliantly on film. We love being thrilled by film stars. Actors like Mickey Rourke, Tom Hardy, Vincent Cassel have an indefinable chemistry that makes them electric to watch and their films mesmeric. Danger isn’t to be confused with insanity – that, oddly, becomes boring to watch. Creating a controlled environment for your actors to be as dangerous as they like – a safe place – brings fireworks and moments of stunning magic.

7. Actors Understand Audiences

Actors carry your film. They are the audience’s way in – what they first identify with. Good actors understand what audiences love about heroes or are drawn to in villains. In countless subtle ways they can vastly improve your film. When we engage with great movies we feel drawn in – and that is aided by the charisma and technical nous of leading actors – e.g. knowing just how long to pause before delivering the next line. Just as those in theatre learn stage-craft, film actors gain the tools of screen-craft. You hear it said about some people: “the camera loves them” – which more often than not is the result of ability and experience. Good actors know what works.

8. Publicity

Introduction to CastingPublicity is the oxygen by which your film breathes. It makes a great statement when your press conferences are attended by your charismatic leading actors. They can promote your film in ways no one else can and bring track-records of quality, thus enhancing your work. Audiences love their stars. The industry revolves around them and takes careful note of their moves. People will listen up if a star recommends you as the latest bright talent to support.

9. Improvised Moments Of Genius

Everyone improvises on film-sets – cast and crew alike – the intensity of the environment demands adaptation, risks and instant decision-making. With a firm grounding in character, actors will improvise brilliantly and results can be inspirational. Our Scottish road movie The Inheritance was driven from the beginning by discussions between the actors which became the script. Having put in the work, we had freedom to improvise when we hit the road, and every challenge became an opportunity. Time after time the actors gave us new, immensely rich material. Actors are creative beings and their work is to find moments of genius which you turn into award-winning films.

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Casting Your Film

Learn about the casting process and the best ways to get the right actors for your production.

Tutors: Rory O'Donnell Venue: Raindance Film Centre
10 Craven Street, WC2N 5PE
Date: April 9 Duration: Single Eveninng
Time: 6:30pm - 9:30pm Price: £48

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About The Author

Tim BArrowBorn in Edinburgh and trained as an actor at Drama Centre London, Tim Barrow has worked extensively in Scottish theatre and screen work includes Taggart; Children Of The Dead End and Richard Jobson’s New Town Killers.

He wrote, produced and acted in The Inheritance - winner of the Raindance Award at 2007 British Independent Film Awards and nominated Best UK Feature at Raindance.

He was nominated Best Producer at 2008 BAFTA Scotland New Talent Awards. The Inheritance toured the festival circuit and is now available to buy on DVD.

Tim founded Lyre Productions as a platform for future films. His second feature The Space Between is his directorial debut, and due for release later this year.

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9 Reasons To Find Brilliant Actors