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Chapter Eight. Preproduction > Casting and Improvisation for DV - Pg. 197

Preproduction 197 A script breakdown deconstructs your movie into the specific elements you need to get each scene on the screen. When marking up your script, you don't have to use the industry-standard coding conventions shown in the third column, but experienced directors and production managers will expect to see production boards with the elements color-coded in standard style. Once you've finished your breakdown sheets, make lists of like-coded items and determine the crew specialties and production resources required to put them on the set under normal working condi- tions. Related labor activities may include procurement, transportation, construction, rigging, oper- ations, and striking. For more information on how your breakdown sheets become inputs to the scheduling process, see "Sort Elements to Produce a Schedule" later in this chapter. Casting and Improvisation for DV The high cost of film discourages directors and producers from shooting repeated takes and extra coverage. Improvisation is often equated with irresponsibility. However, compared to the cost of film stock and processing, shooting DV tape is so cheap you might as well think of it as free. In the world of DV, it costs you nothing to record as many takes as you like within the limited time of the shooting day. Hence, there's much less pressure to follow a structured approach. Improvi- sational styles don't come at such financial premium, especially if you get results. This can have a big impact on casting actors. In turn, your approach to casting and rehearsal impacts not only how you plan to work on the set but also how many days you allow for production. The Casting Process When you're casting a DV production, you don't necessarily need actors who can repeat a take exactly the same way each time; you can encourage variety in their interpretations. Look for actors who are spontaneous and directable. Many DV productions are low budget. In fact, they probably wouldn't exist as projects at all if the gear weren't so cheap. A corollary is that when you're casting this type of production, you may find yourself forced to work with actors who are either inexperienced or who have no formal training. Although you want the most skilled actors you can find, lack of experience needn't be a show-stopper if you know what to look for when you're casting and how to work with your actors. DV Auditions Evaluate all actors--regardless of experience level--using a structured audition process: When you hold auditions, start off by trying to put the actor at ease. Even a pro can be tense and anxious in these situations. As the actor enters and presents you with his headshot , chat a while to let him know it's okay to relax. Note HEADSHOT: Actor's publicity photo, typically with a resume printed on the back or stapled to it; photo and resume (P&R). Choose scenes that require reacting as much as speaking. You want actors who are expressive when they're listening--artists who can re-create a rich inner emotional life and let it play on their faces. Keep the camera trained on the actor throughout the session, while another actor or PA reads the other character's lines off-camera. Videotape three readings. Politely decline to give the actor any information or coaching before the first reading; encourage her to give her own interpretation the first time out. You want to observe her instincts.