I love street casting. I’ve been involved with casting and directing non-actors for most of my career and the whole process constantly fascinates me. I have also been lucky enough to work with some fantastic trained actors and don’t get me wrong – their talent is often the key to a successful film or commercial. However working with members of the public brings its own rewards that (given the right project) can bring things a trained actor can’t.
Things to consider – the pros list.
Street casting can save a lot of money – great on small budget work but also great if you want to use your budget elsewhere (design or gear for example). For me this often means I can afford a larger cast or shoot a greater diversity of scenes.
Using non-actors can be a real hoot. No bad habits, fresh and excited tends to be the norm (if you cast well!). Your crew needs to know their experience level but after that there’s nothing like seeing them conquer their nerves and deliver for you. It also tends to energise your trained actors – they often mix very well.
There’s great on set energy with real people, especially if you add kids and animals into the mix, it adds a real buzz to your shoot. Harder on the director but it forces you to shoot quick and economically. You have to ride their wave of concentration and excitement – before the get bored or tired!
You never know what you are gonna get! Casting from the infinite pool of real people can add life and idiosyncratic flavour to your cast. It helps no end if you (and your client) is very open minded during the casting sessions.
Things to consider – the cons list.
Casting takes longer. This can also lead to greater casting costs. Finding great people to be in your advert or film takes time and it’s often a case of hitting the numbers. You and your client often need to be patient.
They can bottle it. With no agent involved there is always a risk that a non-actor will get cold feet and pull out.
Lightning in a bottle. The skill set of non-actors is limited. Accept it. That often means more work from the director and crucially their best performance can be unrepeatable. Once you’re got it…you’ve got it. If it isn’t working. Try something new.
In summary though – there’s nothing quite like using real people in your production. They often turn out to be the most surprising, touching and delightful part of your shoot.