Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Casting Your Movie

Let's talk casting your webcomic. There are a number of different ways to determine who will portray your characters, and you need to decide which one works best for you.

Consider the two Judge Dredd movies, with Sylvester Stallone and Karl Urban. Ignoring acting skills and the writing of the two movies, casting took two different approaches. Keep in mind that Dredd is a muscular man who doesn't take anything from anyone.Stallone had the muscles, while Urban had the requisite bad attitude; if you would have combined the two you would have had the perfect Judge Dredd. In this case the casting director had to debate what worked better for the movie; in Stallone's version, they needed someone physical because it was a very physical movie, making Stallone the better choice. Urban's version was more of a crime drama that needed the attitude. In this case it was decided to go with the more appropriate actor.

Unknown vs. Known
Other movies face more interesting choices. Movies are all about branding; you want to create a look that when people see it they think of the movie. This includes the actors; if the actors become associated with the movie they become full-time ads for the movie. Although an experienced, well-known actor brings his own fanbase, which can translate into more sales, they are also associated with other movies, meaning that the fans willl think of any of the movies he has made, including the most current, splintering sales.This makes talented unknowns worth their weight in gold; until they are associated with another movie, they work well as towards the branding of the movie. This also means that you want a mix of knowns and unknowns, so you can have the audience attached to the known actors and the advertising boon of the unknowns.

Consider X-Men: First Class and its mix of actors. On the unknown side you have Caleb Landry Jones and Lucas Till, Banshee and Havok repspectively. Although they have been in other movies, Till for example has been a number of Disney movies, they are still relative uknowns. Till has become part of the branding of the X-Men franchise, appearing in a couple of commercials. Conversely, James McAvoy and January Jones, among others, bring in their audiences. Of special note here is Jennifer Lawrence, a double threat here; she is still relatively unknown so she can be used for branding, but brings her fans from the Hunger Games movies. Obviously an excellent casting move all-around.

Stunt Casting
This is one that needs to be really debated. The idea is to cast someone who is popular but will bring attention to the movie. The problem is that some moron stated that "any publicity is good publicity"; sometimes bad publicity really is bad publicity. Sure, the movie may have better sales than it should have but the curious will rarely see the movie more than enough to satisfy their curiosity. Successful movies are not seen by 100 peope once; they are seen by 50 people three times who then get their 200 riends to see it once. Stunt casting is a way to get people talking about your movie, but it had best be good casting as well; if not, you've just created a lot of bad publicity and an audience of curiosity seekers rather than potential fans.

This is sort of why the New Fantastic four reboot is getting a lot of flack. Michael B. Jordan is a great actor; he has done a phenomonal job in alost everything that he has been in. However, casting a black actor as the traditionally white "Johnny Storm" before casting anyone else stinks of stunt casting, and it focuses a lot of attention on the casting rather than the story, creating a lot of doubt on whether or not the story is any good. As movie-goers know that it's story first, focusing the attention elsewhere creates some big questions. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Casting is an important decision when it comes to making a movie work. So if you're cating your movie, find people that work for the roles, combine a mix of known and unknown actors, and try to avoid stunt casting, and it's the first step towards a successful movie.

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