Project Involve(LA), casting your actors

January was an intense month. We started with a workshop with Casting director, Nicole Arbusto (Stephanie Daley, Philadelphia). We were asked to submit a scene from our features in order to workshop it with actors under Nicole’s guidance.

I submitted a scene from my feature script and, with the help of another Involve fellow, I found a couple of local actors.

Nicole started by talking about the importance of the casting process, and how she helps the director to find the right actors for his/her project.

In contrast with the prevailing practice in Hollywood, where actors receive only “the sides” before a casting session, she suggested that actors should be given the entire script and be allowed to come with their own interpretations of the characters. If the director doesn’t agree with them, then he can give them directions and see how they respond to that.

We began the mock casting session by inviting the actors in. Nicole would come in with the actor, supposedly the one she has casted for the role, and sit them across from the director. The actors would read the scene once and then get directions from the director to try something different. In most cases, the actors responded well to the directions.

My actors stumble initially, but after the pause and discussing the scenes with them, their performances have definitely improved.

This is a process that you do only with actors whom have been selected by the Casting Director. If you like any of those actors, then you ask the Casting Director to invite them again.


We had a workshop with a “Sundance Programmer”, who came to tell us how not to make a bad short. Her advice was to surround ourselves with the best cast and crew we can find, because they will make your short look great. She insisted that you could never make a great short on your own. She also stressed that we must use the services of a Casting Director -or their assistants. Good cast -and consequently good performances -makes or breaks your short. And only a Casting Director can find you the best actors out there.

We also had a workshop with Oscar-wining Sound Designer, Ben Burtt, who edited the sound on most George Lucas’s and Steven Spielberg’s films. He talked about his career, the way he works with directors and composers, and how he approaches sound design on different projects. This three hours workshop felt like a magical journey into the fascinating world of sound. Ben Loves sound so much, he records movies’ sound tracks and then listens to them in his Ipod for pleasure. He never leaves home without a sound recorder. Even in this workshop, he had it on him. This is a guy who truly loves his job!


Many of former Project Involve fellows’ films have been selected into this year’s Sundance Film Festival. We were invited to join them in a party in Park City, but Unfortunately, I could not attend. However, I was proud to be a member of such group.

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