Actors, casting and the perils of Evil Apps

A bit more about Evil Apps. It’s bubbling around in my brain and throwing its weight around, pushing other important projects to one side and shouting ‘Me Me ME’ so I might as well talk about it.

Specifically, I want to talk about casting and dealing with actors.

I tend to deal with movies that are, to some extent, ensemble pieces. KillerKiller revolved around a group of murderers, The Devil’s Music revolved around a group of musicians and a separate group of people being interviewed about them and even TrashHouse and Hellbride both had substantial casts backing up the leads and getting a decent amount of screen time. The dialogue in my chapter of Nazi Zombie Death Tales was (fairly) equally spread across different family members.

The odd-one-out, really, is my chapter in Bordello Death Tales. Other than a short sequence at the beginning crossing over with the other chapters in the film, it’s very much a two-hander. Cy Henty and Danielle Laws do all the heavy lifting in the story, and the whole damn things stands or falls on their performances. I was pretty confident that this would work out okay (and I think it very much did) based on the fact that I’d worked with both of them before and I knew what they were bringing to the table in terms of professionalism and ability.

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I knew I could rely on Danielle and Cy. I knew how things were going to pan out, and that gave me the confidence to leave the whole damn story in their capable hands.

If I hadn’t had that confidence, I’m not sure I’d have written a two-hander. Working with actors is always a fascinating experience for me, even if we make mistakes along the way. I realise that I’m not the most actor-focused director in the business, although I’m trying harder and getting better as I go along, and so I’m aware of the fact that I’m relying on these guys really bringing the goods to the table. By the time I’m actually deep in a shoot, I’m often juggling too many balls to be giving in-depth notes on performance. I hope that myself and the folks on the other side of the camera can reach a kind of synchronicity before we start shooting (which is why I’m getting more and more into rehearsals as my career chugs onwards) because often, on the day, I’m only really clocking the nuances of performances on a particular take if there’s something happening that I really don’t like. The rest of the time I’m looking at what’s through the viewfinder (or on the playback when I have the luxury of a separate DP) as a whole, and I’m rarely taking enough of a step back to think whether the performance is the very best that the actor in question is capable of.

This approach gets you through production on schedule, but often comes back to bite you on the arse in post. There have been a few occasions where I’ve looked at a finished sequence and realised that an actor did a certain bit of business in rehearsal (a look, an inflection, a way of delivering a line) that they dropped ‘on the day’ and I didn’t notice because I was too worried about losing daylight or whether a blood explosion was going off at the right time. And that stuff hurts a bit, because you realise that the movie has just lost a nice moment that could have been saved with a *sentence* at the right time to the performer.

So, what’s all this got to do with Evil Apps?

Well, Evil Apps is very much a two-hander. I never planned it to be, because I never really planned  And this isn’t a 24 minute anthology section, this is a feature. I can’t use any of my regular ‘go to’ cast, because the ages don’t fit the characters, which means that if I were to put this feature into production I’d be resting the whole flick on two performances from actors that I’d never worked with before. That’s an idea that I find kind of scary.

The things I find scary, I also find fun.

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