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Find a Grassroots Cast

Lesson 12 from: Producing An Independent Film From The Grassroots Up

Michael Gottwald

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Lesson Info

12. Find a Grassroots Cast

Lesson Info

Find a Grassroots Cast

Is all the parishes of of southern louisiana and these air the audition flyers that I would pull out this is this is a flyer from after we had found hush puppy and when we were auditioning adults so this colton school actually I showed a photo of the three guys with the windows and I said these started with just four guys in louisiana that is that's at the colton school so we were operating out of that it was a crazy thing where is an abandoned school building that they had opened up toe artists and said, if you teach a class to the community, you can have access to a classroom for your own purposes? So we did we I taught in after school class two kids on we sort of use it as a way to get to know we sort of use it as a casting process. We auditioned atomic kids and we got them into these three classes of about six each and got no the kids really well and that was really an immersive experience to understand. Okay, who's good at what? Like who are like which of these kids could shoulder...

a big role in the film? Um so that's it that's what? That? Well, we have our skype guests ready when all right great, all right, there is oh, hey, how you doing? I'm great great man you know radio tv my thank you you look great too. I like your scarf thank you saying sure you represent them? Yeah. Seat is that frank good thank you there's always next year uh dwight I was just talking about casting and after I found why don't you talk about how I found you and then what happened once we did finally get you to come into an audition you want to show offers a long version with let's go in the short version for now. Okay, well, you know, I owned a bakery called him respect create deli and it was actually right across the street from cocaine school where michael and then was doing a cast and and all the guys used to come over to the bakery and you know, it's just sit down and you know it g doughnuts and danger we'll chat about different things and they should put these little flyers in the bakery if anybody want to audition for the upcoming film, pull the number and give him a call and you know, basically put it that and put that in there for my customers and one day me and michael was sitting and then I said I'm like I want to come across the street and cast put up just feel me all about to do and now I was actually never expected to get a part extra point I was just was trying to be friendly when my coonan out when he come to the bakery and I want to see what they was doing in that little room over there so I went over there and michael hand me a script hand the actress a script and he takes everything and, you know, we talked about some different things and I went on back to the bakery after we finished that like nothing happened never happened and a couple of weeks later after can I was already in the process of moving my bakery from one location to another location, so when I did move they were actually looking for me to give me the part in the film, but no one knew where I was that so two days after I opened up my new bakery, michael walks in the bakery on mr henry been looking all over for you. We want to give you the lead role and I will upcoming phil and I mean and I never I was so surprised that even I never thought I'd see michael again and I was so surprised to see him and and I don't know what to expect and I just opened up my new baker's I actually told them that I couldn't take the part because my bakery meant so much to me I couldn't leave my bakery after just opening up two days ago so you know, sometimes people see things and us that we can't see an ourselves so they must have seen something in me as faras playing this role that they want me to play that I didn't see it myself because they would not take no for an answer after I told him I couldn't do that the role they came back that gave me some time to work things out at the bakery after turning them down a few times I've seen that they really wanted me to do this and I work some things out with my partners in them and yeah, I was able to go do the filming yeah, it was great yeah we'll see things in us that we don't see in ourselves and I learned a lot of things from michael and and the guys from court thirteen it was it was a great shoe it was a wonderful experience I got a chance to travel all over the world meet about a wonderful people and and it's something I never forget for the rest of my life thank you, dr michael just want to clarify if we do have some people online who obviously know who dwight is and are familiar with his role in the film but for those people who don't know could you just quickly describe what his roll was? Sure dwight played wink in beast the southern while he was hush puppies father so he was a main main role, and he was down there in the bayou with us for man. Five weeks or so. Wait. Some like, shoot? Yeah. What? One of the easiest. I think the first day that we have a shot with dwight, he had to get into the water. It was april. Any educated? Yeah. Get it. Find me the way you stuck with joining. Stuck with, um, do we have anybody would want to ask dwight any questions, or should I say, well, let's, start here. Anybody here while we have to wait on the line, any of our students have a question? Sure. Sean, um, uh, you said when your other people might see things and you that you didn't see yourself, what do you think would be the biggest change in your own personal life that he experienced after going through this whole process? How? How did go into this movie affect your life? Well, it changed my life and so many different ways, because before I did the movie, I was, you know, the white henry, that the bigger the dawn of man. But when I came back from doing the movie, I was I was just dwight henry, the celebrity, this movie star, but you know, being a person I am and the way I was raised, I was brought up, I didn't feel like I was this huge movie star that people on people made me to seem like I wass because and I came back with, you know, I felt like I was a regular person, and when I came back from doing the film, people looked at me and in a way that I didn't look at myself because I don't feel like I'm this big, huge movie star that people playing it out to be, and I want I want to keep stay even killed a state of person, I am out of what they get, I never day we want to get caught up into this highly would atmosphere it make me out of somebody that I'm not and that's why I'm still here and wallens, I'm still bacon doughnuts, and people used to wonder they're seen you on tv at the academy awards and the next day they're seeming in debate agree with my uniform or with flour all over me, because this is what I love to do it. You know, I want to be happy with what I'm doing, and I want to state a wonderful person I am and not get caught up into on a date here, pipe him pop of the celebrity stands and why do you remember what we your first audition what kind of stuff we were asking you about and what what what is it what is an audition when you're auditioning with court thirteen like what does it feel like like what are we it's personal because a lot of things you all asks me it was personal things things that I went rule about my life and things I went through with katrina how I stood by stood by after katrina and I stood stood home and everybody else was evacuating you know I stood by my community I refused to leave the bakery and my family my family home in the things that I love more than anything in the world I refused to leave these things under the under the worst conditions and you know we talked about a lot of things about life and needy and my family and things like that it was really personal and that's what I've been on a lot of different movie sets before and one thing about this movie the production company called thirteen and I'm always hold this particular film special to me because of the people that was involved in it especially people they're friends of mine I've done big films and you know I never see these are guys on these big films again in my life with michael been in casey and all these guys they're like friends of mine and I'm always hold this particular film special to me and the people involved in initial meet at from the time when they walked into the bakery, these guys from court thirteen, they show me something special, and they made me feel special and comfortable. And, you know, we talked about personal days, and it was really special to interview great. Thank you, joy. I appreciate that. Um, and, uh, yeah, I think I think we're good. Thank you. Joy that's all we got today just wait, theo, the moral of the story is, if you like doughnuts, you confined somebody like dwight. All right, I'll see you soon. Do I also want to get home? All right. So that was dwight. And, uh, you know, the kind of casting that your deal this is a very particular ben wanted what you just saw who he is, his personality. He wanted that in the film that was key to him. He didn't want somebody to transformer act like they were somebody else. He wanted that spirit in the part of wink, same deal with hush puppy. You wanted to find a real person and then have that person inform who the role was that's, a very particular kind of what you're looking for in casting. Um, you know, it depends on what you need that what kind of cast and you're going to engage with depends on what you need in the coen brothers. If you watch the coen brothers movie, everything is extremely precise. Everybody is hitting their mark. Camerawork is superb. Nothing feels sloppy. It all feels very, very deliberate. So you need experienced actors who are going to hit their mark in the exact right time and be able to give you that crazy out of control character. Take after take after take on more inexperienced person is not necessarily, uh, able to do that, so I hold them as the standard for like, everything is extremely precise and deliberate. Ping pong summer is a mix of non professional actors and actors, you know, kids who were cast locally and mixing with people like susan sarandon and leah thompson that was that was the creative impulse for the film, so we would do kind of more beast of the southern wild style additions at first. But, you know, with beasts like we didn't have people reading from a script until three or four auditions in, I think, in ping pong summer, we probably had them. Improvise at first and then the second audition called that give him give him a script see if they could read because they were going to have to read that we're going to have to perform with more experience actors and they enter into a world where improv wasn't as welcome, you know, because you did have to work with these more professional experience actors piece of southern wild was the complete you know, other end of the spectrum which is just complete non professionals and you know ben would sometimes on set give dwight beat you know he's like so here's what you need to communicate in the scene you're trying to find your daughter, you don't know where she is at some point you want to say get in the truck that's it go right so that's like a completely improvised scene with knowing that he has to just hit certain beats same thing with prevention he would say, you know, like you don't want to get in thing with your father, you will say whatever you need to to resist it like go that's not how every scene was directed but like that, you know, I remember very specifically us doing rehearsals where I would construct a beat cheat base sickly for the actors that would just sort of say what's going on here is this what's going on here is this and leave them to do their own dialogue so even if that didn't end up being the way we shot the scene going through that process with the actors was important for ben to sort of see what needs to happen yes, I think I want everyone to think about what acting what if you have a project in mind what kind of casting what kind of acting does it call for? Can it be loose can you use people who are not really actors? Could you do you want that spirit in your film? Do you want that rawness do you want do you want it to have that style or do you want something very meticulous does a call for a complete transformation of the actor um if so that's a little bit more hard to pull off with people who don't have that skill center or background um as you think about that I want to go into casey coleman who was our locations manager and social producer on beast but first he helped me with the casting especially in the phase where we were looking for um revenge today are looking for the little girl um you know, for months and months it was just me and casey in a car going around to auditions are holding auditions, getting word out get in front of schools and everything and we're going to talk to him about that and then transition into a location so if casey's ready in case he should be said all right let's do it oh hello my my ginger brethren um you look great cases likewise lou is a nice color you thank you the blue on new is good to uh uh is it cold in new orleans right now? It's chilling risk it's a it's a keen sixty five degrees here in san francisco facing wait all right, so case I was just talking to we're going to transition from casting toe locations but I wanted to start with what you and me did what does it look like day today what you and me we're doing trying to find hush puppy yeah so we were well, did you do what you want about the obamas capital? Yeah, I'll talk a little bit about that just the basics that you know like I sort of introduced this but you have to have a comfort with going door to door two people are cold calling people and that's part in parcel of what you do on a political campaign or at least that kind of political campaign. So you know, if I didn't have the experience of doing that, I don't think I would've been able to do what we were doing and cases just a naturally more friendly person than I am so that's how he was able to teo teo grassroots campaigning like that so we were michael is sort of walking me through just having systematically kind of canvas and parishes down here and we were we pretty quickly got a place where we will figure out we have to go to the school boards, get permission and then we would go into these really small communities we would kind of find, like the informal mayor of the town who would kind of, you know, it's pretty easy to find that person in a small time from a small town also. So I kind of you understand the vibe and and we would, you know, we would find a church or clearly, senator, we would set up a day we would flyer, we'll get the word out, and then we would come back a week later, and we'll go to the schools often go classroom to classroom to walk in and say, you know, who wants to be in a movie and all these little kids goes, andi then we would hand out flyers, be like, tell your mom to bring into our mission whatever, and then we would go back and on the weekend and do and see forty girls or twelve girls or whatever was and I think we that pretty ones non suffering, like july mid november yeah, yeah, it was, you know, it was like a radius of upto, like almost one hundred miles yeah, yeah yeah I mean, I think we went as far as abbeville, which is about three and a half hours west but and then in the audition process you know, like I have seen that I wish that we could share but we can't get the footage of you and me um with revenge in a the first time it's like what a what a what a casting session looked like like what was what was what would we do? Well, it's funny also because we've sort of really systematize a lot of stuff at this point, but we that whole fall was a process of, like, trial and error for these games and we're not a casting agency so ben's needs for what he wanted to see from these castings were let's different them and another type of process, so we were really having developed these games that would tap into getting kids to show their personality and that go to these emotional places very quickly. S oh yeah, I think a lot of it was oh, the addition to stand out are the ones that are really fun but most of the auditions were actually quite boring well really you know what we were then helped us just develop these guests we would go in that we would have to get come sit down we're trying to get them comfortable get them to talk about themselves usually involves some version of them telling a story about a vacation that they went on, and then we usually did disney world order the water park, and then we would, uh, take this, whatever they were giving us, and we would kind of plug it into a couple of games that we had, and then if they were responding well, we would then move on to something more emotionally, I guess complex games we were often one of the challenges was to figure out how to get a little girls to be kind of, to become angry at us in a way that they were was, like, still on, okay, space to do that. Does that make sense? Yeah, yeah, really? Yeah, I was actually really challenging thing was like to get a girl like a sexual rolling occupies the emotional space of life. I'm gonna feel like I'm just I'll be about something, but for that also feel okay with being and write on it and going right, right? Like being safe plane, basically like this that's it and that's. Why some of so many of them were boring is because if it is nine times out of ten most six year old don't really understand either they're not, they're not going to open up to you. And if they aren't, then they probably are going to be uncomfortable on a set with a ba gillian. People around them performing so. And I think this is, like, does actually is a good wasn't interesting thing. Islands, because processes little kids, especially, are very much full not to miss bai or right to get people like. So exactly. It was a really interesting exercise to be your house. Still get, allow kids to be able to do that, give them permission on. And it was a real challenge. Yeah, absolutely, yeah, keep creating a safe space where they feel ok, talking back to you, basically, or like being resilient. Cause that was part of the character of hush puppies, like you need somebody who's going to be able to be powerful. And that was the trick of these these auditions.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 1.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 2.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 3.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 4.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Call Sheet - Filled Out.xls
Michael Gottwald - Sample Low Budget Documentary Excel Budget Total Budget.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Sample Low Budget Documentary Excel Budget.xls

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

A top-notch presentation on indie film making. I learned a lot from this course which I hope to soon put into practice as I'm about to embark on my first indie film - as a screen writer for the first time out, but eventually I hope to write, direct, and produce my own film. Very easy to follow the presentations in this course, and the handouts I received when I purchased the course are quite useful.


Such a great course! Being an indie "Grassroots" filmmaker in the middle of three projects, I found what Michael shared to be very valuable. The way that he described the different aspects of producing and illustrated with examples was very clear and fresh. The course really opens you up to examine your own processes, what works / what doesn't and stirs up some new ideas on how to move forward. Thanks CreativeLive team for making the class happen!


This is a tremendous introduction to grassroots filmmaking. Michael takes you step by step through the various elements of film production and offers those so inclined a cursory understanding of what is required. Because filmmaking is a creative pursuit, the direction the individual filmmaker takes from there is entirely up to each. I would highly recommend this course to any one starting out in filmmaking. Well worth the cost. David W. King, Michigan Movie Magazine

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