If you don't have actors busting down your door for a part in your production, then you'll have to make use of other resources such as industry directories, casting companies, and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Like a casting director, you can even scout out talent by attending theater productions, visiting acting schools, and watching student films and film shorts. If you find someone of interest, look up their agent or manager and ask for an actor's resume and photos to be sent. You never know when or where you'll find a diamond in the rough.
Word of mouth is never a bad thing in Hollywood when you're searching for talent. Neither is advertising in the trades, magazines, on the Web, or even in your local newspaper. When you're advertising for actors, it's important to be clear about what you're looking for, including level of experience, age range, physical appearance, any particular requirements you might have, and so on. And whatever you do, don't forget to mention a salary (if there is one) or benefits you may be offering, like free food or gas money.
Most major cities in the United States have some type of casting service that they use for the film, television, and theater industries, and all of them are valuable resources you can tap into. Casting companies are a terrific resource when searching for actors. Nowadays, you could conceivably fill your entire cast list online with a company like Breakdown Services Ltd.(
Online sites such as
The Screen Actors Guild
The Screen Actors Guild, commonly known as SAG, was formed in 1933. SAG operates much like other labor unions, only its focus is on representing actors. As well as monitoring their benefits, compensation, and working environment, SAG has fought many battles over the decades to ensure that actors' rights are upheld. SAG has the reputation for protecting its members by being tough and enforcing its rules and regulations.
SAG Versus Non-SAG
If you're hiring a union actor, it would behoove you to be well versed in all the union regulations. SAG labor costs money, and in using its talent you are subject to a host of rules, standard rates, and penalties for any disruption of its regulations. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is read all of the fine print to the letter. Only after you fully understand how the union operates should you pursue hiring union labor. But again, it's often worth the effort because you're hiring an experienced professional.
If you're an independent filmmaker with a certain budget, you need to be especially aware of SAG's regulations and its basic agreements. Many of SAG's stringent rules still apply, but over the years it has become easier to acquire union actors for independent films. More in-depth information about the Screen Actors Guild can be found on its Web site at
Non-SAG members are a different story. With these individuals it's up to you to negotiate the deals. If you're on a minuscule budget, chances are you can't afford union labor, so you'll have to hire actors outside its realm. One thing to keep in mind is that even if you hire nonunion labor it's important to still maintain a safe and fair working environment.