I’ve just added two postings to the Audition Blog that are a perfect lesson in how to read an independent film breakdown. The ideas seem similar, two independent films looking for four teen boys to act in a story about teens and drugs. The lesson is in the details. Here are the links, and the storyline summaries from the original postings:

Mountain Spirit
“This is a story about young teens that work in the drug business and what happens to them.”

“A group of teenagers become ensnared in a twisted underworld of crime and drug abuse, and inadvertently end up as the devil’s right hand.”

Take a look at both postings and you’ll see some similarities and some stark differences:

Director, Producer, Casting Director
Both of these are solo projects. Anytime you see an audition posting that lists the same person as director, producer and casting director, you can be pretty sure that it’s a solo project. All that means is that there’s one person behind it and driving it, instead of a team of professionals. And who knows, every once in a while that person is a budding David Lynch (who put together his first film that way).

Mountain Spirit doesn’t say in the posting whether it’s a full-length film (feature) or a short film (short). It also contains some terrible grammar and spelling, like the description for the character named only “Role 1” that reads “Male, age 15-16. A rich kid that get in drug business because he things is is cool.” Intoxication labels itself correctly, and in addition lists the audition days and includes characters with names and indicates the size of each role (lead, supporting, etc.). Anytime an aspiring filmmaker doesn’t seem to know the language of film, I’d say that’s a warning sign.

What To Look For
The important thing to figure out is whether the director/producer/casting director/writer/etc. has the technical skills to pull off their dream film. You can get a sense of that from:

  1. Solo project, group project, or production company? You can use this information to find out more about the filmmaker or the production company with a web search or by looking up each person listed on the Internet Movie Database a massive searchable list of actors and filmmakers. If they’ve ever worked on a professional production, it will be on IMDB.
  2. How well written is the posting? How well written is the script? Look over the posting in detail and decide for yourself if it sounds like they know what they’re talking about. Then if you get an audition read the sides and ask to read the script. How does it compare to the professional scripts that you’ve read?
  3. Watch other films by the same director or the same production company if you can. Look up their names on YouTube or GoogleVideo, or use the results of your IMDB search to find the last titles they’ve worked on and watch them.

Every independent audition is a gamble, but if you take the time to look over each posting carefully at least you’ll be able to make an informed choice about whether to gamble on a project or not. Remember that a couple of days experience on set and 30 seconds of good footage for your reel is sometimes all you need to call an experience a success. And sometimes those little projects explode, and a good film fest tour for an indie that you’ve acted in can be a huge boost for your career.

Michael Bean
Owner & Head Coach
Biz Studio