Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cover Box Casting

So, you come across a movie in Wal-Mart or Rebox that you've never heard of, but the art looks pretty cool and it stars a pretty decent past A or B-lister or listers. So, you take a chance and rent or purchase the movie, take it home, put it in and... besides the fact the movie is absolutely horrible, the actor you got the flick for is hardly even in it. One producer I know calls these his "gotcha" titles.

Making and selling indies in today's climate is increasingly hard. It's hard to raise the money. It's hard to get crews and cast to work for lower rates. It's hard to find locations you can afford. It's hard to just hold it together. Then if you are lucky enough to finish, it's super hard to make decent money. It's no wonder that certain producers resort to unsavory tactics to ensure their movies make a profit.

To make things worse there's a prevailing attitude amongst many indie producers (and I'm talking about the fringe cats making movies on the regular for under 50k) that it's cool to just throw projects together to flip for a quick buck. They cast, find locales, crew... everything last minute and with little regard to quality. I honestly can't think of a good reason why. All these tasks cost the same whether you start 4 weeks in advance or two. Worse than that though, there's a trend of COVER BOX casting. This is when a producer casts a "NAME" actor, with no real regard of whether or not that person is right for the part, just to make a quick sale. The producer knows that with this actor and some decent cover art, the movie is almost guaranteed to make it's money back and then some. Sometime, the actor is right for the part, but the production can only afford the actor for a day or two, which almost always means the actor's part will be little more than a cameo and the cover art for the movie will have the actor's name front and center. Or the actor will film something like 30 rushed pages in a day and the work will suffer. Again, keep in mind these movies are costing under 50k. Another problem with this is the cost. The producers are shelling out over 30% of an incredibly low budget to cover the cost of the often inappropriate talent. It makes for an incredible disproportionate use of funds. This isn't like Universal paying Tom Cruise 30 million of a 100 million budget where they still have 70 million to make the movie. This is spending 6 to 10k of a 30k budget and not having enough left to produce the movie on the basest of professional levels. Then they usually try to make up for this by shorting crew on their rates, or eliminating "non-essential" crew all together (like AD's or Script supervisors).

I totally get the short term thinking. In the first year these movie, even when they're terrible, make their money and then some. The sad thing is, with a little more care, communication and organization, these movies could be better. But time and time again, the producers wait til the last minute, cover box cast (giving little or no attention to the non-name cast that fills it out) and treat crews poorly.

 ****Full disclosure. I've directed several movies that are guilty of cover box casting. I've even produced one. However, I've made a decision to no longer take part in this kind of bait-and-switch.


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