Choosing the right cast

  Suppose that you’re holding an audition to cast the roles in your marketing video. You watch as a series of actors read the lines from your script. As you watch, you immediately start picking out the actors you like. This initial reaction is a gut feeling, a subconscious reaction in which your brain tells you what performances work best before you can even think about it.

Your subconscious reaction to an actor’s performance boils down to a good actor’s ability to masterfully communicate the external qualities and inner life of a character to the audience. The subconscious part of your brain is a decent casting director. Good actors spend years training to master their ability to communicate. This list describes the qualities to look for in actors when you’re casting a video — the person must:

Be the right “type” for the role: The person should come across as a believable embodiment of the character on the page. Type refers to an actor’s physical look and general demeanor. It also refers to the way viewers fit an actor into familiar archetypes, or universally understood characters. When you first lay eyes on an actor, that person comes across as a boss, a soldier, a bad guy, a seductress, a mother, or a clown, for example.

Be able to connect with the audience: Does the actor’s performance immediately jump out at you and engage your interest? 

Possess a strong acting technique: For example, the person must be able to take direction, make adjustments, and repeat a performance multiple times. 


The world contains as many types as it contains people, and you should always keep an open mind when casting your roles, especially in regard to race and gender. The petite actress you’ve written off as a mouse may stun you when you realize she’s the perfect ruthless CEO for your video. When actors play against type in this way, many memorable performances emerge. The ability to connect with the emotions of an audience is an actor’s most powerful weapon. The performances you remember — the ones that stick in your head for years — are the ones in which the actors connect with the audience.
This connection isn’t made from some mysterious, arcane actor magic. Instead, it’s made as a result of an actor honing the three most important communication tools:

Body language: This term covers everything below the neck. Good actors are at ease with their bodies and are grounded: They convey confidence, flexibility, and readiness for whatever comes next. If you freeze-frame a scene, you should be able to tell how the actor feels about a situation based on her body language. 

Vocal quality: Actors’ voices should be clear and articulate and loud enough to register with the microphone (and the other players). Actors should speak at an appropriate pace for their characters, with the ability to add nuance that makes their line readings believable yet memorable. 

Facial expression: It’s the main weapon in an actor’s arsenal in film and video because the camera spends a lot of time close to it. Facial expression doesn’t mean lots of facial movement — quite the opposite. 

Great film (and video) performances are made of subtle facial expressions, and the most crucial area is the eyes. The proverb “The eyes are the window to the soul” is absolutely true: The human brain is wired to connect to the eyes of other people as conduits of their thoughts and feelings. (Take a look into Morgan Freeman’s eyes, and you’ll know that it’s true.)
The subtleties of body, voice, and face are the reasons that casting directors videotape acting auditions, and the reasons that you should, too. The camera catches little details that make for great performances.

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