Directing POSTS Pre-production

Casting on a Budget: Interview with Jason O’Mara

How does a well known actor react when approached for a low or no budget project?  We asked actor Jason O’Mara (To Appomattox; Vegas; Terra Nova; Life on Mars;) about his experiences in this area and what advice he would give.

Photo by zzzack

JOM:      I have received scripts like that in the past and have definitely considered doing them – they should really come through the agent you know? Otherwise its very hard for the actor to go ‘Listen this guy rang me up and gave me this script and they are shooting this weekend and I think I’m going to go and do it’ and the agents like ‘Wait, wait, wait a second! What script? What is this? Who is making this?’ Because you have to convince the agent to do something for no money.  You’re also not going to want to give up a week or two of your life not seeing your kids, or not being at home and going off to whatever wild and windy location they want you to go off to – unless the script is great.

Young filmmakers have to remember – its not just if the script is better than the student next to you, or if its the best script of the year – if you want good actors you’re competing on a really high level, because good actors read good scripts all the time.  So if you want to get good actors first of all the script needs to be good, the story needs to be good it needs to be a good character but also that actor is going to want be able to say ‘I’m proud of this work I’ve done’ and not just that the director make something really ‘arty’.

Here’s the thing, I learned – when I went to Hollywood, working on a TV series, the first few months I was there, I got this idea for an episode.  I just thought it was the best idea ever and I called the producer and show runner, Sean Cassidy, and said ‘I’ve got this  great idea for an episode’ and he said ‘Have you written a script?’ and I said ‘No it’s an idea, I haven’t written it yet!’ and he goes ‘Well call me when you’ve written the script. Ideas are two a penny in Hollywood. Come to me with a script and if you work through it more than our professional writing team, and have crafted the story and everything works, and you have A B C D stories, and they all intersect, and it delivers with a punch at the end, and involves every character that we have on set here that’s available – then I will consider it!’ Suddenly that was a very different proposition.

Ideas are two a penny, that’s the first rule and the second rule is – scripts aren’t worth anything unless they have been honed, crafted and re-worked. Anyone can sit and write a script in a day, two days.

I know because I have written a lot of crap scripts. Really crap. That’s the other thing …students (and I say this because I was a student once, a long time ago). Students can be so critical of Hollywood and studios, and while it should be criticised (and who better to do it than the next generation) there is a lot to be said for it. I’ve come to a new appreciation for it, a lot of work goes into it, and nobody, not even Hollywood writers or directors want to make a bad film, nobody ever wants to make a bad film.

Excerpt from The Casting Handbook: For Film and Theatre Makers by Suzy Catliff and Jennifer Granville © 2013 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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MasteringFilm, powered by bestselling Routledge authors and industry experts, features tips, advice, articles, video tutorials, interviews, and other resources for aspiring and current filmmakers. No matter what your filmmaking interest is, including directing, screenwriting, postproduction, cinematography, producing, or the film business, MasteringFilm has you covered. You’ll learn from professionals at the forefront of filmmaking, allowing you to take your skills to the next level.