We already thought it was pretty cool to be quoted in an article this month for Wired magazine on using MySpace as a casting tool:
He’s worked with Matt Damon, Sean Penn, Nicole Kidman and Keanu Reeves, but director Gus Van Sant had no interest in casting movie stars for his skateboard drama Paranoid Park. He wanted real kids. So in July 2006, Van Sant created a MySpace page for Paranoid Park and posted a casting call for “skaters, honor roll [students], cheerleaders, punks, drama kids, musicians, artists, student council [members], athletes, award winners, class skippers, photographers, band members, leaders, followers, shy kids, class clowns.”
“We were just trying to figure out the best way to get the word out to nonprofessional people to cast in the film,” Van Sant says. “Now that MySpace is so prevalent, I think this is how all casting agencies should go about casting high schoolers.”
Most of the actors in Paranoid Park are real-life skaters with no previous acting experience.
It worked. A whopping 2,971 Portland-area teenagers turned up for cattle-call auditions. Among them: the film’s star, Gabe Nevins.
Van Sant is one of an increasing number of movie makers to use the internet as a casting tool. Fans of tweener diva Miley Cyrus can find out how to try out for her new movie on the Hannah Montana casting information blog. About 2,000 Real World fans submitted clips to MTV’s online casting site to try out for the 20th season of the reality-based soap opera. Fox Searchlight looked through online audition videos before selecting Bronx rapper Jamal Woolard to star in its Notorious B.I.G biopic. And British filmmaker Vito Rocco recruited several actors for his feature adventure Faintheart based on audition tapes submitted to the movie’s website.
“I actually never thought about being an actor, but just thought it would be fun to go mess around downtown,” says Nevins, now 16. “I was an average skateboarding teen before the movie and very innocent about the film industry, let alone acting. This made me relate to my character a lot because my character was an average skater like myself.”
Has the movie influenced his ideas about a future career? “I don’t have an agent yet but don’t know if I want one,” Nevins says. “I’m still an average kid in high school.”
Net-casting fresh faces for Paranoid Park made sense because Van Sant, Oscar-nominated for Good Will Hunting puts a premium on authenticity. The film’s casting director Lana Veenker explains, “Gus wanted to find a real skateboarder who hadn’t been ‘spoiled,’ because a lot of times the only thing kids learn in high school or junior high drama departments is how to mug and it looks fake.”
Trained actors with agents and head shots remain the rule rather than the exception in Hollywood, but when it comes to finding quirky unknowns, Casting Society of America board member Laura Adler says internet searches are fast becoming a go-to tool among her colleagues. She cites Christopher Mintz-Plasse, for example, who landed the role of “McLovin” in Superbad after casting agents spotted his clips on YouTube. “It’s a great tool for finding new faces,” she says. “Casting people use MySpace or FaceBook or Craigslist when they’re looking for an unknown young talent who’s odd or unique. You run the risk of getting bombarded by tons of people who aren’t right for the role but we get that anyway, on a daily basis.”
Among the projects offering to sift deluded wheat from the talented chaff are Farewell Mr. President on FunnyorDie.com, which showcases user-submitted audition video clips by wannabe actresses who think they can impersonate Marilyn Monroe.
Besides the come one/come all benefits of crowdsourced cattle calls, socially networked casting agents can now mollify the sting of rejection for actors who don’t make the cut. Veenker, who just finished net-casting the new teen vampire movie Twilight on her casting agency’s MySpace page, says, “The nice thing about social networking sites is that people who auditioned check back on the MySpace page constantly for updates. When we started casting Twilight our Friends list doubled overnight. So now, we just posted a little thing: ‘Thank you all for submitting, but the roles have been cast.’ This way, at least, everyone knows ‘Well, I tried.'”
The article somehow found its way into a direct link from the IMDb homepage as well, under its Hit List.
It may be gone by the time you go to check it out, but we thought that was rad!