has been a long silence here on the EvenHand front, which doesn't
mean that nothing's been going on. As planned, casting has
indeed commenced. After consulting extensively with our
Casting Director, Ellen Parks, the script went out on Monday to
our two top choices for the characters of Francis and Morning.
Right off the bat, I'll tell you that I'm not going to say who
those actors are, because that just isn't done. Casting is a
very political process, and almost anything you do can wind up
getting an agent's knickers in a twist.
I'll give you an example from my own experience: when we
were casting Cherry,
we took an interest in a very talented young actress for the lead
role of Leila. Ellen contacted her agent to say we
were interested. The agent's response was "She's offer
only." "Offer only" means that you can't get
them to engage on any level in the project, from reading the
script to actually meeting with a director, until you have made a
formal binding cash offer.
While she is indisputably talented, the actress in question is
hardly a household name. Most savvy film people we knew had
never even heard of her. In our judgment, for her to be
offer only was patently ridiculous. We would never consider
hiring her without at least talking to her first -- nor would any
other director with any brains; she didn't have the résumé or the
box office to back up the lofty "offer only" status.
And on the flip side of the coin, what actress would not want to
meet with first-time directors before considering a role?
Thus began an excruciating dance with the agent. We
refused to make an offer and he refused to say if she was indeed
interested or not. Finally, we were allowed an opportunity
for Jon to meet with her in LA, but not before the agent insisted
we engage in a lengthy negotiation to draft a fully detailed deal
memo -- which would only get signed if we actually did end up
offering her the role.
So, when the negotiation was completed, Jon flew out to LA, met
with her and decided that after all that meaningless negotiating
she was in fact not appropriate for the role after all. As
if that wasn't enough, the agent then flew into a rage when we
told him we were moving on and actually threatened to black-ball
us -- essentially for making a creative choice that he didn't like.
Besides the obvious horror of having an agent at a major LA
agency threatening our careers, what made the experience so
frustrating was our inability to simply call the actress up, meet
her for a beer, and talk about the film. It's an
extraordinary thing that actors on her level can be that distanced
from the process. And it's not about them being assholes or
prima donnas, it's about a system that insulates them from any
real or meaningful contact with the creative voices in the
independent film world.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to casting EvenHand. Really!
- Joseph Pierson
WHAT'S A NUYORICAN POET?
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