Our script has about twenty speaking characters, which is more than one would typically recommend for a first movie. I guess we like to live dangerously. Besides, as we saw it, we couldn’t really portray a vibrant college community without a full cast of students to inhabit it. Casting has been a huge, sometimes overwhelming task, but we’ve been extremely privileged to get such talented people on board to fill these roles.
Most of our characters started out as composites of people we knew or had met (our two main characters certainly served as loose avatars for ourselves). In each subsequent draft, we let them take on more and more life of their own until they bore little resemblance to existing people and became their own unique personalities. As we allowed this to happen, we started to open our minds to the unique interpretations that actors would bring to these characters once we brought them on board.
We took many routes to finding actors. A great Theatre professor, Rob Roznowski, pointed us to the new Micreativeconnect website, which we used to post a general casting call. We also cast three of our actors based on our previous work with them in Frank the Assassin, and a few with whom I had shared a previous theatre course. We contacted many actors based on their performances in student plays, and contacted some based on recommendations from others. After getting in touch with actors, we would typically invite them to come to Bleu Haus (our home/party den and one of the main locations in Apocalypse Theory), where we’d have a brief meeting to explain the details of our production, then have them read for a few characters. Usually in that same day, Brandon and I would talk with each other and come to a decision.
In January of 2011, we held our first cast read-through. One of our leads was unable to make it, and the other wasn’t cast yet, so Brandon had the unenviable task of reading several scenes of dialogue aloud to himself. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity for everyone to meet each other, and for us to introduce the T-Rex: a large plush dinosaur for stress-relieving, hugging purposes on set and in rehearsal.
It was here that we gave the Cast Letters to all our actors. The Cast Letters were our way of communicating necessary character information to the actors: background details, personalities, relationships with other characters (an especially key component to such a dialogue-based script), and an italicized secret at the bottom which they couldn’t share with other cast members. I imagined these would serve as a helpful tool for getting into the characters’ heads, rather than diving straight into line readings.
Rehearsals are often overlooked in film, and are sometimes seen as a luxury that first-time filmmakers can’t afford. I’m not very technically-minded, and I certainly aspire to be an actor’s director, so I saw rehearsals as an absolute necessity, and something I owed to our cast. We scheduled many of these rehearsals on weekends throughout the spring semester, and I’ve been amazed to see how quickly these actors have taken the roles, understood them, and made them their own, contributing a sense of completeness and personality that I never could have imagined from the script alone. I’ve tried my best to keep the rehearsals from becoming a matter of “no, say it this way,” and “on set, do it just like that.” I took them as an opportunity to explore the characters’ deeper natures, so when the time came for the actors to take chances with their performances on set, every take would feel true to the character.
Casting has been a difficult and time-consuming task, but it’s been beyond worth it for the results. Working directly with the actors and bringing these characters, once only a collection of written words, to life, has been one of my greatest joys in this entire process. I can’t express enough how thrilled I am to be working toward one vision with so many immensely talented people.
The cast is as follows: