• Ben Stranahan

How to Convince Noteworthy Actors to Be in Your Independent Film

Featuring a name that people recognize can help your film become more accessible to a wider audience. Just because you're new to the business doesn’t mean you can't convince a notable performer to join your cast. That said, there are few significant factors you should be aware of if you want to land a more noteworthy actor for a particular role. There are many actors that have gone on to make quite a bit of money, so they can be more selective about the roles they want to pursue. For instance, Ethan Hawke is a big name that continues to pursue independent films purely because of his interest in the script.

Ben Stranahan is a partner producer at Tip-Top Productions, an award-winning independent house founded in 2011. TTP collaborates with established cross-company affiliations to produce high-quality projects for a variety of budget levels. Because of his expertise, we are consulting Stranahan for suggestions as to how someone just starting out can convince a big name to be in their film.

Forget Money

Stranahan starts by saying, “It’s not all about money when it comes to acquiring a first-class cast.” The most important thing is that your script has depth. “This is one of the things that’s really going to sell your film,” he explains. “Make sure you can sell your script and that you believe in your project.” The more passionate you are, the more appealing your project will sound. Independent films receive a great deal of recognition when done right, so make sure you have who you want in your film.


If you are able to show your plans for distribution, you are more likely to convince your choice of actor to get on board. Stranahan elaborated, “Try to do some pre-sale agreements with distributors so that you can secure some funding during development and pre-production, and then you’ll know that the film will be distributed by that company. Some companies opt for selling their films to foreign distributors during production and later sell domestic distribution after the film is released. This is confirmation to the actor that your film will be seen and is a real project worth investing their time in.”

Casting Director

Do not try to cast a film on your own. Stranahan explains, “Casting is something that people really need to have a good grasp on. It’s a specialty. The cast chosen might very well become famous from your film. Many actors get their start in indie films, not blockbusters.” Casting directors have also had time to form their own connections with agencies, executives, managers, and other actors. They have a knack for choosing actors that will fit the role you’re trying to fill. Casting has to be done right. This is the best way to gain access to all sorts of talent.

The Script

Aside from using a casting director and having distribution lined up, you need to have an amazing script. Make sure that your idea has been at least somewhat monetized. Will you be able to market this film? Will it be appealing to your target audience? Then, make sure that you have a solid narrative. Take all the criticism: good, bad, and neutral and then use it, or at the very least consider it. You want your film to reach a wide audience even if the plot is unusual.

Stranahan ends by saying, “If you are unable to get a big name, it’s okay. Use the casting director and begin your own talent search.” Scout out some talent on your own. There are lots of improv nights that could have unknown talent waiting to be discovered. This is actually how a lot of filmmakers find actors and how unknown actors end up becoming stars.

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