Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer

Cinematic Excellence at 24 Frames a Second

Three Places To Find Actors For Your Stock Footage Shoot

Last week, after I posted the Three Principles to Successful Stock Footage Content, Brynn Sankey sent me a tweet asking if I had any tips on how to find and pay actors for stock footage shoots. And since I do not directly address it in the Zacuto articles, I thought I'd share with you the three places you can find actors for your stock shoots, regardless of the size of your budget.

1. Beg, Borrow, & Trade
As you are starting your stock footage career, the first place you should look to find actors is with your friends and family members. This includes anyone you can beg, borrow, or trade services for to be in your shoots. Chances are that you already know several people who want to be actors, or are at least willing to give it a try. The reason I suggest that you start here is twofold. First, it will not cost you anything- they will be free. And since you probably do not have any income to pay for their time, free is the right price, at least for now...

The second reason why this is a great starting place is because this will give you the practice you need to work with others. Directing is not an easy job- especially if you are shooting and lighting too. (Personally, I prefer not to direct, but stock footage is the one place where I have to step up and do it). So, if you can practice on your friends and family first, it will give you the confidence and experience you need before you work your way up the ladder.


2. Moving Up To The Semi-Pro's
While free may be a great price, as with all things in life, you get what you pay for. So the next step up from working with your friends and family is to branch out to the semi-pro's. The semi-pro actors are anyone who is honestly pursuing acting as a career (not just a passing hobby), but they haven't yet made the jump to it as a full time career.

Often times these actors will have other part-time or full-time jobs that you might have to work around. But because they, like you at this point, are just getting into it, they will most likely be very affordable to work with. What you pay at this level is all over the map- you can offer an hourly rate, or a day rate. And if someone is looking to expand their portfolio, you can even do a TFP shoot, or Trade For Prints. In this digital era, that means providing them with digital stills and video that they can use in their reels. TFP shoots can be a great way to move up from working with your family to working with someone who has more experience without any additional cost. However, if you are doing a TFP shoot, everyone should be very clear about what they are getting out of it, and it should benefit everyone involved.

(You might also like: How To Determine Your Day Rate)

So where do you find these people? A great place to find people at this level is on Craigs List, Model Mayhem, or even by connecting with your local performance arts theater. Once you start to connect with actors at this level, they will have friends, or know others who are looking for work, and you can build your list of contacts from there (you can also use FaceBook and Twitter to send out casting calls to connect with people in your area).

3. Working With The Pro's
So now that you are starting to make some money off of your stock footage, it is time to move on up and start to pay your actors. But before jumping ship completely from the semi-pro's, I highly recommend starting your paid shoots with the people who you have done TFP work with in the past. Anyone who you have had a good experience with in the past should, I believe, benefit from your success too. They helped you out, and now you can help them out too (it's about a value called loyalty- which is sadly rare in the film industry these days).

By this time, you should have enough experience working with actors that you can jump into working with the pro's- or the people who make their living from acting. Finding this level of actor should not be too difficult. If you've been working with multiple actors on the semi-pro level, you probably already have a good network to pull from. But, if you don't, all you have to do is to contact the local casting agency. The rates you pay at this level will depend on where you are and the type of shoot you are doing. As with all things artistic, many times the rates can be negotiated.

This is actually the golden rule of life: treat others how you want to be treated. How does this apply to working with actors in your stock footage shoot? In addition to being pleasant to work with during the shoot, it means providing your actors with stills and video from the actual shoot. No matter what level you are working at, we are all trying to further our careers and we do that by showing examples of our work.

This is just as crucial for the actor as it is for you. It has surprised me how many times I have heard actors say how difficult it has been to get footage for their reels. So, do what you can to get your footage and stills to them. Not only is it the right thing to do, but you'll also set yourself apart with the actors you work with, and they will be more willing to work with you in the future. This is true even if you are paying them.

Where do you source your actors from for your stock footage? What has been your most successful way of finding actors you can work with?

Until Next Time - Get Out There And Shoot!
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