A question a lot of aspiring filmmakers face is whether or not to cast movie stars. Do movie stars help your film get funding? Do stars mean you’ll get a solid distribution deal? Does it mean your film will be successful? I’m here today to tell you that it’s all a myth, and it doesn’t matter a bit. Nope. Not at all.
Certain people in the Industry will tell you that it’s totally necessary to have a movie star in your movie. If it’s a distributor telling you, chances are their motivation truly stems from laziness. If there’s a star in your movie, they don’t have to work hard to sell your movie. In fact, it won’t matter what your movie is about, because they’ll just pitch it to buyers as a “so-and-so” picture.
If it’s an Industry executive looking to produce your movie, they’ll say it’s important because it looks good on their resume if they worked with “so-and-so” instead of someone they’ve never heard of. Aspiring actors will do the same. Some actors will even showcase that famous person in their reels in hopes to appear more qualified than they actually are. Tricking directors into thinking “Wow, she starred with Julia Roberts, she MUST be important.”
Truth is, it doesn’t matter whether there are stars in your film or not.
My first film PEP SQUAD has no stars in it. Yet, it was acclaimed, and then sold and released in nearly every country on Planet Earth. In fact, there was a 10-year anniversary re-release on Blu-ray in 2011.
When searching for investors on my second film, one of the actors cast was Dennis Hopper. Surprisingly, even with Dennis Hopper attached, we couldn’t find funding in order to make it. I ended up replacing him with the musician Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle), and suddenly we had funding.
My film WATCH OUT had a few people in it that were in recognizable projects (Peter Stickles from Shortbus, for example), but none of them were “stars” per se, and when that film came out, it debuted at number 27 on Amazon.com’s Top 100.
And then there’s Mink Stole, Karen Black, Pleasant Gehman and Jane Wiedlin in a women in prison movie—together! (My film STUCK!) I mean, one would think that would be an easy sell, right? Well, it didn’t sell as well as PEP SQUAD or WATCH OUT. But it was a B&W film with homage to 1950s style filmmaking, and some people didn’t get it on a commercial level.
So, you see, it doesn’t matter who’s in your movie. What matters is that your movie is well made with a captivating story and solid performers. We’ve all seen movies we love with a cast of no one we recognize.
Remember that when casting your next film. Stars don’t always bring in money. But they can sometimes cost a lot of it.