When I’m casting and crewing a movie, before I take a look at anyone’s skill level or talent, or resume, I insist they read and sign a manifesto. Only after I receive the signed manifesto will I consider working with them.
This manifesto is a brief history of who I am, what I’m about, and what it’s like to work with me. About 75-80% of people who read the manifesto are moved by it, and are more excited than ever to climb aboard. But, the others walk away offended and irate. Some have even written threatening letters to me in response to reading the manifesto.
It doesn’t matter who likes it and who doesn’t. But what matters is I’m weeding out the types of people who I don’t want to work with, and the personality traits that simply won’t get along with people on the set.
This is why I believe it’s a good idea for everyone to make a manifesto. Tell everyone from the get-go what it’s going to be like. Be honest and direct. This will promote clarity and focus and you’ll avoid all the problems later on. There will be no surprises, and everyone is on the same page.
In my case, unless it’s absolutely necessary visually to the film or character, I insist that all the actors do their own hair and make-up. It omits the need for a make-up artist, saving money, and will save hours of time each day on your shoot. I explain this in my manifesto and anyone who is incapable of doing their make-up, but agree with everything else, will sometimes write and ask if there’s someone else in the cast or crew who might help them. Those cases have happened, and I just tell the actor it’s their responsibility. If they want a friend to do it, or if they want to hire a make-up artist to come and work on them personally, that’s fine with me. I’ll even give them a credit in the movie. But they won’t be on the payroll, and they’ll likely need to feed themselves.
Let’s say you’re doing a movie like CASSEROLE CLUB where you’re going to rent a house that everyone will stay in together. You’ll want to explain that in your manifesto so that everyone knows they’re going to have to share a bathroom (or will they have a private one), or whether or not they’ll be sharing a room with someone else, etcetera. I’ve known filmmakers who fail to explain this until their actors show up on location, and each time they tell me, “I’m afraid they’ll quit if I tell them.” Which always confuses me, so I reply with, “Yes, but if they’re going to quit, do you want them to quit now when you have time to recast, or would you rather wait for them to quit when they show up at the set and you have no time to recast?”
Always be honest, and let people know what they’re getting into. If they don’t like you, and don’t like what you’re doing, that’s okay. It’s better to find out before you’ve invested any time working with them or getting to know them. There are millions of people out there who would be great on your crew or in your movie. Find them instead.
I also like to incorporate a questionnaire with my manifesto. Some of the questions are, “Would you share a room with someone” or “are you on any kind of medication which affects your ability to drive a vehicle” or “do you have any food allergies?” This will help pair people up who are okay to share rooms, and select single rooms for people who don’t want to. It also helps to know if someone has a food allergy so when you’re planning meals, you can make sure to have something for them. On that note, I think that food allergies are meant to be taken seriously, but if someone says they just don’t like to eat meat, even though they do eat it from time to time, there’s no reason to mark them down as vegetarian.
My manifesto changes for each movie, so I’m not going to post it publicly. But if you’re interested in reading it, shoot me an email and I’m happy to share it.