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How To Get A Star Interested In Your Screenplay
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You've written a script for a low-budget film and maybe you want to make it yourself or at least generate some interest in the script. Wouldn't it be great if you could get a "name" actor--even a big star--to be willing to be in it?
Most aspiring writers, directors, and producers think there's no chance. But some go for it, and with great results.
Example: Director Aaron Schneider hoped to get Bill Murray to be in his film, "Get Low," written by Chuck Provenza, which is based on the true story of a hermit back in the 1930s who staged his own funeral in order to find out what people would say about him.
It's not the most obviously commercial concept, and Schneider has said that raising the money to make it was an uphill battle. However, he ended up with a great cast: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray.
When he and producer Dean Zanuck approached Murray's representative they were told to forget it. But Schneider decided to take a more personal route. He took three days to compose a letter and emphasized how much he admired Murray and why he wanted him in his film. He got the letter to Murray, who agreed to be in the movie.
It's easy to assume that a star wouldn't possibly be interested in being in a low-budget film, but remember that even stars are not busy all the time. If the project is interesting enough they'd rather do it, even for a low salary, rather than sitting around doing nothing.
Of course this tends to work best with actors who are not currently making $20 million a picture. It typically also works better with older actors who may be rich enough to choose roles based on how challenging they would be or how enjoyable to play. Also, the big studio offers are less common for actors once they're no longer in the first bloom of youth, so these actors have more time on their hands.
If you want to approach a well-known actor regarding reading your script or appearing in your film, here are some guidelines:
* You can go through their agent or manager first, but don't be surprised if they turn it down without even showing it to their client. These people get 15% to 25% of what their clients make, so it's not in their interest to have their clients work for a small amount.
* Try to find a personal "in" to the actor. Sometimes you can find their email addresses or their office addresses if they maintain a production company. For mail, try writing "Personal" on the envelope.
* Best of all is speaking to them in person. If they're appearing at a film festival or other public event, approach them respectfully, have a 30-second speech ready, and just ask whether you can leave a script for them at their hotel or even give it to them then and there. Some of them will say no, you have to have an agent send the script. However, then you can contact an agent and say that you met the star who asked to see your script via an agent. Most agents will agree to handle the script on that basis--even if only for that one transaction. Alternately, the star may say you need to sign a release. Again, if you then contact his or her office, you can say you're doing so at the star's request and go ahead and sign the release.
* In any contact with the star, be sincere. Flattery is fine, but don't come across like a stalker. You're hoping they will enter a professional agreement with them, so keep your fandom under control. (However, it's hard to over-flatter an actor).
* If you've tried everything with your first choice of star and it doesn't work out, go on to your second choice--but of course tell them they're your first choice!
The fact is that actors are just people and most of them love to take on a challenging role. If you catch them at the right time, they can be won over and add star power to your low-budget project.
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