Monday, October 29, 2012

Casting an Indie Film: Our Journey Casting Trevor Morgan, Rumer Willis and Robert Loggia in The Diary of Preston Plummer

My recent film The Diary of Preston Plummer stars Trevor Morgan, Rumer Willis and Robert Loggia. Director Sean Ackerman and I pinch ourselves to this day that these incredible actors were willing to star in our little film. We will be forever grateful. So I wanted to take some time here and talk about our experience casting them.

Trevor Morgan as Preston Plummer

Rumer Willis as Kate

Robert Loggia as John
First, I think independent films have a very different atmosphere than studio films. Independent films really are an all-hands-on-deck scenario. And actors who sign on to an independent film typically know the resources are going to be limited. And they're walking into an unknown situation. At least with a studio film, they have the comfort of knowing the crew is experienced and they will likely have a decent pay day. Not so much on indie films. Anything can happen on an indie film.

As an independent filmmaker, I need to create a comfortable work environment for everyone, both physically and mentally. That's not always easy when you can't throw money around. But what makes my job easier is a cast and crew that understands the kind of project they have signed up for and really come together as a team and by the end become a family. Indie films have a sort of camp quality to them. And when camp is well organized and fun, then a good time is typically had by all.

My job is to help convince managers and agents that I have a quality project that they will feel comfortable presenting to their clients. Agents and managers tend to have a love/hate relationship with indie films. They love them for their meaty roles and hate them for their low pay. So the best thing I can do is come to them with a great script and great roles that they want to help cast with their clients.

The Diary of Preston Plummer was the first script I ever signed on to produce. This was over a decade ago. I was working as an assistant coordinator in NYC on feature films and the writer/director was a PA. He and I would drive an hour to and from work (Brooklyn to Yonkers) each day as we worked on a new Todd Solondz movie. By the end, we were like brother and sister and still are to this day. Nothing like road trips every day to create a bond - ha!

Cut to a decade later and many ups and downs on the project and a new resolve and a little cash to finally make this movie.

Sean and I began casting The Diary of Preston Plummer by researching every young actor in their early 20s. There are a ton of them! So we had our work cut out for us. We decided to have a casting call as well. Casting calls are amazing for being introduced to up-and-coming actors whom you may not have thought of or known about. And that's when we met Trevor Morgan for the first time.

I had known of Trevor's work and honestly wasn't sure if he would be interested in our tiny movie. He has been acting since he was a kid (remember the kid in Jurassic Park III? Yep that's Trevor. He even had a role in The Sixth Sense and The Patriot). He laughs knowing most people remember him from Jurassic Park III, when he has gone on to make such great indie films like Mean Creek and Off the Black.

When Sean and I first met Trevor Morgan, we thought wow, this guy is such an amazing actor. Sean and I knew Trevor would bring such a gravitas to the role of Preston Plummer - a very internal character. We knew we wanted him as our lead immediately, but would he want us?

I called Trevor's agent and asked if Trevor would meet with us one more time - at a bar this time. We sat down with Trevor and over a few beers, we poured out our vision for the film and by the end, Trevor was committed. We hugged and heaved a sigh of relief that our decade-long search for our Preston Plummer had finally come to an end. Trevor was perfect. He has both a sensitive and yet earthy way about him. The exact attributes needed for Preston.

Next up, casting Kate... The character of Kate is an enigma. She's beautiful and ethereal, yet has a deeply damaged soul. We knew the actor playing Kate would need to be able to portray someone with a lot of layers to their personality. I spoke to a few managers to get an idea of an actor who may be right and Rumer Willis came to the forefront.

Neither Sean nor I were all that familiar with Rumer's work. But what we did know seemed to mesh with our vision of Kate. So Sean had a skype session with Rumer and they hit it off. Rumer definitely "got" Kate and we jumped at the chance to work with her.

The great thing about Rumer is that she's so open for new adventures. And she's incredibly smart and supportive - a real team player. She gives of herself immensely both on and off screen. Often, she and Trevor were the glue that held everyone together. They helped make my job easier. I love them both dearly for that. Neither complained about the sacrifices we all made to get this film in the can. Trevor worked as a grip, even on his days off. Rumer and Trevor both cooked for the entire cast and crew. By the end, we were more than just a team. We were definitely family.

And the patriarch of it all? The one and only, the master Robert Loggia. Oh my God, I love Bob and his wife Audrey! These are two of the most generous, loving and kind people. I cannot say enough wonderful things about them. When we submitted the script for Robert's consideration (which was Trevor's idea by the way - thank you Trevor), we didn't think we had a snowball's chance in hell of getting him for this film. We were the tiniest film with no money. Who did we think we were asking an Oscar-nominated actor to play a part in this movie?

Well, according to Audrey, they both read the script and Bob said, I have to do it. The character of John is very rich. And it appealed to Robert's soul as an actor. He wanted to take on this part. Not for a payday but for the opportunity to be John.

And honestly, I think that's how The Diary of Preston Plummer was for all of us. It's this little story, set on this beautiful, enigmatic island, with a group of characters we want to know more about. Writer/director Sean Ackerman wrote this script from his heart. You can tell. We all could tell and who doesn't want to be part of a story created from such heartfelt passion? And to top it off, the script was great. It was truly Sean's writing and vision that got us this cast.

Rumer was asked why she took on the part of Kate and her response: Sean's passion. She could see how much this story meant to Sean and she wanted to help make his passion come alive. We all did. Thanks Trevor, Rumer and Robert! You made The Diary of Preston Plummer truly come alive!

Our take away: Passion, hard work and the neverending commitment to quality goes a long way to realizing dreams.

If you want to see The Diary of Preston Plummer, you can watch it on iTunes here or Amazon here. It's also available on most other digital download sites and Video-on-Demand. Just check your local On Demand listings.

Here's the trailer:

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