One great way to elevate the status of your web series is to cast a known actor who has been off the radar. In film, Quentin Tarantino is the master of this. With our modest web series production budgets, we can scale this practice down. For example, if your web series is sci-fi you would try and cast a memorable day player who was in several episodes of the TV series Star Trek: Enterprise (2001–2005). If you are making a comedy perhaps you look for a lead actor from an 80’s TV show that you’ve not seen show up in anything in a while. Making a Thriller? Find that actor from that memorable X-Files episode, you get the idea. My colleagues and I are always trying to think of actors for our projects that people know, but don’t know they know, until you remind them. If your script and concept are solid and you are organized and persistent, you can land one of these actors for your show.
Some examples of would be Beverly Owen (later re-placed by Pat Priest) as the teenage niece on, “The Munsters”. Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts who both replaced the Kate Jackson character in the original, “Charlie’s Angeles”. Jenilee Harrison and Priscilla Barnes who both replaced Suzanne Somers character in the 70’s & early 80’s TV Show,” Three’s Company”.
Some people may be skeptical but when you have invested all of your time and energy into a project you want to make sure you’ve done everything to ensure the success of your show. Securing an actor that resonates in the pop culture zeitgeist can go a long way in stimulating interest in your project. Consider casting a recognizable actor in a minor role as the Mom or Dad, the Boss, the Quirky Neighbor, the Spaceship Captain… I could go on.
Here is the Hack. Consider this type of an actor for a supporting role in which you can shoot their appearances across your entire season in one day. Once you have an actor in mind you need to consult IMDB Pro to learn who represents them. If they list an agent and manager the manager is preferable as they tend to have a more personal relationship with their clients. If it’s just an agent then use the agent.
For the record, the procedure I am about to share with you was recommended to me by an A-List talent manager, it is not something I developed myself. You need to decide how much its worth to you to have this actor. I aim for something in between the regular SAG day rate and the Ultra Low Budget day rate. When contacting the actors representative and making your brief pitch you say, I would like to offer Actor Name X amount plus 20% for management fees. Basically what you are saying is if you are Offering the actor $500 on top of that you are offering the manager $100. The reason is this, they are the gatekeeper. Even if the actor, in theory, would be thrilled to be a part of your show and just flattered you thought of them, most likely they will never even know because it simply was not worth the managers time to pass the information on. In the big scheme of things, the $50 they would make is just not worth their time. When you offer the “plus 20%” they would make $150 which is still not much but what is important is that you are sending a message. The message is you are a professional making a serious inquiry and that you value their time. The following is an example of an intro email.
My name is ___________, I am the creator of a web series titled “__________”, and I would love to offer your client Actor Name a featured role in this project. I became aware of Actor Name from Their work on “XYZ” and was very impressed by “XYZ.”
My project, “_________” is unique in that … (Here I would talk about what the goal is for the series, i.e. You are already accepted into certain online platforms, festivals and whatever else you plan to submit to) We just finished the (amount of scripts?) for season 1. (Something of note about the creative team). The role we have in mind for Actor Name is XYZ and we really think they would be outstanding (and hilarious/powerful?) in the role.
The episodes are roughly Xmins each in length and their role is in (every?) episode (or name how many). It is possible to shoot all of their scenes in one day. We can offer $____ for the day “plus 20% for agent/management fees” (Here is where you say your total budget is X for the entire series, and that it will be under a SAG new media contract whichever one you choose. This is also a place to be personable and add that Actor name will be fed well, and get first class treatment etc., this is a personal moment do your best).
I would be happy to send scripts and links to proof of concept materials.
Thank you in advance for your consideration,
Certainly, you will pay more then you can afford and you will jump through a few hoops and be turned down by many of your choices but it is worth it if you succeed. It is one of those unexplainable things, audiences and the media love it when these types of actors appear in your show. In the end, you will be glad you made the effort.
I hope you found this simple hack useful. For more tips and shared experience visit my youtube channel Create Sci-Fi1 with plenty of informative videos on creating content.