The Weirdness of Casting Your Friends

In one of the first blog posts I did here, when I was going through all of the elements of making a no-budget web series or short and listing the tips I’ve picked up after doing it myself for so many years, I talked about casting your friends. I still stand by that. (The part about making friends with good-looking people because they look better on camera still stands too.) When nobody is getting paid, your friends are still apt to stay with a production longer than actors you cast off the gigs section of Craigslist. Even if they become disenamored with the project itself, they’ll still be tethered by that sense of loyalty built on your friendship. This may sound mercenary, but presumably they signed up because it sounded like fun. As long as the project stays either fun or worthwhile despite becoming large and difficult to produce, you shouldn’t have a problem with people jumping ship.

Elaborating on my thoughts from the video update I wanted to talk about the weirdness that is bringing real people into fictional lives. The main cast were friends before the show. So now let’s talk about the beginning of episode 4. In regular life, my wife and I would never have cause to flat-out make out in front of my dad. Not only is it socially inappropriate, it would just be weird. However, if my dad is operating a forklift that we’re using for a makeshift crane shot, somehow it suddenly becomes justifiable.

Let’s take my friends Craig and Carlyn. In regular life, if I invited them over to my house and said, “Okay, guys. Why don’t you two climb into our tub and make out like the dickens intermittently for about a half hour while I watch and offer instruction?” They’re probably not going to stay for pizza. I’d also probably drop to the top of their call screening list. However, if I add, “No, it’s cool. Our friend Ryan will video tape it.” Still not great. A little weirder. But if I add, “No, it’s totally fine. You guys aren’t you. You guys be characters in a pretend story I’m making up for fun and we’ll put it on the internet for people to watch.” Somehow that actually does change everything. All of a sudden, it’s acceptable. Carlyn even had a boyfriend at that point. Can you imagine that conversation?

INT. CARLYN’S GOTHIC CASTLE ON CHICAGO’S NORTH SIDE — NIGHT

Carlyn drifts into the room, petting a cat. Her boyfriend sits at the long, hand hewn, oak dinner table in an ornately carved wooden throne. He casually presides over a homemade DJ station, two turntables, blasting Swedish 80s synth pop. As Carlyn sets the cat on the table, he turns down the phat beats, disentangles a pair of gigantic, 80s, hipster glasses from his long beard, and puts them on.

CARLYN’S BOYFRIEND: What should we do tonight? Movie? Leftovers? Blood sacrifice?

CARLYN: Can’t. I’m going over to Jake and Eliza’s to make out with my friend Craig at Jake’s insistence.

CARLYN’S BOYFRIEND: Whoa. That sounds pretty much like you’re going to be cheating on me a little bit.

CARLYN: Babe…babe… It’s a web series.

CARLYN’S BOYFRIEND: Oh! Acting! Solid.

The two high five.

FADE OUT.

At least I’m pretty sure that’s how it went. And the way web series interact with real life was the only weird thing about that night.

Thanks for reading, guys.

–Jake

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