While casting the male lead for ARTEMIS ETERNAL, we went from hundreds of actors to fifty to thirty to twelve to six to two to one in the matter of five days. Geoffrey Owens, who I have been working with for three years now, is the casting director for the film. From making a list of qualities we were looking for to deciding on callbacks, Geoffrey and I were on the same page agreeing on every point during the casting process. For this and other reasons our method proved to be rare experience.

On the final night of auditions we read a handful of terrific guys. Actor Todd Soley was the last to leave and as we talked in the lobby and I scheduled a 1:1 with him for the following day, he told me how much he was enjoying our approach to casting and that he had noticed that all of the guys reading during final callbacks were noticeably different. Although I was fairly certain I was going to cast Todd, I wanted to have meetings with the final two guys we had chosen. Mostly because this project is a long haul and I knew it would require a certain type of person to perform both inside and outside of the role. We were seeking the total package and were lucky to find it in a couple of actors, but most ideally in Todd's talent, personality and quality of professionalism that exceeds his years. I understood that he could handle the challenges of the project: This has been important because this road has turned out to be rougher than I had imagined.

My casting assistants were Dusty Finn "Sideshow Dusty" from Sideshow Collectibles, who is a fabulous coordinator and who I've always felt belongs in production, and actor-beauty Wallis Herst; a true team player who I've performed with in the past and who served as our reader. Having people who I respected with me and had worked with previously made the process fun and allowed for me to cast efficiently. Casting is crucial and we were moving at a fast pace, and yet I felt confident throughout: Much of that I attribute to having the benefit of Geoffrey's expertise. So far casting has been one of my favorite parts of the project and everyone involved was thrilled when I confirmed that I had offered the role to Todd.

There are no rules to production save the actual laws you have to abide (labor, taxes, otherwise): Really the key is to do what the story requires, and as you know by now I'm never one to abide a rule that doesn't do me any good. I decided to bypass the typical small, white-walled casting room along with the desk-and-camera setup that I have grown to loathe and instead hold casting at a theater space. ShakespeareFestival LA situated downtown was to be our set. Since SLA's theater company was in early rehearsal on a play, the space was completely struck and empty, and since it's rather large for a black box to begin with, it challenged the actors to control a large, blank space. For the male lead I was specifically looking for someone who can drive a scene and I felt that the test of controlling the space during audition would give me an additional sense of the actors' presence and authority. The challenges didn't end there, however: On first see I required all actors to prepare a dramatic monologue; just like a theater audition. This is fairly unusual for motion picture: Typically actors perform a few pages of sides and are out. I made everyone cold read on the first go as well; meaning the actors picked their sides up upon arrival and prepared in the lobby.

I didn't record any of the auditions: Something I feel is a waste of time. Furthermore, in this age of every scrap of behind-the-scenes footage being used to promote films in a roundabout way, I don't think actors should be recorded by a professional production unless they are being paid. I understand the use of screen tests on multimillion-dollar movies as a final step (they can save you time and money in the long run), and at the same time hope to be skilled and decisive enough to never require the use of one. The lack of recording challenged us to be present and really test each candidate for flexibility and other skills necessary to the role. Everyone who needed to see casting was in the room and had to pay attention, and since I purposefully chose a space I was new to, I wasn't too comfortable when I needed to keep my edge. We took notes and conferred. We made some actors wait and read twice, comparing, considering against the context present in the screenplay… . We also tested actors on dialect, various athletic moves, and conversation. I had them read opposite Geoffrey, Wallis and myself. Geoffrey had the actors do a few things that I had not seen before that proved brilliant, such as directing them stalk the full length of the stage as they read - upstage to downstage, diagonal - in order to test their physicality. We cast quickly, imaginatively and specifically, and saved days of time and money by being prepared and focused, and making strong decisions.

Todd Soley
  Since this process has been a long one and as I write this we are actually well ahead of the “casting” stop on the map and Todd has now been attached for a year (in fact he was cast before this site had launched), I’ve gotten to know him better than would be typical for most films. We’ve been through casting, training, rehearsal and fittings; we sometimes attend screenings together; he’s promoted the project at the overseas premieres for his latest film Sappho, and we are still journeying. Like the crew and the Wingmen, Todd continues to be a staunch supporter of the project. I have put him through cartwheels and stunts, rainy days on the FOX lot, jumping around like a monkey to test the full range of his wardrobe (which lead to a hilarious pants-splitting) and he shows up ready for more. It may be your point of view that actors (and all artists) are desperate and should therefore accept and be grateful for any job they are offered. I have never subscribed to that point of view and can confirm that Todd chooses to take this job, as do we all. Like the rest of us, he loves his craft and he loves this production, and shares a common view. So meet actor Todd Soley, the male lead in ARTEMIS ETERNAL, and a guy made of sturdy enough stuff to handle a role that requires stamina, endurance and a hell of a lot of grace and patience, not to mention working for a girl director who has set out on a difficult road that he’s now found himself a part of and continues to deliver every step of the way.
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