Adonis Casting Made Directing Easy
After Jimmy the dog was cast as Adonis, the next most important move was to fill Adonis with actors. Even though the short film is set in a cartoon world with a very stylized plot, the characters had to be believable in order to pull that off and casting the actors was the key.
Casting the Lead Actors For Adonis
The role of Kip, the lead character, figured to be the toughest for casting. The script says “You can tell Kip is a good guy.” The fact that he hires a dating service and needs help finding a girl makes most people believe he is a dork or a geek. Several people who read Adonis automatically assumed he was some kind of doofus. But that is the exact opposite of what I wanted to portray. He is in fact a great catch if only the girls would look past their shallow perceptions. I wanted him to be good looking, smart, fun and extremely likable, traits that would immediately let the audience know that it is the girls that are making the wrong decision. He also had to be the main element that brings realism to the story. While Adonis is sometimes over-the-top, the visuals are completely a fantasy land, and the other characters are often extreme, Kip needed to be the person that the audience related to. I figured the casting search might be tough.
The difficult task of casting Kip proved to be remarkably easy: I asked some actor friends for suggestions. Leigh Goodoff, who I marched with in the USC Band, suggested James Snyder. I researched him online and quickly found a lot of material because he had impressive credits. He starred as “Crybaby” Walker in John Water’s Broadway version of Cry Baby. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSwEx62YVUg&list=UUH21qpA9Bff0k5IeWKTrNUA&index=4[/youtube]
He also played Luke Skywalker in the hit play The Star Wars Trilogy in Thirty Minutes. How awesome is that? Just watching samples of him singing blew me away: the guy can sing! He was also known for his role as Malcolm in She’s the Man and had numerous appearances on television. But what impressed me the most was a behind-the-scenes interview from Cry Baby that I found on YouTube. Snyder as himself was the Kip I was looking for. When I met with him in person I knew he was perfect and I was thrilled that he wanted to be part of Adonis.
Looking back, I can’t imagine anyone else playing the lead role. He added so much to the character with very subtle actions. Most of the time he probably felt like a prop as we had him walk on treadmills, then smile here, glance there, then return to the green room for hours while the crew set up the next treadmill shot. It was probably rough especially considering that Jimmy the dog got standing ovations just for being cute. But James was fantastic to work with as he sang, told jokes and helped keep the atmosphere on the set fun. Going through the footage brought many surprises as his subtle expression told volumes. It was tough choosing which takes to use because he was so awesome in every one. He made my job too easy as it never seemed like I was “directing.” [vimeo]https://vimeo.com/62639822[/vimeo]
The role of Jenni was also an important casting choice. My goal was that every person in Adonis had to be beautiful. But Jenni had to stand out above the rest. That meant she had to be realistic and charming. While at the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival, I saw a short film called Grande Drip, a charming love story. I was immediately enchanted by the cute girl in the film, Velinda Godfrey. I saw the short film again at the 540 Film Festival in Fayetteville, Arkansas and again was drawn to that cute girl and started to think how perfect she would be in Adonis. The film was screened again at the Lake Arrowhead Film Festival and I got a chance to talk with the filmmakers. They immediately put me in touch with Velinda and everything fell into place. Before even meeting her in person, she talked about loving the script and how it reminded her of Tim Burton and Pushing Daisies…two of my favorite things! And after meeting with her, I knew that Velinda Godfrey was Jenni.
Good Casting Makes Directing Easy
One afternoon, I got the two actors together along with our Assistant Director, Robert Pimentel. After lunch at Barney’s Beanery in Santa Monica, we went to the park and went over their scene. James and Velinda’s scene is the first time in the movie where there is a real connection between characters in the movie and I thought it should have some preparation. This only took a few minutes since both actors already understood their characters and the story. Perhaps we didn’t need the rehearsal but I thought it was great for the two actors to meet and interact.
The scene was set for the last day of shooting. When that moment finally came, we did a run through. I should have rolled the camera because James and Velinda were perfect. I suddenly felt stupid as a director because I really didn’t have anything significant for them to change or add. Jimmy the dog could have directed the scene. The actors brought the scene to life far better than I had imagined.
Having such great actors in James Snyder and Velinda Godfrey, I felt almost useless as a director. Their performances made me look good without me even trying but I had already made the most important decision a director can make: casting.