It’s hard to argue against the fact that the process of making a worthwhile interdependent art film begins in the audition.  When it comes to the actors that will ultimately play the part for a film by Sabi – we hope that not a moment is wasted for either the filmmaker or the cast, and we hope that the casting process is creative and insightful, and useful to all parties involved.  

posted by Christopher Sowers (“Moments”, a film by Sabi) in the Sabi Forum:

Christopher: “I found the audition process at Sabi very intriguing. Auditions can be very uncomfortable experiences but that wasn’t the case here. It was a very warm and welcoming environment. There was no vicious casting assistant staring at me with daggers and I got the sense that I was more than valid as a human being. Ahhhhh…. back to the real world.”

Chris, thanks for posting. It’s nice hearing about what an actor feels and thinks during our auditions at sabi.  We try to keep them warm and inviting (and creative) as often as possible – and also we try to keep them useful to both the filmmakers as well as the actors that graciously share their time with us.  There are times that this process doesn’t go as planned, and there have been people we have collaborated with that initially didn’t fully understand why auditions at sabi pictures are handled so delicately and carefully. 

THE ACTOR:

Often it is our duty to inform them immediately, that quite simply, the Actor is to be regarded as the star from the moment they walk through the door and should be treated with kindness.  We let them know that the actor that is ultimately cast — is the guide that holds the key to unlocking the deeper, inner workings of the character.

When Sabi sets out to make a film (and begins the casting process) we’re ultimately not looking for a pre-conceived notion of the character that already resides in our head (if we were satisfied with the depiction in our head, why make a movie?) Rather, I believe at this stage, sabi’s casting process tries to find the actor that can teach us more about the character we’re creating… real, human details and insights into fears, emotions, and hidden qualities that we couldn’t have otherwise known. 

These details, and what happens in the casting process (which is really the first rehearsal) often find their way into the film – and every moment during auditions and rehearsals help develop the chemistry of emotions that we will circle around for the duration of production. Most importantly, the audition begins the actor-director relationship. 

EXAMPLES:

It was amazing watching how Zak integrated things he saw, tried and learned from the audition process of “Heart of Now” right into the production phase of the film.  I too changed scenes to better fit who Julie and William were becoming when I had finally found Martie Ashworth and Larry Strauss for “White Knuckles”.  The insights that Kelly and Marion brought to Zak and vice versa during the auditions created a bridge.   And to see J. Erik Reese and gang do it once again in Moments with you, Aqua, Mark and Malcolm, was once more – a truly remarkable process to watch*. 

All three films were ultimately enhanced because of this attention to an otherwise mundane, and often cold, calculating experience (as you described).  

We learned a great deal from the process of a film called “Blue in Green”, which was a feature that Zak and I produced along with 5 others in a collaborative called Unica, and under the auspices of producer Ron Austin and Poet/Journalist Gabriel Meyer.   In “Blue in Green”, we didn’t even have auditions – we just staged group meetings where everyone discussed issues personal, social and spiritual – and then six weeks of rehearsals.  Both the group sessions and the rehearsals were critical to the telling of the deeply improvised film.

In the cast of “Blue in Green”, Unica had found the story of the film with the actors that stayed – and Unica developed these unique characters in complete collaboration with the actors that would play them.   In my opinion, it was a completely successful experiment.

*I want to reiterate that the processes described above may be unique, but are by no means new or original or exclusive to Sabi Pictures or Unica or otherwise. 

EXPLORATION:

Really, whenever a filmmaker casts for a project they are deeply passionate about, they intuitively settle on the final actors for the same reasons, using the same techniques involuntarily. 

The real fundamental difference lies in the amount of exploration that happens after the casting decisions are made.   And the extent to which Sabi intends to explore in our films sets us apart (in my humble opinion) from most projects that are made more ‘conventionally’. 

The exploration – going deeper – is something that we try to do from the very beginning.  The peeling away at the character, at their emotions, at their deepest source of suffering – is pretty much continuous (and necessary to the success of the experiment) from initial casting to the final edit. 

 When casting for our films, Sabi filmmakers are often looking for an actor that brings to life the heart and soul of the character by giving us insight (or creating the right questions) which we then filter and translate into the story/characters/dialogue.  It’s an organic (or ‘natural’) process in our estimation – and there is never a script that doesn’t change because of auditions and rehearsals.  Simply put, it’s about respect. 

Respect for one’s fellow artist.  Respect for what the actor brings to an art film, and lastly, respect for a process that seeks to uncover fundamental and transcendent truths about the character through a collaboration between the director, all of the rest of the crew, and most importantly – the heart, soul and mind of the artist/actor.

Of course, we sincerely hope that you (the actor/artist) can let us know what we can do better, as all of the above is a constantly evolving, refining process.

And we’re always learning…