At first the applications trickled in; in the afternoon I'd only received half a dozen applications, thus confirming my fears, and only one or two were good ones. Once it gets passed 17h00, presumably after people have come back from work, applications start flowing in. And this is where I realise what directors (and probably casting directors, though I doubt they'll have a personal connection to a project as a director would have) must be going through when casting a part.
You would think that knowing the 'look' you're looking for would make casting easier: it doesn't. A few times I think I've found the right actress (right look) until I open the next application and discover an actress with a totally diffeent look, but a very interesting one. Suddenly I see a different Anne, but just as interesting. And I want to stay as open as possible. I'm only too aware (and I want to be) that the film will end up as a different product than what I'm currently 'seeing'. But if I make the right choices, and work with the right people, it will end up a richer product. So the image I have of Anne is actually a reference, a starting point, to help me filter down the now increasing (!) number of applications. If I change my mind a few times throughout the process, then be it.
I have about twenty potential Anne now, purely based on the looks: interesting facial features, looking the right age. The 'interesting facial features' that I'm looking for are an unconventional beauty and expressive eyes.
To filter down to a more manageable number, I start using arbitrary, and let's face it, unfair criteria: a presence on Spotlight (only one didn't have a Spotlight page), applications submitted by agents (I only want to work with people who show an interest in the subject matter of the film - besides I'm not paying so don't see the point in dealing with agents). I start looking at their location but quickly abandon the idea: they're practically all from London, so there's no escaping travel expenses... At last I look at their cover letters. It's difficult to say what a good cover letter is but I can safely say that if you can show genuine interest and enthusiasm in the project, you're halfway there. This is particularly true for unpaid work. I want to be sur ethat whoever I pick will deliver professional work and stick to the end, whatever happens (and anything can happen in a zero production). And if an applicant doesn't show interest then I wonder why she wants the job in the first place.
I'm down to half a dozen actresses, with totally different looks and all levels of experience. I deliberately didn't use experience as a criterium. I haven't got a lot of acting experience myself and wouldn't want this to go against me. It's all about talent, understanding of the character and good casting. So down to six and I'd like to take it down to one, straight away. This is where Spotlight comes as a very useful tool. I check out their photogallery and showreel (if they've got one). For a more detailed comparison. But even this doesn't help narrowing my shortlist down. It looks like there's no escaping an audition session; and of course, deep down, I know it's the wisest thing to do. With actors, it's more than often What You See Is Not What You Get (including myself). So I will have to audition this Saturday and rehearse same day (if I'm lucky enough) or sometime next week before shooting on the weekend (!)