Filmmaker J. Rick Castañeda creates worlds on screen that accurately represent historically underrepresented people, while still keeping features to a finite budget. One big piece of that puzzle for him? Casting, casting, casting!
This USC Annenberg study points out that out of 900 popular films in 2016, just 3.1% of characters with lines were Hispanic. Ouch! Castañeda decided that on his second feature film, a surreal office workplace born out of his experience temping in Hollywood, he would continue a few tricks he learned on his first feature and would represent more people from more places (and more countries). On some sets, getting out of your comfort zone to create diversity can be a challenge. But other times, it's as easy as keeping the camera populated by actual members of your community.
Castañeda offered a few tips on how he works for more accurate representation on screen, sometimes saving money in the process! Check out the video below that Castañeda and his production company Pyschic Bunny created about the diversified cast and crew, and what it means to them to be working on this latest film, All Sorts, together.
When it comes to casting, here is the approach that Rick takes to not only encourage better representation on film, but as a way to also save money.
1.Cast from diverse areas
“This helps especially with background actors. Invite the local community to be a part of the film, and your film will reflect the community,” said Castaneda, continuing “It saves on housing and travel, and on a no-budget film, locals will be less concerned with paychecks and more concerned with seeing movie magic firsthand. With my first film, I was often praised for having diversity in my winery scenes, when that wasn’t something I set out to do at all. It just happened to be who showed up.”
2. Write it into the script
“If you really want diversity in your lead characters,” explained Castaneda, "write it into the script. I’ve found that if you don’t, then 80% of the actors who show up to audition will be white. We often had trouble finding actresses to audition for our lead Asian-American role, whereas our Caucasian supporting roles were busting with applications. The script is always the cheapest place to make casting decisions.”
"I’m always worried about saying the wrong thing and offending somebody. But I’m starting to grow out of that, thankfully. I’d rather just cast who I want to cast.”
3. Know that it’s hard to talk about race and ethnicity
“I used to think it was much easier to cast all white people than it was to deal with any racial themes that come up if you have a diverse cast,” said Castaneda. “It took me a long time to get out of that mindset. I’m always worried about saying the wrong thing and offending somebody. But I’m starting to grow out of that, thankfully. I’d rather just cast who I want to cast.”
Featured header image of cast in Rick Castaneda's new film, courtesy the 'All Sorts' Kickstarter Campaign page.