Production Ottawa is now ON STAGE: Ottawa's Theatre Arts Magazine

OP-ED: Advice for Aspiring Film Makers

The following article was posted to Facebook earlier this week by local performer, Ian Quick after a recent audition. We contacted him for his permission to post it here as our first op-ed piece. While generally, we don’t need to agree with the opinions of op-ed pieces, in this case we consider this as much a cautionary tale for emerging actors as it is advice to aspiring film makers.

Furthermore, film makers are subject to two demanding obligations; money and deadlines. Generally speaking, most film makers will seek professional accounting help from a financial expert packing the latest Canadian professional tax & accounting software. With tax credits and incentives looming with each production, it is essential for an aspiring film maker to stay up-to-date, financially speaking that is.

Following the original article is an addition Ian Quick asked to have included based on responses to his initial post.

While some of you may find this funny, others may find it hurtful or just plain sad. The truth is that this is something that needs to be said. After my experience this afternoon, it needs to be said NOW!


There. I said it. I’m not trying to be mean. I’m not pointing fingers at people. Whoever was involved shall remain nameless for their own good.

Let me tell you about what happened to me. A few days ago I responded to a casting call. Actually, I had to track down the casting director since proper contact information was not forthcoming at first. Neither was any pertinent details about the project for that matter. That should have been my first clue that something was off. Alas, I didn’t give this credence. Due to scheduling conflicts, I was unavailable for the auditions. I must say that the casting director was kind enough to schedule a private audition for me at a different time. That was nice.

The audition was scheduled for [February 29th]. We were to meet at a coffee shop. At first, I thought it a strange place to hold an audition but then figured we’d either go somewhere else, or if the casting director was already familiar with some of my work, he might just want to discuss the project in depth and how I’d be involved.

Something else happened.

During an audition, aspiring film makers need to learn about dealing with potential cast members. As actors, we show up expecting the producer or casting director to take charge and interview us… not the other way around. In this case, I was simply handed a script and then nothing. I swear there was awkward silence. I read the script over and over waiting for this guy to start asking me questions or ask me to read or something. Instead, there was nothing. I wound up conducting the interview, asking all sorts of questions about the project, the production house’s credentials and experience. Actors normally have to impress the casting director. In this case, I felt like he should be trying to impress me. Unfortunately, he didn’t. His answers about what the production was, who was involved, its scope and nature, were evasive and generic making me feel like I was dealing with a bunch of guys who thought it would be fun to play with their new camera. There was no professionalism at all.

Upon my return, I got to watch a bit of material form this production already posted on YouTube. I thought I had seen some earlier, but it turns out there is another, much more professional show by the same name on YouTube. I got the two mixed up. The production I auditioned for turned out to be amateurish at best. The quality was very poor. The sound faded in and out, the camera work was unsteady and shoddy at best, and the editing did not flow smoothly. Furthermore, the writing was confusing and not particularly funny. Again, the entire project had the feel of a few guys playing around with a camera with no particular purpose other than to play out stuff only they find funny.

That was a complete waste of my time. I’m not saying I’m an incredibly busy actor with no time to waste. I wish I was. That’s the dream. But I am too busy to spend valuable energy on auditions that really aren’t. This wasn’t a casting call for a production that can provide an interesting character to play, further my career, or at least put something worthwhile on my resume. This was a few guys with a camera hoping to capitalize on actors hungry for parts in this small market.

So what the point of all this? I’ll say it again:


If you wish to make films, that’s great! Really, it is, and I encourage you wholeheartedly to do it. But PLEASE learn something about film making first. Having high-def equipment means nothing without the skill and knowledge to produce a quality piece. Gain experience first. Volunteer to crew for other productions that know what they’re doing. Once you’ve gained experience, then by all means, start a project that has actual production value. You have to learn to be a film maker.

There. I’ve said what had to be said. Will film makers heed? I hope so. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect to be working with the next James Cameron or Chris Nolan (although that would be nice). I just expect to at least be working with someone who actually has an idea of what they’re doing. Is that too much to ask?

Ian Quick has asked for this follow-up to be added based on the response to his original article:

As a follow-up to posting this letter, I received a brief private message stating simply this: I know what web show you’re talking about and if you’re so (censored) smart, I’d like to see you do better.

I CAN’T! That’s the whole point of my letter. Clearly this person completely missed the mark. As an actor, I’ve witnessed all the hard work that goes on behind the camera. I’ve gained tremendous respect for a film crew and all their skills . Before joining the industry, I used to think it was all about the actors and director. Now I know better. Every single technical job is important. We’re talking sound, lighting, camera work and editing just to name a few. If any of these things are not done well, the entire production suffers.

While I have witnessed crew in action many times, I would never pretend to know how to do what they do. That’s why I won’t make a film and see if I can “do better” as challenged. Maybe someday I’ll get the “behind-the-camera” bug. If I do, you can be sure I’ll study up on the job first. Right now, my job is in front of the camera as an actor. I’m doing fairly well, but I still have plenty to learn there, too. I think I’ll master that first.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Have you had a similar experience in the past?