Aug 19, 2007

Casting Matters




TSR's comment about meeting the guy from the brilliant Starburst Berries & Cream commercial (YouTubed here as a special Monday morning treat for my lazier readers) put me in mind of how important casting really is.

There's something unique the actor pulled off in the aforementioned spot that takes it from weird to brilliant.

An even better example is "the Dell dude" (Ben Curtis) whose performance took what should have been a forgettably banal spot and turned it into a national catchphrase ("Dude, You're Getting A Dell!") There was something about the guy, something at once charming and likable and goofy that made that work. It's the magic of casting.

To that end, it never ceases to amaze me that clients insist on creating animatics to test TV commercials. (For the unintiated, animatics are crude animated renditions of a TV commercial that's meant to be filmed with live actors. The voices for the animated figures are provided by agency employees who clearly aren't actors and the whole thing bears as much resemblance to the real spot as I do to George Bush.) These monstrosities are, unfortunately, a staple of packaged goods clients and are literally used to determine which spots get on the air. (For those people not in the ad business, the absurdity of commercial testing is so unreal as to border on the fantastical.)

So what I've always wanted to do is put together a reel of classic movie scenes done as animatics, just to show what the effect of casting is. You know, the "Frankly, Scarlett I don't give a damn" scene from Gone With The Wind, the "You talkin' to me? There's no one else here?" scene from Taxi Driver. Vince Vaughn in Swingers. Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man... the list of great movies where casting made the movie is pretty endless. But I can think of no better way to show clients the foolishness of testing anything that involves casting before it's actually been cast than to show them how these scenes would have come off as animatics.

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