Following in the tradition of “The Blair Witch Project,” writer-director Jimmy Loweree’s new lo-fi, found-footage indie “Absence” is a horror film with a fresh twist: The reason four people are in an isolated cabin in the woods is because the seven-months-pregnant Liz claims to be the victim of cesarian theft. Of course, things aren’t that easily explainable, and it’s not long before flashing lights and strange noises are driving Liz, her husband, and her brother to question what’s happening around them.
We spoke to Loweree about casting an indie horror film, and he gave some advice about what similar projects may be looking for in an audition.
Cast a wide net when casting.
Though “Absence” only has four main characters, Loweree still had what he calls “a fairly large casting call.” A friend with experience ran the casting calls, and the team ended up auditioning almost 300 people over three and a half days. “It was very educational for sure,” Loweree says. “I was trying to do my best to make them comfortable.”
Be prepared for actors to make “strong” choices.
“Not only did they have to be endearing and relatable, but they also needed to be able to scream and be horrified at the horror movie level in a really organic way,” Loweree says. To help the actors reach that level of terror in a bare audition space, Loweree would provide a brief description of the basic scene and help build a slight momentum. “We’d give them a scenario, of course,” Loweree says, “but it was really interesting for these people to go from this nice discourse to writhing and screaming.”
Find actors ready and eager for a DIY experience.
With technology making filmmaking on the fly attractive and even easy, actors in the indie world had better be prepared to go with the flow. “You have to be on the same page and be a team player,” Loweree says. In fact, one of the original leads was let go because of extended contract negotiations. “That’s not to say everyone can’t be accorded respect and care, but we’re doing this on very little money and we’re doing it by the seat of our pants,” Loweree says. “We need people willing to make that risk. I think actors get burned and treated poorly a lot and they definitely need to defend themselves, but being creative and being productive was far more important than anything else, especially if you’re trying to build your career. Get productive and get as much content as you can, because it gives you an opportunity to work and meet more people and have those experiences.”
Don’t sweat the audition—everyone’s nervous.
In the midst of his first big casting call, Loweree found himself just as stressed by the process as the actors coming in. “Filmmakers feel just as uncomfortable in that situation,” Loweree says, before adding that if you’re not cast, don’t take it personally. “It’s not really a judgment. I’m looking for these qualities and they’re totally subjective and have nothing to do with you.” He recommends taking the character description and building it into as much of a three-dimensional person as possible. “Get the details and find what’s compelling to you and show me. Be that person for yourselves. I want to work with someone like that every time.”