Indie strategies: Cheesecake Casserole

Always interesting to read accounts of particular strategies that have enabled indie films to get made and out into distribution, particularly in these difficult times. See for example co-writer and producer Jamie Stein’s account of the production and distribution of the coming-of-age comedy Cheesecake Casserole on Cultural Weekly.

Examples such as this show how much remains unchanged in recent decades as far as some of the best ways to get a low-budget indie film together are concerned, particularly the basic strategy of designing the work around sources of budgetary limitation. In this case, a source story that spanned a whole college year was squeezed into a single weekend, which made a virtue out of the fact that only a single main location was available. A less familiar element of this production story, though, is the importance Stein attributes to the fact that it was decided to hire a proper casting director for the production – not something always very high on the spending list of indies. The benefit was that the filmmakers gained access to ‘a wide middle-ground of professional, working actors who have name recognition and also a willingness to build their body of work by taking a chance on independent features.’ This rather than relying on unknowns or reaching for big names who are unlikely to be interested. A deal was done according to which the size of payment to the casting director was contingent on the scale of those cast, which reduced initial costs and made them proportionate to the real value brought to the production.

Other dimensions of the strategy further confirm some of the basics, such as the fact that actors (here, in Los Angeles) really are hungry for decent roles – thus the benefit of writing parts that will appeal to actors and making this a priority in scripting rather than aiming for eye-catching gimmicks. There’s also some useful material about sales online and by DVD. Details of how to access the film are available here.

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