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BYOCD: Creating a Casting Book

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Before we get into using these images to help you in developing your characters, you need to know where to find them! As of today, I have almost 950 Real World Templates in my casting book. This has been a 20 year project, so I do have a little bit of a head start

Always be on the lookout for images of people who strike a creative nerve inside you

  • Go online to clothing sellers such as Land’s End, LL Bean, J Crew, Eddie Bauer, etc., and request to receive their mailed-out catalogs.
  • Buy magazines such as People or other publications that focus more on photos of people and less on articles. (Entertainment- and fashion-focused mags work best.)
  • Watch for actors in movies – especially those in secondary roles – and find out their names by watching the credits or looking the movie up on (Internet Movie Database). Then do a Google Image Search for the actor/actress.
  • You can also use real people, and in this day and age of camera phones it’s easier to capture an image of someone you happen to see who strikes that creative nerve, but just make sure that you aren’t describing someone whose features are so unique they’ll be able to pick themselves out.

There are two decisions you now need to make: how you want to store and organize your Casting Book.

For storage, you can

  • paste/tape photos, pictures, images you print from the computer onto notebook paper and keep them in a 3-ring binder.
  • cut/print them out and store them in file folders.
  • store digital images (scanned or downloaded) electronically on your computer.
  • or choose the storage system that works best for you and is easily accessible and updatable.

For organization, you can:

  • sort images by feature: ethnicity, age, hair color, eye color, or whatever feature you tend to look for when you’re casting your character.
  • store images alphabetically by the real world name of your Real World Template. This is the system I use. If it’s a model I cannot find a name of, I use the name of the catalog or magazine where I found them as their last name.
  • or, again, choose a system that works for you.

I believe I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I am 50/50 right-left brained, so this is where my left-brain organization comes in handy. Because I’m extremely weird, I like to know a lot of information about the real world templates I use, including their ethnicity, real age, and height, all of which can usually be found on IMDb. I include hair/eye color for when I’m looking for something specific, and where I first noticed the person so I can call to mind a mental image of the person without having to look him/her up. I keep all of this information in an Excel spreadsheet for two main reasons: I happen to like Excel, and Excel gives me the ability to sort by the criteria in each column, allowing me to narrow down my casting process without having to search through all 950 names

Because I love my blog readers so much, I’m going to put you 20 years ahead of the game by sharing my casting book. In this version, they’re sorted in alphabetical order. But if you’re familiar with Excel, you can see I have it set up with auto filters—which means I can easily narrow it down to a certain year born, certain height, certain ethnicity, or even certain eye color. Granted, Real World Templates are for REFERENCE ONLY, but because I am so visually oriented, it’s hard for me to use a template who doesn’t share most of his major physical traits with my character

Now, I also keep electronic files of images of my RWTs—in PowerPoint. Again, for two main reasons: PowerPoint is my favorite program, and PowerPoint gives me an easy way to store, move, organize, and view my images. Here is a screen capture of the Mac-Mc.ppt file from my casting “book.” Here is a close-up of the first page (of several) of the RWT for my character William Ransome, Paul McGann. Because this is just a working file, I don’t worry if the pictures overlap one another. When I’m ready to use them, I can move them around and pick out the ones I really want to use. The DVD player on my computer came with a software program (Power DVD) that allows me to do screen captures, which is where several of these images came from. This is great especially if you’re like me and you’re drawn to secondary characters who might not be well known

Okay, great. Paul McGann is in my casting book. But let’s take it a step further. Do you use a physical storyboard when you write? Pictures of houses, floor plans, etc? Next time, I’ll show how I use my casting book to create files and storyboards for my novels

  1. Anonymous permalink
    Thursday, October 26, 2006 1:23 pm

    How totally generous of you to share your casting book. Hundreds of character sketches at your fingertips. I love to look through old photographs of American History and make up stories of who and what the people were. State Historical society archives are a treasure trove of pictures in the eras and locations I’m looking for.



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