Sending out a Casting Call for “Lunatics”

We’ve been working for sometime now (what is it, two years now?) on a free-culture animated science-fiction web series called “Lunatics“. It’s about the first settlers on the Moon.

I stayed up until about 6AM this morning filling out casting call forms at several casting sites online. It’s pretty interesting stuff, and I’ve already gotten some demo reels and queries back — probably from our call on the Short Film Texas site.

I’m excited, but also a little freaked out by this.

I’ve gotten more than I expected of contacts from parents who’d like to put their children up for “Tim” (14) or “Georgiana” (7). I am terrified of stage moms — especially when a project is as “out there” as ours is. I had been thinking of having my own daughter play Georgiana and having somebody over 18 play Tim, mainly to avoid this issue.

The thing is, I’m just afraid that some point there is going to be some discussion of the “ethics” and/or “legality” of doing free culture production like this, or of the way we pay, or some other issue, and I don’t really want that discussion complicated by the underage issue. I really don’t to have my production tarred as “exploiting minors” by someone who thinks the pay isn’t enough (we’re all basically working for peanuts, here). It’s a lot easier to discuss this if we’re all consenting adults.

But my position on that may evolve. Who knows?

The parts I’m most worried about are “Hiromi” and “Anya”, because they both involve foreign language proficiency. Anya is the hardest, because she’s supposed to actually be Russian (Hiromi is a Japanese American, so it doesn’t hurt anything if she has a strong American accent). Years ago, no one would care, but today, this show will be debuting to an international audience. So there will probably be actual Russians watching it, and if Anya sounds like a bad imitation of Walter Koenig doing Pavel Chekov, it’s going to seem pretty silly.

Anyway, if you’re an actor yourself, or know any actors who might like to be a part of an exciting, ground-breaking new media project that may or may not be paying anything (but will cover expenses), please have a look at our casting call:

Voice Casting

Auditioning

If you are simply interested in playing a voice role in “Lunatics”, please email a demo of your previous voice acting experience or examples of your work to us at “auditions at anansispaceworks dot com”. We will then recommend a part and send you some readings to record as an audition for the part.

If you already have a part in mind, you can simply do the readings you see below for the character you like, instead of waiting.

You may read for as many or as few characters as you like. It’s even possible to get more than one part if the voices are distinct enough (although we’d prefer to have separate actors for each of the principals).

Principals

Rob

Rob Lerner

Dr. John Robert Lerner, founder of the International Space Foundation is a Mechanical Engineer who has given the last twenty-five years of his life supporting the quest for a self-supporting private colony on the moon.

Readings (PDF): Speech – Is Space Safe?, Anya, Josh, Rob Breakfast Chat

Hiromi

Hiromi Aoki Lerner

Rob Learner’s wife, Hiromi Lerner is a Japanese American homemaker, but homemaker takes on a whole new meaning when one’s home is a moon base.

Readings (PDF): Interview from “No children in Space” – Pilot, Hiromi’s phone call to Rob from “No Children in Space”

This part requires some fluency in Japanese (but an American accent is okay — Hiromi is from Torrance, CA, but attended secondary school in Japan).

Anya

Anya Titova Farmer

Anya Titova Farmer is the competent, aggressive, Russian business manager of the colony. She has a Moscow accent.

Readings (PDF): Anya Makes a Sales Video, Anya, Josh, Rob Breakfast Chat, Opening from “Cyborg”(Tim with Anya)

This part includes some Russian, which should pass for a native (strong accent in English but fluent). Specific dialect should be from Moscow.

Josh

Josh Farmer

Dr. Joshua Farmer has a doctorate in Space agriculture. He makes sure the crops come in on time.

Readings (PDF): Joshua Farmer Interview, Anya, Josh, Rob Breakfast Chat, Tim talks to dad from “Cyborg”

Tim

Tim Farmer

I. Timothy Farmer is the son of Anya and Josh. He is in charge of keeping the communication lines working in the colony and has his own successful web show even though he is only fifteen.

Readings (PDF): Opening from “Cyborg”(with Anya), Tim talks to dad from “Cyborg”

Allen

R. Allen Emerson

R. Allen Emerson is an award winning conceptual artist. He came to the colony to film a lunar eclipse from other side.

Readings (PDF): “‘Art Now!’ Interview”

Allen is introduced in Episode 2: “Earth”.

Sarah

Sarah Allison

Dr. Sarah Allison is a geologist. She loves science, and she loves the moon. She has clocked more hours on the moon’s surface than any other person.

Readings (PDF): Sarah takes a tour of the colony from “Rocks”(with Rob)

Sarah is introduced at the end of Episode 3: “Cyborg”.

Georgiana

Georgiana Lerner

Rob and Hiromi’s eight year old daughter is the first child on the moon.

Readings (PDF): ‘Union Negotiations’ with Tim

Georgiana will most likely be played by Ariel Hancock (our daughter). This is mostly to avoid any consent issues with underage actors — we know we’ve given permission.

CASTING CALL for “LUNATICS” Pilot: “No Children in Space”

Principal Parts — http://lunatics.tv/VoiceCasting

(Click above to get specifics on the parts being cast)

SUMMARY

Series title: “Lunatics”
Episode title: “No Children in Space” (pilot/demo episode)
Union / Non-Union: Non-Union (Union-exempt under AFTRA “new media” rules)
Production Type: Free-Culture / Open Film / New Media
Project length: Animated Web Series Pilot, About 60 minutes with limited dialog
Project format: HD (1920x1080p x 30fps)
Posted on: Monday, June 6th, 2012
Production location: Where You Live. See “Workflow” below.
Production Company: Anansi Spaceworks
Project website: http://lunatics.tv
Writer: Rosalyn Hunter
Director: Terry Hancock
Producer: Terry Hancock
Casting Director: Rosalyn Hunter
Audition Location: Teh Intertubes!
Shooting Location: Also Teh Intertubes! See “Workflow” below.
Email: “Lunatics Audtions” “auditions at anansispaceworks dot com”
Compensation: Limited. See “Compensation” below.

KEY DATES

Submit Audition By: June 30th, 2012
Selection / Call Backs: Before July 15th, 2012
Recording Dates: Saturdays – 8/25, 9/1, 9/8, 9/15, 2012

Exact times can be negotiable, but you need to mention if Saturdays will be a problem for you. We will aim to do an informal conference call read-through on 8/25. Then we will attempt to record the entire script on 9/1, with 9/8 as a backup date. On 9/15, we will schedule pick-ups for anything that was missed. Although the episode is 60 minutes, quite a bit of it is montage, so the total dialogue is closer to 15 minutes. We purposely designed this episode to be light on dialog (the second episode, “Earth”, will be much more dialog-driven). There are also a lot of bit parts in the pilot with only one or two lines.

Of course, anyone working on the pilot will get first consideration for the same parts in the series.

We will attempt to work around your schedule if you have other commitments during this time, but this will depend on what the other cast members can manage.

Times will be scheduled on Greenwich Mean Time, but we will attempt to adapt to your location (e.g. morning in USA, evening in UK — will be at night in most of Russia).

SYNOPSIS

“Lunatics”, as a series, will be an irreverent story about the first permanent settlers on the Moon. The setting is completely serious and realistic, although the characters are occasionally comic in a “space geek”/”overstated” sort of way. Please see the project website ( http://lunatics.tv ) for more information.

The pilot episode follows seven-year-old Georgiana Lerner on her way to join the colony, with her mother, Hiromi Lerner. We also meet Josh Farmer (who actually is a farmer, or more accurately, an “agricultural scientist”) and his teenaged-son Tim, as well as Anya Titova Farmer, Tim’s mother and the colony’s business manager. We also encounter the USAF’s Iridium Station, including Maj. Mark Spenser, the base’s supply officer. Finally, we meet up at the colony with Georgiana’s father, the colony founder, and the ideological leader of the group, Rob Lerner.

For information on the individual parts being cast, please see the Principals and Other Roles pages.

We are looking for a ‘naturalistic’ style here, not ‘cartoon voices’.

HOW TO AUDITION

Auditions will be submitted via e-mail. You will need to submit a voice or acting reel to us and request some reading lines. E-mail these to “auditions at anansispaceworks dot com” (auditions). Please include a link to a demo reel or show reel online.

In the email, you should also introduce yourself and include (or link to) a brief resume or CV. If you have any special conditions or limitations (such as when you’d be available during the recording period), please mention these. Although your submission will be considered for all parts, if there is a particular part you’d like, please mention that.

Please also mention where you are located and whether you have access to a studio or home-studio to record in. We expect to provide microphone and recording equipment, but an acoustically-quiet room is the hardest part. We will try to help you find an appropriate place to record your lines.

Based on your reel and your email, we will send you readings that we’d like to hear from you — some of these will be from the script, others from sketches or future scripts in progress which are particularly good for the given character. I will include some directing notes, but you should feel free to try a few different takes on the part in your reading. Try to record this on a decent microphone in a quiet room, but don’t worry too much about the sound conditions for the audition.

WORKFLOW

We are collaborating over the Internet. This has pros and cons. On the good side, you will have more flexibility about scheduling, and you will not have to travel. Also, you will get to work with a higher caliber and more diverse cast, because we are able to cast worldwide. I hope this will make this a special experience.

The downside, of course, is that we will not have the easy interaction that is made possible by getting the cast all in one studio to record. Instead, we’ll have to use VOIP teleconferencing to establish the rapport between cast members and with the director. We’ll do the best we can to work around this. At present, it looks like the easiest option may be to use Google Hangouts (a feature of the Google+ social media site) for this.

Some of you may have ready access to studios or home-studios for recording. We will provide a microphone/digital recorder. If you stay on as a permanent cast member, you will get to keep this equipment. For others, we will provide you one of several floaters that will need to be returned so we can pass them on to the next person.

It is our hope that this project will be fairly low impact, and that you will be willing to stay on with the project for as long as it lasts. There is a lot of uncertainty about that at the moment, but it could go on for a few years. Naturally, we strongly hope to be able to keep the same voice cast throughout the project. This will be a consideration in casting for the major parts. We are willing to try to work around your existing acting commitments so you should not need to give any up to continue with this project, but we are hoping you will not forget us!

THE FISHBOWL

This is an open source media project. As a result, pretty much all of the intermediate material we produce will be accessible to fans and other people who might want to remix our work for other purposes. We do not really control those uses, since we are releasing the material under the Attribution-ShareAlike license. You must be willing to work in this very open way.

You will need to provide some video of yourself for promotional purposes. Typically, you’ll be making a 10-second “plug” video to use in our Kickstart campaigns and a similarly short video to introduce yourself to fans (All it really has to say is “I’m <my name> and I play <character>”, but you can do more). Some video of you recording your lines would also be useful. These may appear during the episode act breaks (“commercial breaks”) or in separate videos for the funding campaigns. Obviously, you will be granting us the right to use this material under the same By-SA license as the voice recordings. This all contributes to raising interest in the project and improving our crowd-funding efforts.

COMPENSATION

As you know, new media is still a very risky business, and we are creating a free culture film. That means the film is under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. We are therefore giving up on the ability to control distribution of the film. There’s really no such thing as “piracy” for this project, because all copying of it is legal. By the rules of some people’s conventional wisdom, this should make no money at all. We are however, engaged in trying to break those rules. So, while we cannot promise much, we are hoping to deliver more.

Naturally, in any case, you will receive credit in the episode and you will get a copy of the DVD version of the episode on release (and a few other surprise special perks as well). As the project is free licensed, you will of course be entitled (encouraged, in fact) to share it as much as you like.

WHERE THE MONEY COMES FROM

Revenues will come from three major sources:

  1. Pre-sales campaigns, initially at least through Kickstarter (pre-release)
  2. Creator-Endorsed Video Sales (people who see the show online, but want to buy the DVD) (post-release)
  3. Creator-Endorsed Ancillary Merchandise Sales (a variety of tie-in items sold through our store) (post-release)

Other possible streams include direct donations, special showings, etc. For our project, once the initial fixed costs have been cleared (defined in the Kickstart), any remaining revenue will be treated as profit. As the series progresses, each block of episodes will advertise for the crowd-funded campaign for the next block.

A major part of this strategy is banking on fans wanting to support the artists. Naturally, you, as our voice stars, will be in the fans’ minds, and it is in our best interest as well as yours to maintain their confidence by seeing that you get a fair share of the profits.

With this in mind, all of the contributing artists on the project — modelers, animators, actors, and musicians as well as writer and director/producer — will receive compensation from our profits, assuming we make any.

Naturally, the Kickstarter will be set up to cover our fixed costs. For you, this will cover at least your basic expenses for the project (some of it in kind, such as the microphones that we will send you).

If we exceed our minimum goal, we will include a few priority expenses, including actor pay estimated to be close to AFTRA-minimum rate for a similar role in a similar television production (this will be listed on the Kickstart as a secondary “target” goal), based on the expected number of recording days. We would very much like to be able to say that we succeeded in meeting or exceeding minimum union rates on this project if we can raise the money to do it.

After that, you will receive an additional small percentage based on the size of the part. For lead roles, this should be about 1% of the profit. This will persist for a limited time, based on the sales related to the episode you worked on.

There are several ways we can lose our shirts on this production (maybe the fan-based model doesn’t work, maybe we just suck, etc). I fully expect to not make any money on this. But what I can promise you is that if we do make money, so will you.

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About Terry Hancock

Terry Hancock is the producer and director of "Lunatics" ( http://lunatics.tv ). He is also a regular columnist for Free Software Magazine ( http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/articles_by/5 ), and a lifelong advocate for space, science, and technology. More at http://terryhancock.narya.net
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