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The Acting Daughter Motif

There is one recurring motif of which many filmmakers are painfully aware, and that is the “acting daughter” motif, and it goes a little something like this: You’re out location scouting, you see a house you really want to film in, and then the owner comes to you, shakes your hand and says, “You know, my daughter is an actress,” or “If you need a guy to show up as a mobster, I was in the mob, and I’ve been taking acting lessons.” Then, a few days later, you're meeting an investor, and they’ll throw the same pitch your way: “You know, my daughter/wife/son/whatever would be perfect for this role.” Get ready for this to happen with every new person you meet, and I’m not kidding. One out of ten people you interact with will throw this pitch your way. The question is: can you and should you take advantage of these situations? Can you promise someone a role in a film in order to save money on a location rental, or to solicit an investment from an investor? Can you promise someone a role in exchange for a free accountant, or some free props? The answer – absofuckinglutly you should!!

I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear that this sort of bartering happens all the time. Now, artistically, you don’t want to promise a major role to a person if you don’t even know if they can act, but walk-in roles are a different story. You can accommodate twenty seconds of screen-time to a character who has one line or interacts with your lead character for a brief moment, or just sits in the background with a drink in his hand.

Silvester Stalone had to sell his beloved dog because he was so poor, when he sold Rocky he went to get his dog back. The man said only if he could get a part in the movie! Watch this clip to find out what part he gave him.

I attended a Q&A with David Lowrey at the AMC near my house upon the release of his film,

A Ghost Story. And I remember him telling the story of how they landed their primary location for that film. They promised the location owner (an air conditioning contractor) that they’d feature his granddaughter in the film, and they did. Originally, she was supposed to play an extra, but Lowrey was impressed by her abilities and gave her a speaking role instead. Meanwhile, in Usher-land, I managed to save a big chunk of money on PR for Pickings after hiring a publicist to play the role of a waitress in the film. She had one line – and that one line saved me a couple of grand in the long run. So, get ready for that “acting daughter motif” and be prepared to take advantage of it.

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