Let's assume for a moment that after reading my last post, you're thinking to yourself "bullcrap". It's not that easy to get a bankable actor into your film. Even if you cast early, and even if you are willing to move through a lot of names and settle for the one that finally says "yes".
Fair enough. It's famously difficult to snare one of those oh-so-elusive Hollywood names to sign on and be in your film when you've got a low budget. The task is made even more difficult when you realize that before persuading the actors, you often have to persuade the talent agent and/or manager, and let's be clear, they're mostly interested in their hard cash commission...
But Star Power isn't just about getting the names of actors to stamp across the top of your key art. Try bringing a multi-$million independent starring-Steve-Zahn drama to the sales floor, and I'll bring my microbudgeted sub-500k dragon movie, and I bet 9 times out of 10, my film outsells yours. That's right, a public-domain, free-to-use, computer generated dragon has just as much (and more) Star Power than a mid-size semi-bankable name (you might notice that our Orcs! film hit #50 on imdb's starmeter, whereas Calvin Marshall topped out at 249th.... that's right, orcs also have more Star Power than many bankable stars).
But Steve Zahn will probably cost you a hefty sum just to have the right to use him, let alone the costs of hiring stars (fringes, first-class tickets, Screen Actors Guild signatory, per diem rates, trailer rental, top-notch makeup person, top-notch stunt double, etc. etc.). The dragon costs you whatever you need to hire a couple of guys and their computers who know how to make a 3D dragon and bring it to life in your film. That might be $100k or more, but it's a sure thing, and you don't have to ask permission.
So, consider setting your film around Star Power you don't have to pay for. How about using a title that has Star Power, something in the public domain, like doing a remake of Pride and Prejudice? Did it. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0366920/ How about using a dragon as your star. Did it. Several times... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1290472/ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1734582/ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1913178/ How about using something that is actually an old mythical creature that was made hugely popular by Lord of the Rings, Dungeon and Dragons, and even World of Warcraft? Did that too. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1524134/
Or, you might even try using a public figure or a current event that has been big in the news recently and has a lot of interest for the media and the public in general. We did that as well. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2141875/
So there's a secret for you. Stop whining about how you don't have enough money to get stars, and start booking stars that you don't need to convince that you're worth it.