Make 3 budgets.
Back in the olden days we'd have worried about how to deal with whether we'd shoot on film and what kind of format and what shooting ratio. Thankfully those days are long gone.
Still, for each of these numbers we're looking at a 20-day shoot.
- At budget level 1 we're shooting non-SAG.
- At budget level 2 we're making a SAG picture with some talent people have heard of working "scale".
- At budget level 3 we're shooting a SAG picture with a fairly famous actor in the genre working for a low rate or for a very short time.
Then, using the script as a calling card, try to get whomever you think would be a perfect talent for the lead. That's perfect artistically as well as perfect as far as distributors are concerned.
You'll be running with three plans to shoot the picture. If you can get the right talent and can get the money, you'll go with 3. If you can get some talent (or even the right talent) but can't get the money you go with 2. Otherwise you go with 1.
I think the key to making budgets like these work is that you have to realize that shooting the movie isn't "making" the movie. Shooting is like advanced (and expensive) pre-production. It should only cost 40-60% of the money you have. Because you must, must, must finish the movie. That is, edited, color-corrected, dialog, music, and effects.
And remember you have to be able to do reshoots and additional shooting.
So. After greenlight you start hunting for talent and money simultaneously. Think in terms of "dream" and "reality" at the same time.
That's my thoughts.