Casting 2.0 – For Filmmakers

March 3, 2009 at 1:41 pm 3 comments

Looking for talent online is becoming increasingly popular.  You can find actors for a few parts, one part, or even most of your cast online.  paranoid-park

Here are the benefits and drawbacks, as I see them:


  • You can find people that are talented and unique.
  • You gain attention for your film


  • May get plenty of lame videos
  • Might not get enough videos to cast (there’s much competing for attention, and someone really has to invest time to put up a good video)
  • Must focus on publicizing this call
  • Effort-intensive
  • If you are going only by audience votes (& I’d recommend against this strategy) you are likely to end up with either the most popular (but not necessarily the best, or your preference) or the one who can rally the most friends to vote for him.
  • You might find someone perfect but who doesn’t live in the town you’re shooting.

So what to do?


Don’t cast everyone online.

It will make your life unnecessarily difficult. Odds are, if you’re a filmmaker, you know many talented people.  That said, there may be 1 or two hard to cast parts, and that’s when you should put out an online call

Try to look at the call from the auditioners point of view

Keep in mind:

  • There are many such calls out there.  Some are legitimate, some are just a way for the filmmaker to get more attention for his/her film.
  • It takes effort and time for an auditioner to record an good audition.
  • You might love your premise and film, but the actor (and audience) has no such attachment.


  • you have to make your call as interesting and appealing as possible (ain’t this always my suggestion)
  • Make sure your site/page contains as much information about your production, team crew as is relevant, helpful.  This not the time to brag/exaggerate.  This is the time to put forth links to your profile and other sites, videos etc. that verify your legistimacy.   If you have a solid short film online (Hello, YouTube again… ) this will help – in fact, embed a relevant video in the “about” page.

Figure out if you’ll be letting the audience vote.

Voting engages people (think American Idol etc.) but you may not wish to be stuck with who people decide. (Especially since not everyone pays fair.) Consider allowing people to vote for their favorites and have an “audience favorite” who is guaranteed a role, and your favorite who will get the role.  Or offer prizes for people to vote, but with similar caveat.

Consider Location – or how to accommodate

Sure, you run the risk of finding awesome talent who might not live in your area, but consider if this is really a concern:

  1. If so, limit the call to people in a certain region
  2. If only slightly, you might pay for their flight and find them a safe place to stay during shoot – doesn’t have to be luxury hotel, sometimes a guest room works. (1)

How to do it?

There are a whole bunch of ways to make this work.  Here’s what I think works best – and is most efficient. (But it is certainly time and effort-consuming.)

Have a place/home where this film/call lives.

  • Ideally start a specific site (purchase a domain name for your film, so if your film is Credo the site is, casting = or Credocasting  as a home.  This is the place where all the information will be & will be aggregated.
  • Have links on this site to other places online that the film/call exists (Youtube, Twitter, Facebook etc.)

Then expand outwards.

  • Use your blog to help promote and discuss (at various stages)
  • Put a call out on various social networks (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Myspace)
  • As I understand, running an official contest on YouTube (“Community”) is expensive), so it might be best to just set up a group and get people to become members of a group (basically one click) to submit their videos (once uploaded to YouTube)


Gus Van Sant used MySpace page to find some talent for Paranoid Park.

“[W]hen it comes to finding quirky unknowns , Casting Society of America board member Laura Adler says internet searches are fast becoming a go-to tool among her colleagues. She cites Christopher Mintz-Plasse, for example, who landed the role of “McLovin” in Superbad after casting agents spotted his clips on YouTube. “It’s a great tool for finding new faces,” she says. “Casting people use MySpace or FaceBook or Craigslist when they’re looking for an unknown young talent who’s odd or unique. You run the risk of getting bombarded by tons of people who aren’t right for the role but we get that anyway, on a daily basis.” (from “Filmmakers Find Fresh Talent on MySpace “)

Ning is a social site where you can create your own social network/niche. (E.g. a Facebook of sorts for a particular interest):

“One of the most popular Ning networks belongs to hip-hop mogul 50 Cent and has 107,000 members and counting. Chris “Broadway” Romero, creative director of new media for Fitty’s site, describes it as “an entertainment-industry news/rumor/editorial blog in the vein of, combined with unparalleled access and interaction with the celebrity.” Romero uses the site to cast parts for music videos and film projects, and one day, he hopes to release music and video directly to the public, bypassing record companies completely. To Romero, it’s nothing less than “a new entertainment platform, period.” A single Ning group can, in theory, serve as a platform for an entire business; collectively, the networks represent an ever-expanding commercial universe. (From Fast Company: “Ning’s Infinite Ambition




Be upfront.  And make certain that you have a decent online reputation to help allay concerns.

Established a real relationship with people you cast, or plan to cast and be sure you’re not a… scuzzy.  (Sorry, can’t help you if you are).  Again, try to put yourself in the auditioners shoes.

Again here, I make the assumption that both the filmmaker and the actor is educating themselves – looking into  someone’s background online as well as checking references etc. before meeting/staying with them or allowing someone to stay at their place.

There are many sites that address safety concerns especially with regards to acting – so I’ll keep this brief – note to actors:

  1. Never be desperate (yes, this seems impossible, at times, but trust me)
  2. Trust your instincts
  3. Never let someone convince you to do something that makes you uncomfortable
  4. Be kind but upfront, ask someone to provide references (especially female references, if you’re a woman) so you can confirm your own safety.  Anyone who would balk about this has their own issues. (Personal note: I developed a similar rule when I was dating: learned to say I was not comfortable going to a guy’s house early on. If they became jerky, I knew exactly who I was dealing with.)


Want more articles about artists? I have a whole series here.


Casting 2.0 for Filmmakers” by Monica Hamburg

Entry filed under: Art, artist series, contests, crowdsourcing, Social Marketing, social media, twitter, Web 2.0. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

And The Winners Are: Distribution 2.0 – Learn from Filmmakers Who Made It Happen

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gusgreeper  |  March 3, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    with all that said… Paranoid Park is a SERIOUSLY fantastic film. 🙂

  • 2. Maximusbanged  |  March 23, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Yeah, its a cool movie for me…

  • 3. Engage Your (Film) Audience « Me Like The Interweb  |  May 17, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    […] There are also many examples of productions (e.g. Paranoid Park, Moderation Town) which cast online (e.g. via YouTube etc.).  This can be effective for certain parts, can drum up publicity and can […]


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