Just what is Casting Networks, and do you need to bother to sign up to yet another online casting tool?
It’s been a decade since casting went online in earnest, and I’m researching a piece at the moment about how things might change in the next few years, and whether any company could mount a serious challenge to the dominance of Spotlight.
Of course, I’ve been looking at established sites like Casting Call Pro, as well as newer efforts such as StarNow and The Page, but I also met with the folks at Casting Networks Inc. a few weeks back to learn about their approach.
CNI is a well-established US casting software provider which operate across the States and claims a 90% share of the LA casting market. I haven’t yet interviewed US casting directors for purposes of verification, so it’s probably best treat figures like that with a small pinch of salt, but the tour of their software certainly struck me.
The functionality – and the fresh feel – of CNI’s product is impressive , and should give the current main players, Spotlight and CCP, at least a pause for thought. And with a growing staffed office in London, this isn’t a speculative punt at entering the UK casting market – obviously CNI means business. To be clear, CNI isn’t piping casting from the States over here, it is entering the UK to compete with our homegrown providers.
What it does
Like Spotlight‘s Link or CCP‘s software, CNI offers casting professionals a means to distribute breakdowns and receive submissions, but – at least as far as I could see it – where CNI’s offering is strikingly different is in the suite of tools it offers casting directors for streamlining, simplifying and facilitating the subsequent casting process: actor check in via-iPad, integration of audition video-recording into online casting tools, software for handling the scheduling and arranging of auditions, just to list a few examples.
In which case, though appearances at events like Actor Expo show the company is courting agents and actors, you feel that their major marketing battle will be fought in persuading casting directors to sign up to the service.
And the commercials casting-focused list of casting directors (including Des Hamilton and Candid Casting) currently signed up, suggest CNI is initially proving most compelling for casters with a regular, heavy audition schedule. The next 12 months should reveal if and how the company can take broader bites out of the market, and that’s one area my piece will be touching on.
Do I need to sign up?
So, for actors, the main question right now is “Am I missing out by not signing up?”
To test this out, as well as accepting CNI’s guided tour, I also logged in through a friend’s profile to check out the feel, functionality and content of CNI’s actor profiles and generally had a good play around.
- Fresh and modern, more so than either CCP or Spotlight – scarcely a cinching factor, but it does look good.
- A few Americanisms here and there, but generally not too Yankee.
- Sections for statistics, skills, agent contact details, credits and multimedia (photos, video and audio). Nothing earth-shattering, but well laid out.
- Nice share features, allowing you to email a link to your CV to anyone you like. Certainly easier than the Spotlight view pin…
- Excellent multi-media centre which opens as a pop out from the cv, allowing you to upload photos, a showreel or video clips, and a voicereel or audio clips. Pleasingly, the upload function includes a simple clipping tool, so you can edit a clip down. This is a better tool than anything currently available elsewhere.
- Attach clip to credit function – a really neat feature allows you to attach a video clip to a specific credit, which can then be viewed direct from the hyperlinked CV credit. ie. click straight from your CV entry for Holby City to a clip of your suffering some horrendous episode-defining injury.
- You need to be with an agent to have access to the full range of paid work, otherwise you’ll only be able to see what you company calls its ‘Casting Billboard’ – essentially low or unpaid work.
- To register as an actor with an agent, you need to secure your agent-specific code, which means your agent in turn needs to create a profile. It’s both a way to ensure you don’t falsely claim to be repped by United Artists, and a rather fine way to ensure your agent gets round to signing up…
- Ability to share one CV and associated multimedia content across multiple agents e.g. voice, commercials, modelling and acting agents.
- A raft of associated functionality that will come more significantly into play at the point when a critical mass of casting directors and agents are signed up e.g. sides delivered through the system, check-in at audition and etc…
Other factors at play
- Cost – profiles are currently free, and any media added during this initial period will remain attached to the CV in perpetuity. When charges do begin, basic profiles will remain free, with small monthly payments for access to paid jobs, and for adding additional video, audio or photo clips. As with CCP, payments can be suspended if you’re away on a job. Pricing has not been released, but for context the company says an average US user might spend between $120 and $200 per year, which equates to CCP or Spotlight fees.
- Breadth of casting opportunities – these are some of the casters currently signed up, so it’s clear that you aren’t yet going to be missing out on RSC castings if you don’t have a CNI profile. But with prominent film casting directors like Jeremy Zimmerman, the Hubbards, Sasha Robertson and Nina Gold signing up recently, the argument could easily become more compelling very quickly.
- CNI isn’t yet an unavoidable place to be, but given the undoubted quality of its software, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of gains it can make in the UK casting market
- In terms of an approach, CNI is more Spotlight than CCP – tools to facilitate casting professionals jobs, that also help the actor, rather than a more actor-centric suite of tools.
- For an actor, the sophistication of CNI’s online CVs and the quality of the tools offered, not to mention the fact that basic profiles are free, make signing up a low-risk, high-gain choice. If you’re going to be anywhere beyond CCP and Spotlight, this is probably the place.
Look out for my full feature on the online casting environment in a few weeks. Any comments about the experience of using the CNI software would be very welcome!