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Jan 18

21st Century Casting: 15 minutes with…Casting Networks UK

Assessing the casting landscape in 2013 and beyond, in a series of interviews with the leading casting breakdown services.

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After newbie The Page (read here), distinguished elder Spotlight (read here), the actor-centric Casting Call Pro (read here) and would-be-actor/model/extra haven StarNow (read here), this week it is the turn of Casting Networks (CNI).

CNI only arrived onto the UK castings technology market 18 months ago, but with a well-established operation in the US, not to mention offices across multiple jurisdictions worldwide, it has the zeal of a start-up, combined with the resources of mature company.

Not to mention its software. I’d say that CNI’s web-based casting software offers probably the most unique approach of any of the providers covered in these interviews.

Yes, tools for actors to rival those of other sites, but it really stands out with its tools to facilitate and streamline a casting director’s working life at every stage of the casting process. The sophistication and breadth of the software is certainly a challenge to other companies – and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond in the next year or so.

And what are the conclusions of all these interviews? Well: check back in a week or two for my round-up of key trends, and new developments to watch out for in 2013.

Over to you Mariel…

[important]

Mariel Witmond of CNI

Mariel Witmond of CNI

Name: Mariel Witmond, VP Global Business Development

Casting Service: Casting Networks UK, castingnetworks.co.uk

Cost: If represented, free sign up, if non-represented£10 sign up to basic profile, casting resources and industry tools. Monthly fees for enhanced media/image hosting, with discounts for  longer-term sign-ups. Access to full casting information currently free, but may be charged for in  the future. Full details.

Bio:  Born in Puerto Rico, to an English father and Mexican mother, I was an agent on the modelling side of things before I met CNI founder Beau Bonneau and began to work with him. Since then I’ve been involved in various aspects of the company, including our work in India and the UK.

Service bio:

Started in San Francisco by casting director Beau Bonneau: he wanted to reduce the endless quantity of paperwork and phone calls required to cast a project and created a system to put the entire casting project online.

It began on the West Coast and expanded across all States, then into Mexico, India, Australia, and the UK, where we’ve been operating for around 1.5 years.

At the moment we are a UK-specific casting service and it’s the same for our offices overseas. But as the company continues to expand, long term goal is to be a global casting platform.

How many actor members in 2012? In the UK we have 20,00 profiles on Casting Networks, including actors, models, dancers and performers. Globally, it’s more like 500,000.

Are most of your members on other casting sites too? Most do: in the UK many are Spotlight and Casting Call Pro members. In my personal experience, competition in the market helps keeps prices affordable and delivers the best user experience possible, where monopolies can result in stagnation.  [/important]

Mariel, what’s going on today?

It’s been an incredibly busy week, and today’s a standard day: some of us are working with casting directors using the online schedulers.

Others are working at casting studios helping with the audition tape uploading software. And of course, we’re working with actors and agents helping them make the most of our software.

What unique advantage does CNI offer actors?

Casting Networks

Casting Networks

CNI is the only system in the UK that really covers the entire casting process for casting directors, so an actor’s Casting Networks profile (and media) follows the life of each project from time a casting director receives it, to the time it is attached to the live audition and is made available to director and producer working on the job.

Why does that matter? Well, casting people become familiar with the actors in a marketplace and get used to seeing them submitted, but it is worth remembering that directors and producers are much less familiar. The effect of the profile reaching them can be much greater: you’re putting photos, videos, voice clips and your CV right under their nose.

Plus Casting Networks offers actors the ability to manage multiple profiles and share media and across profiles. For example, you could manage actor, model and voiceover profiles using the same media uploads across all of them.

And our pricing structure allows you to put your account on hold and reactivate it whenever you want. So the control is in an actor’s hands.

We do sympathise with actors, there are so many casting sites so our prices are competitively low, and it’s in an actor’s hands what they opt to pay for. The structure is commitment-free and flexible, with substantial discounts (up to two month’s free) for paying for periods of membership upfront. And if you do choose out unlimited media upload, they really are unlimited: you can attach videos, clips and voicereels to every one of your credits and skills.

Finally, for self-represented actors, we offer the ability to be listed for free on Talent Scout, to optimize the chances of securing representation.

What’s unique about it for agents and casting directors?

360 degree management of the entire casting process, with tools to streamline and facilitate every stage. It really is an incredible piece of software.

The Scheduler is an amazingly flexible tool that takes an awful lot of the paperwork and phone calls out of the casting process tool: just to give one example, you can set a timeframe of two hours, drag and drop all your selected actors for the auditions into the time slot and the system sends out emails and sides to all the agents automatically. Then rearrangements and confirmations can happen within the system too.

In turn, that links seamlessly with the uploading software the means audition videos are attached to an actor’s profile for the client to view – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg – we could talk abut it all day.

Plus: this is not a system just for actors, so we have models, dancers and performers. Casting directors work on a variety of projects and so their needs vary; we aim to provide one place where all those needs are met.

Tell me the number one way actors could use your site more effectively.

More obviously: make sure that you fill the profile out completely, everything from sizes to skills to accents to experience: make sure that the profile is showing you off to your best advantage. Everything counts. Our members have an incredible list of skills. Those skills could book you a job, so make sure they are listed.

Use the multiple profile tools to link and share media across several different profiles.

Media! I realise there’s a cost attached but I’d encourage people to take full advantage: highlight experience and skills with video, stills and audio clips so that casting professionals, directors and producers can see you at work.

How will the casting environment and process change in the next five years?

MICHAEL-WHARLEY-HEADSHOT-PHOTOGRAPHY It’s interesting to watch each market that we’re involved in change. You see the same transition everywhere and it is what is happening here: from books to online, in photos from B&W to colour. Today you click a profile and someone is there talking, moving, acting, on screen immediately.

We see that change and our owner is very forward thinking, so we’re not stuck in the moment, we’re always looking ahead.

Personally, I see casting becoming a more global environment, with online tools in the industry being able to release and find talent all over the world. I think the appetite for systems that handle things in a faster, more efficient way will grow too.

Is social media integral to the future of casting, or just a marketing tool?

It’s an integral part of any business and industry these days: casting directors might share roles and projects on social media, and it’s a great tool within the industry to network.

So yes, it continues to play a growing role, but I think it’s quite a different communication tool: for marketing and outreach, and as way to get feedback and stay in the loop it is incredible.

What a service like CNI provides is tools to manage and streamline a process, and I don’t see the need for that disappearing.

What new developments can actors expect from CNI in the next year?

Well: we have one of the largest software releases the company has ever undertaken: an entire new talent experience launching early in 2013, with a much more user-friendly interface and design.

It’s going to be sleeker, prettier and more intuitive, plus a big feature in the UK is it will give us complete capability to customise the system for the British terminology and processes.

We never forget that talent experience is the foundation of our system, so we’ll carry on doing everything we can to reflect the actor experience.

————————————————————————————————————————————————– Thanks to Mariel  for sharing her time.

And what are the conclusions of all these interviews?

Well: check back in a week or two for my round-up of key trends, and new developments to watch out for in 2013.

If you missed previous interviews you can read my chat with The Page at the link here, catch up with the Spotlight chat here, peruse the Casting Call Pro interview here, or check out StarNow just here.

18/01/2013  MW

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