Oct 16

Casting Director Survey 2014 Pt 2: Is Video King?

Is video the future in casting? After my recent The Stage piece, here I take apart the Casting Directors Guild survey stats, to explore how video, showreels and headshots fit in, in 2014 and beyond.

Survey of CDG Casting Directors ©Michael Wharley 2014 (graphic courtesy of The Stage)

Survey of CDG Casting Directors ©Michael Wharley 2014 (graphic courtesy of The Stage)

Recently, my The Stage Insight feature explored the changing the way actors are presenting themselves and being assessed online, prior to audition and during the casting process.

By comparing and contrasting the results of two surveys of Casting Directors Guild (CDG) members I ran – the first in July 2010, the second in July 2014 – and with the help of some stats from Casting Call Pro (CCP), I discovered some fascinating things about how casting professionals are using and consuming actors self-promotional tools.

If you’re interested, you can read the entirety of part 1, dealing with headshotshere.

In part 2, I’m looking at the evolving casting environment and how casting professionals are using showreels, voicereels and auditions on tape.

The Showreel Show

The full article is below, but if you’re pressed for time, here are the main takeaways, with some reflections on making the most of these trends:

Survey of CDG Casting Directors ©Michael Wharley 2014 (graphic courtesy of The Stage)

Survey of CDG Casting Directors ©Michael Wharley 2014 (graphic courtesy of The Stage)

  • Vital Video: 70% of casting professionals use video or audio footage heavily when selecting audition candidates, so such footage is an increasingly essential part of of an actor’s promotional armoury, yet still only around 30% of CCP actors have it. It might seem obvious, but you’re at a definite advantage if you can be seen or heard.
  • Will video KILL the headshot? It seems not. 100% of casting professionals said they think the headshot will remain important to the future of casting – but clearly all available resources are being used in a more balanced way than in the past. (See the full piece below for a detailed analysis of how and why)

Survey of CDG Casting Directors ©Michael Wharley 2014 (graphic courtesy of The Stage)

  • SHOWREEL RESURGENCE. Four years ago, it seemed like separate clips of scenes might take over from showreels as the way casting directors preferred to consume pre-audition video, but the survey suggests the showreel is enjoying a resurgence, especially when it is punchy, well-edited and short. Beware excess length though: average showreel length on CCP = 3 minutes+, Average time Casting Director or Employer spends watching a showreel = 1 minute. (See the full piece below for a detailed analysis of how and why)

The Full Article: part deux

Hope that’s an interesting dive into the survey results and article; you can read part 2 of the full piece below, and find part 1, dealing with headshotshere..

16/10/2014 MW

Still in the Picture? (from the Stage , Thurs 18th Sept 2014)

©Michael Wharley 2014

The headshot has been a fulcrum of the casting process for nearly 100 years, but for how much longer? In a new survey of casting directors, photographer Michael Wharley explores how online casting tools are changing the way actors are assessed, and asks if the Youtube era spells an end for still imagery in casting.

Part 2….

Back in 2010, when asked to select the most important resource for assessing an actor online, 9% of casting directors specified headshots, 28% said credits, and 21% showreels, with 41% suggesting they used all available resources as a fluid package.

For this survey, they ranked the same resources in order of importance to pre-audition casting decisions. Credits remain the single most important element, with 83% ranking them 1st or 2nd most important.

But mining into that data a little further, 71% ranked headshots 1st or 2nd most important, with 40% ranking showreels that way.

michael-wharley-ccp-headshot-banner-dec-2013On this basis, the headshot doesn’t seem to be losing relevance as compared to other forms of content, but clearly video/audio resources are an increasingly vital component of an actor’s promotional arsenal.

In 2010, 70% of casting directors said they regularly used video to assess actors, but only 29% of actors had uploaded such material to Spotlight, and 10% on CCP.

Today that casting director figure remains at 70% across the span of theatre, film, TV, musical and commercials casting, but over 31% of CCP users now have video content on their profiles, and with the launch of Spotlight’s free media-upload tool in 2013, its figure has undoubtedly grown as well.

It’s an improvement, but the figure still indicates a clear mismatch between the appetite for, and supply of, video / audio content. Actors obviously need to do more to promote themselves in this way, and those who possess such materials will be at some advantage in an average casting process.

But it’s not simply a case of ‘any video content will do’: the survey also revealed a shift in tastes. In 2014, 58% of casting professionals stated a preference for watching a complete showreel package, over just 28% in 2010, suggesting it is enjoying something of a resurgence in the face of short, separate clips of screen or audio work.

Consumption of short video clips may be a feature of the broader online world, but the value of a well-edited, punchy showcase is clearly growing in online casting, and the lengthy analogue-era showreel with its much-derided montages and musical intros, is successfully evolving to fill the need.

Even so, the average showreel lasts around 230 seconds on CCP, but online attention spans mean the average watch time by employer or casting director is only 62 seconds. In other words, there may be an appetite for still shorter, pithier edits focused on the meat of contrasting scenes to highlight a performer’s range.

That’s in contrast to the more granular way voice reels are obviously being used; standalone clips to demonstrate either different accent (e.g. RP/Regional) or character (e.g., adult / child) ranges. The average CCP user with audio promotional materials showcases 3 clips on their online CV.

Finally, in an industry slow to absorb change, it is hard to assess the extent to which technology is fundamentally changing, rather than simply streamlining, the casting process in 2014.

With established software providers focused on refining and maintaining their services in the last four years, it’s been left to new entrants to innovate.

Recently-launched services like The Stage Castings, Casting Networks, and Zappshot, have all aimed to connect casting with the high-quality, audio/video recording tools now routinely carried around in tablet, phone and laptop form, to make auditions on tape, or on the hoof, far easier. In turn, that’s prompted CCP to play catch up and launch its integrated ‘Self-Tape’ submission functionality, as recently as this month.

Are such tools simply providing a different means of consuming audition tapes for the TV, advert and film casters who have been using them for years, or actually changing approaches?

In the 2014 survey, around 44% of casting professionals reported conducting a part of their audition process on tape or by video submission ‘all the time’ or ‘often’, against 66% ‘occasionally’ or ‘never’. Interestingly, both those figures reflected the experience of casters working in theatre, film, musicals, commercials and TV.

So, though in-person auditions are unlikely to vanish, increasing economic and time pressures on casting, combined with ongoing evolution in casting technology and the tastes of those who use it, means video looks likely to become increasingly important. Certainly, it will be fascinating to ask these questions again in another four years and find out.

You can find Part 1, dealing with headshotshere...

2 pings

  1. Do You Need 3D? Headshots spun the CCP way. » WharleyWords

    […] and/or video will likely play a still-greater part in the casting of the future. That’s certainly what we found in the same survey last year (click for full […]

  2. Do You Need 3D? Headshots in a CCP spin, but are we moved & who’s benefiting most? » WharleyWords

    […] and/or video will likely play a still-greater part in the casting of the future. That’s certainly what we found in the same survey last year (click for full […]

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