A guide to casting websites: Spend your money wisely! – Guy Wah

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Guy Wah
Take a look through the profiles of people already on the site. If they don’t have professional-looking headshots, it’s often an indicator that there is no quality-control on the site.

It seems that every day, a new casting website is launched, each time claiming to be the best. As a newbie in the acting world, it’s often difficult sorting the wheat from the chaff. Never fear! For I have produced this guide to the most commonly discussed casting websites, so that you can decide where best to spend your hard-earned cash. I’ll tell you about my personal experiences, and those of others.

Information correct as of 13 March 2017.

Return on investment (ROI)

First things first. If you’re going to make a go of this being an actor thing, you need to start looking at ROI – return on investment. Simply put – if you pay £150 to be on a casting website, you need to be confident that you’re going to get more than £150 worth of work from it in order to make it pay. If you don’t, you’re arguably not running a viable business. Don’t forget – you ARE your business.

Disclaimer: Tiers are my opinion based on my experiences and those of colleagues I have spoken to, and are subjective in themselves.

Top tier – Spotlight

Funnily enough, this is the site that breaks the ROI rule. Being on Spotlight is important to be taken seriously as an actor. A high level agent once told me that no credible agent will take you on if you are not in Spotlight. While it is true that there are exceptions to this rule, they are usually actors with an established track record and/or they have something unique that makes them castable for very specific roles.

Spotlight itself is broken down into several tiers. As an actor you will only be able to apply to a small number of castings. Others are only available to be viewed by selected agents. The casting director that posts the breakdown can decide which agents they wish to have access to the casting. Therefore the theory is: better agent, more chance of being cast.

Eligibility criteria: From Spotlight.com: “Spotlight membership is only available to professionally trained and / or experienced performers.” Upon application you will be asked Have you trained full-time at a Drama UK school (formerly CDS School / on an NCDT accredited course), or completed a full-time BA/MA Performance Degree? and Do you have experience of paid, professional acting work? (speaking parts). They add the note: as a professional casting database our entry criteria do not include work in Short Films, Commercials, Idents, Corporates, as an Extra / Supporting Artist / Walk-on, or Promotional work.

Cost: £150 per year if paid by Direct Debit. £155 if paid by card, cheque, or other method.

Website: www.spotlight.com

Second tier – Casting Call Pro

I used Casting Call Pro to get my foot in the door before I had enough credits for Spotlight. They claim to be for professional actors only, but I was not asked for any proof of this when I first signed up. That was back in 2013, so it may have changed since then.

I have also used CCP as a director looking to cast productions. I have to say I’ve always found the responses underwhelming, with lots of ill-considered applications, actors who are clearly not professionally-trained or experienced, and even more bizarrely, applications from other continents for a profit-share role with no expenses!

CCP are also part of the Blue Compass group, who run a number of other talent-finding websites.

Eligibility criteria: Claims to be for professional actors, but asked for no evidence when I signed up in 2013. If anyone wants to contact me with a more recent update, I will update this section.

Cost: Free to sign up and create a profile. £156 yearly to view and apply for castings. Monthly payments also available at a significantly higher rate.

Website: www.castingcallpro.com/uk

Second tier – Casting Networks

I signed up for Casting Networks (or CNI as it is colloquially known) when it first came on to the scene in Britain – I have heard it suggested that this is the equivalent to Spotlight in America. Word from within the industry was that it did things for casting directors that Spotlight and CCP weren’t able to offer. I haven’t seen any evidence that that has transferred into casting directors using CNI ahead of other casting sites. I still receive emails that match my casting profile and I’ve not seen anything on there that I haven’t also seen on CCP or StarNow, which makes me feel that it is not worth my money. I know others who feel differently, however, though I have yet to hear of anybody securing work through it. Many people get free membership through their agent.

Eligibility criteria: None that I can see.

Cost: £10 to sign up, including one photo. £5 per month for up to 50 photos and unlimited audio and video clips (max four mins each). Free if you have an agent with an agency code.

Website: http://home.castingnetworks.co.uk

Third tier – StarNow

StarNow is often the source of debate within acting circles. At less than £20 for six months, I’ve decided to give it a go again, as it will only take one job to pay for itself. I was recently approached on StarNow by a production company offering me a role in a dramatic reconstruction for just £40, which I politely declined. It is my experience, and the experience of others, that producers will use StarNow to approach people they feel may be interested in being famous, and offer them reduced payment in the expectation that they’ll be happy to get their face seen. Because the site has no eligibility criteria, it’s easy to see why this would be the case. I have also previously been offered a Channel 4 dating reality programme, and a chance to be on Come Dine With Me.

StarNow have also recently decided to accept listings for paid work that is not linked to acting, but may be of interest to actors. This makes searching through listings a bit of a chore if you’re not interested, but again, I know people who will swear by the amount of paid acting work they get through the site. There is also a lot of unpaid work listed, but you have the option to filter this out. A personal bugbear of mine is that you have to pay for full membership to see the unpaid listings, alongside the paid ones.

Eligibility criteria: Do you have a pulse? Can you pay? You’re in.

Cost: Free to join, though you can’t apply for anything until you become a full member. I can’t find the prices on the site, but I think I paid around £20 for a six month membership. You can also buy “credits” that allow you to bump your application to the top of the casting director’s listings. Personally I doubt the value in this, but it’s an option if you wanted to try it.

Website: www.starnow.co.uk

The others

Auditionist is free and has a trickle of paid work on it. I’ve not been successful in obtaining any yet, but I know others who have.

I have never used Media Volt, but it claims to only list paid roles, so might be worth investigating.

Lots of people like Dramanic, and you can sign up for a two-week trial. It contains a database of theatre companies, agents and casting directors, so is helpful if you’re planning to write to industry. It should be noted that Spotlight members can currently view the online version of Contacts for free, which is potentially more comprehensive, though I haven’t seen Dramanic so couldn’t be sure.

Guy Wah selfie
If the profile pictures on a website include selfies like this, it’s a good indication that the site has no quality-control.

Sites to avoid

As a rule, avoid anything with the terms “Fame”, “Star”, “Famous” or “Talent” in the title. They are usually sites aimed at people who want to be famous, rather than serious castings sites. Many of them don’t contain any castings that you can’t find outside of the above sites, and some contain fraudulent, and even dangerous castings. At least one site fitting this criteria has lifted castings directly from BrightonActors.co.uk without permission from either ZLS Creative or the casting company.

If you add yourself to any of these sites and then find yourself receiving text messages offering you apparently well-paid jobs and opportunities to join agencies, take them with a pinch of salt. It’s unlikely that any reputable company would contact you that way.

Unsure?

If you’re unsure about a site, a good way to find out about them is to ask in national Facebook groups such as the British Actors Network and Actors UK (but use the search function in those groups before asking, as it’s probably been discussed before!). Certainly do not hand over any money until you’re confident you’ll be able to obtain some return on investment.

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