I’ll admit that title was pure click bait… because if you have been paying attention then you shouldn’t be surprised. I have spent the past year uncovering all best practices for the online casting sites and the conclusion? VIDEO is the number one thing that will get you in the audition room and it’s often missing from many actors online profiles. Do you have current video uploaded to every casting site? If not, they you are losing out. Video is the best way to set yourself apart, grab casting’s attention and show you’re serious about acting.
Several years ago video clips on the casting sites were a ‘nice to have’. Today, if you don’t have video, especially video that is current, on your profile it is definitely hurting you! Thankfully most of the casting sites have made it very easy to add your clips. There are apps and software you can get for free or on the cheap that make it easy to edit video and some TV shows have been filmed on camera phones! So, what I’m saying is there is really no excuse. You must add video to your casting sites. This relatively simple step will help you stand out from the growing pack of actors and on some sites, your submission will appear above all the actors who don’t include video.
In this article there are tips for getting started and I break down each casting site, what it’s known for and where you can add video and if it gives you an advantage (spoiler: it does!)
Tips for Video:
- All video should have excellent sound and be well lit or they won’t notice your acting.
- Be a brutal editor and cut the performance to feature you. 1 minute is a long time, shorter is better.
- Only post your best work. It’s better to have nothing than a poor sample of your talent.
- Recent work is a must. Always be updating your profile and removing old clips.
- If you are an expert at something, create 30 second videos to show you are excellent. Great examples are playing an instrument, a sport or showing a talent like juggling or beatboxing.
- Presenting your video in landscape/horizontal is still preferable on all the sites.
- Review the file size and length limitation for each site before you start uploading.
- Many casting sites have options for unlimited video, if you have one of these accounts it’s better to have 4 clips that are under 1 minute than one 4 minute demo reel.
- Beginning and End Slates are out. Some people put their name and contact info across the bottom of the whole scene but that is redundant because the submission site has all of your info and it may be distracting.
- Creating your own self-tape or demo reel footage is ok but it must have amazing production quality or they won’t notice your acting. Make sure the scene is NOT from currently casting project or something with an NDA. Something from a show that has already aired is best or write your own only if you’re a talented writer. Casting doesn’t mind if you’ve paid a demo reel company to shoot your scene, you just need to be undeniably good and the production value must be great.
In my opinion the most popular casting sites, in alphabetical order, are: Actors Access, Backstage, Casting Frontier and Casting Networks (aka LACasting, etc..). Some are more actor friendly or have better functionality or keep their sites up-to-date with current technology but if you don’t have the budget to subscribe to them all, then ask your agent/manager which one they use most to submit you, then invest there first. I’ve covered the primary sites used in Los Angeles but there may be others not listed here.
Here is a spreadsheet of sites that allow video uploaded to your acting profile:
Here are the benefits and breakdowns of the primary sites used in Hollywood. Prices are accurate as of January of 2020.
Actors Access www.actorsaccess.com
This site is primarily for theatrical jobs, anything on the stage and screen (both TV / Film) and it is common to see posts for student films as well as web based shows and occasionally voice over. They are also part of the same company that runs Breakdown Services, Ltd. which is widely recognized as the original casting resource. They provide the breakdowns (which is all the info about an acting job like the role, character description, storyline, union status, location, etc…) of almost all major projects directly to agents and managers who subscribe. Many breakdowns are also released to talent which enables us to submit ourselves. On this site there are three types of videos you can and should upload:
1) Slate Shot – up to 7 second video attached to a headshot. Long enough for you to introduce yourself in the style of that headshot. Make sure you are well lit and the sound is excellent. You do not need to be in the exact wardrobe or location that your headshot was taken in but a solid neutral colored wall is best. There is a $5 fee for each slate shot. *Submissions with a SlateShot appear above those without one.
2) Performance Clips – these clips don’t have a time limit but most casting folks do – usually people only watch the first 15-30 seconds so keep the clips under a minute. You can include multiple clips and essentially make a custom demo reel tailored to that audition. *Submissions with a video appear above those without one.
3) Skill Clips – on Actors Access they don’t allow you to connect the skill clip to the skill in your resume (other sites do) so it is uploaded in the same way with no time limit to the performance media section. If you have a talent this is a great way to show casting that you are actually an expert. Add your music performance, sport, funny pet trick or unusual talent here. *Submissions with a video appear above those without one.
4) Audio – There is a special category for audio only clips, great for your VO reel or samples.
Good News! There is a Free Basic Profile (resume, special skills, size card, talent rep info, two free headshots and 1 free slateshot). You can elect to receive role match alert but to submit you will pay a fee: $1 per page of sides; $2 per role; $3 to add video to that submission; and $3.50 for submitting each self-tape.
For $68/year, your Actors Access PLUS membership (formerly your “Showfax Subscription”) has all of the above but there is no extra charge to download sides for up to 24 projects per day; make unlimited Actors Access submissions; attach media to your submissions; and unlimited Eco Cast (self-tape) submissions. If you’re a member of SAG-AFTRA you can get 20% off the annual membership.
Additional Fees that apply to both: https://www.actorsaccess.com/register/benefits.cfm
- $10/additional photo
- $22/minute of video
- $11/minute of audio
- $5/additional SlateShot℠
*You can assign certain photos to different users so you can give your agent or manager certain images to pick from or add photos that you prefer to only your personal submission account.
Backstage – www.backstage.com
Since 1960 the printed version of this site was the way for talent to find acting and other industry work. My suspicion is that they were a little slow to move to the online model and may still be suffering for it. This website has 39 job categories in 9 areas with listings for all the main filming hubs but when I peruse the site I see primarily theatrical auditions many of which are student films, plays (especially in NYC) and also workshops or classes that you can attend for a fee. Occasionally equity plays or other highly desirable jobs are posted there including feature films or network shows so it’s worth keeping your eye on it. They boast the most acting jobs posted vs other services. The site also offers plenty of resource links and advice via the online Backstage magazine articles among other things. Membership includes unlimited video and audio uploads and casting can choose to only view submissions with media attached.
There is no free profile but if you subscribe for the full year you get the best price and occasionally they run sales for as low as $99/ year. The fee includes unlimited submissions, unlimited video uploads as long as they are under 10 minutes and 2 GB, unlimited photos, audio files and documents. Other services like the monologue finder, listing in the talent database and contact info for casting directors can also be useful.
*According to the users guide that Backstage provides to casting directors here http://faq.backstage.com/user-guide-casting-director the casting office can choose to filter people who have submitted with video attached.
Casting Frontier – https://castingfrontier.com/
This site is great for submitting to SAG-AFTRA and non-union commercial auditions, some student films. Occasionally there are voice over listings, films, music videos and reality TV. The site allows Casting Directors to search by an actors social media following across all platforms so be sure to link yours. Casting can request performance or skill videos from actors and they can use the results filter to specifically look at submissions with video but it doesn’t automatically put your submission above those without video. You can also add skill clips to show your ability in the resume section if you have a paid subscription. The casting folks can scroll through thumbnail actors and see who has added video or audio to their profile. In my opinion, this site has the best functional design on the actor facing side but I don’t know how easy it is for casting to use.
There are three levels of membership and one of them is free! A Basic profile allows you one headshot, and you can submit for free to non-paying jobs or pay $1.99 per submission for jobs that do pay. Your agent can use the basic profile to submit you to all jobs at no charge to the actor. If you want to add video or you plan to submit to more than eight paying jobs per month then you will want to upgrade to the Premium or Premium Plus.
Premium Plus $19/month (over 50% discounts available for paying annually)
- Unlimited headshots, video, skill & voice clips
- Unlimited headshot changes
- Unlimited role self-submissions
- You can feature one video and one voice reel and create an online resume
- Include a link to your own website
Premium $15/month (over 50% discounts available for paying annually)
- 5 headshots, 5 video, skill & voice clips
- Unlimited headshot changes
- Unlimited role self-submissions
- You can feature one voice reel and create an online resume
- Include a link to your own website
Casting Networks – https://talent.lacasting.com/
(AKA LA Casting, SF Casting or Casting Networks USA/UK/Canada/Australia)
Casting Networks was primarily serving up auditions for commercial acting jobs but then in November of 2017 casting for Fox TV and Film projects were moved from Actors Access (Breakdown Services, Ltd) to list exclusively on Casting Networks, they said because of the previous merger between CastIt and Casting Networks which gave it a cutting-edge solution for casting that focused on the actors needs. Things were rocky in the beginning but basically it means that you have to have an account on both Actors Access and Casting Networks if you want to see all of the theatrical listings and there are a ton of commercial listings here as well. Functionality on this site can be clunky and need frequent emails or phone calls to tech support. One cool thing is that you can add video clips directly to your skills in the online resume.
Premium Unlimited $25 registration fee plus $240 (if you pay annually will be $20/month) or a total of $288 for the year if you choose the monthly payment plan of $24. membership gets you unlimited media and submissions. However, unlimited actually means up to 50 headshots and some limits on video length/size but you really shouldn’t be putting up more than 50 headshots anyway! I’ve heard it is better to have 5 or less images unless they are really different – like if you have wigs or images without your mustache.
Basic Profile: $25 registration fee plus $204 a year (if you pay annually will be $17/month) gets you a basic profile, one “free” photo upload, one “free” video reel and unlimited updates to the resume and digital size card (fyi, all the sites allow this but only this site makes it seem like a bonus) additional photos and videos can be added for a fee. You can no longer submit yourself to projects with the Basic Profile, it is only for your representation to submit you if you don’t want to pay a monthly fee.
- Basic Profile – Changing/Adding Photos $25 to add a photo (if adding multiple during the same transaction it’s $25 for the first one and $15 for the others). For some reason this site doesn’t add the photos immediately and you may find calling customer support necessary for removing old photos, replacing and image with a retouched version or rearranging photos.
- Basic Profile – Changing/Adding Video Can only be done with the Premium Unlimited or by adding the $6/month media plan.
You can add either of the services bulleted below to the Basic Profile but it doesn’t make logical sense to do that because Premium Unlimited is only $3 more a month when you pay for the year up front so if you want these services it’s a better deal to pay for the whole year up front.
- $11/month Casting Billboard Unlimited which allows you to submit yourself on projects.
- $6/month for media hosting of any video or audio clips
The above list may not include all the casting sites and they may vary by your area. Here are a couple of other sites that I’m aware of:
IMDB PRO https://pro.imdb.com/ This site has casting notices that you can only apply to if you have the IMDB Pro level membership. Many are TV and Film jobs. It also allows you to update your profile info but it’s a little different than the other sites because you have to submit the changes and they must be approved and you have less control on how information appears on the page. Projects you work on must be posted by the production.
NY Castings https://www.nycastings.com/ This site actually has casting notices for all of the US but tends to specialize in East coast.
Playbill Jobs http://www.playbill.com/job/listing This site is for all types of theatre jobs. They don’t require a membership fee or have any kind of actor profile. It’s a job listing site with contact info.
Mandy https://www.mandy.com/ This is a site that has many types of job postings above and below the line. You can create an actor profile for free and there is a premium service but, at least in LA there were not many jobs listed for actors.
Now Casting https://www.nowcasting.com/ This was one of the first online casting sites but as far as I now, it isn’t one of the primary sites being used by casting in Hollywood at this time.