You’ve written the script, you’ve got the perfect crew assembled, and you’re ready to film your next project. There’s just one problem – you don’t have any actors!
When casting actors for your next production, you might be a bit intimidated by the process – especially if this next production is your first.
While you can get lucky and have friends with good acting skills that none of you knew about, casting your non-actor friends is rarely a good idea.
In this article, you can see some great resources on finding actors for your next feature or short for free.
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1. Backstage. – Best Overall Place to Find Actors for Free.
Backstage is probably the biggest free-casting website available, and it’s also one of the most well-known. Backstage has a roster of over 250,000 actors from all over the United States, union or not, all available and ready to answer the call of your next casting call.
Backstage lets you sort actors by age, gender (with special options for finding transgender talent!), location, and SAG affiliation. You can even search for particular demographics to match all your roles.
Another cool thing is that you can see what assets – like headshots and demo reels – they have available from the search screen.
If you’re less particular about the look and age of your characters, you can also post open casting calls that go out to all 250,000 actors at one time!
This is a good way to expand the scope of your project and keep an open mind. You never know – the perfect actor might be someone you would have never expected.
Backstage also has a solid blog with interesting advice on casting from creators and casting director professionals who have worked on huge productions, which you can check out here.
2. Breakdown Express. – Best for ease of use.
Breakdown Express is another great resource that many of my actor friends are familiar with, making it a go-to resource for casting your next film.
Because it’s such a simple platform, I decided to rank this as #2 and best for ease of use.
Essentially, all it takes is to sign up with an account, post as a guest, and fill out the form with your project’s information. This is known as a project breakdown.
Breakdowns include everything from the project name and type to the audition, callback, and shooting dates. You should also have the pay rate and additional details regarding the specific roles.
These breakdowns are then posted to the actor-facing platform called Actor’s Access, where the actors (or their reps) can submit themselves for projects using their Actor’s Access profile, which has their reels, headshots, and résumés attached.
3. iActor. Best for working with SAG talent.
Let’s say you are mounting a higher-end production and have budgeted for working with SAG actors. SAG, for those who don’t know, is the acronym for the Screen Actors Guild of America.
The first two websites mentioned above are great for working with both SAG and non-SAG actors, but iActor is particularly useful for casting through SAG directly.
There are around 160,000 actors who are in SAG and use iActor, and the platform lets you search the entire SAG database of registered actors to review headshots, résumés, and reels.
If you don’t know, for SAG-qualified actors to act in your production, you need to get the appropriate signatory approval and pay SAG minimum rates (or higher) for the talent you cast.
For more on how to do that, check out this helpful blog post from the integrated production platform Castifi, all about becoming a SAG signatory. Alternatively, go directly to SAG and fill out the Preliminary information forms they provide here.
4. Mandy. Best Non-Industry Resource.
Mandy is another good casting resource. Mandy is a multifaceted online resource for casting your production – especially if you have specific needs in a certain niche.
Let’s say you are looking for child actors, voice-over talent, or singer-dancer multi-purpose entertainers.
Mandy lets you search for that specific niche of actors.
Then, once you’ve cast your production, you can even use Mandy to find crew members to work on your set by posting a job listing.
For example, you can search specifically for film and TV crew, theatre, music, promo, or fashion professionals available in your area. This is what it looks like when you post a listing:
5. NYCCasting. Best place to find actors in New York City.
NYCCasting is a talent casting website specific to New York, which makes it a bit of a niche for this list.
However, NYCCasting allows you to expand your search beyond the Big Apple – you can still post job listings from other major cities, be it Atlanta and Los Angeles or cities with smaller production hubs like San Francisco, Las Vegas, or wherever you live!
NYCCasting makes it easy to post job listings on their website by either filling out one of their forms or emailing your casting notice directly to their open submissions email.
You can even call them, and they should be able to help create the casting notice for you.
They will review your posting internally and share it on their website when you submit it. You can pick which type of call you want, whether it’s a photo submission, self-tape reading, or open casting call.
You can also request to cast exclusively new, undiscovered actors, real people, and industry experts for a documentary or commercial project.
6. Facebook, Upwork, Craigslist, or similar site. Best in a Pinch.
Last on the list, but one of the first places you can try: post a casting notice on a place like Facebook, Upwork, Craigslist, or similar social networking site where you can post and solicit freelance work.
When you’re first starting, it is a good idea to reach out to your extended network via a more traditional social networking site like Facebook or Craigslist, especially if you are looking for commercial actors in a city outside of Los Angeles or New York.
Here’s how to use each:
On Facebook, you can try posting your casting notice on the “Jobs” section of the site or find a community page for acting talent local to your area. Searching in Groups / Page for “actors of [city]” is a good place to start.
Craigslist is another good resource for posting casting calls, particularly by utilizing the “communities” category to post your casting call on something like the “artists” community page. You can also use the Creative Services tab or post directly on the TV/film/video Jobs page.
Upwork is another freelance job posting site where you can solicit specific work. As far as I’ve seen, it’s not often used for acting, but you can easily post your casting notice on Upwork to get your job in front of plenty of freelancers, many of whom may very well be actors.
7. Offline Places For Finding Actors.
There are a few resources you can use that aren’t online. Here they are:
Try a local community theater.
Most towns worldwide have a local theater that attracts local actors to the community, both professionals and hobbyists. Reach out to the theater director or whoever runs the theater’s public relations and ask for a list of talent or the opportunity to post a casting notice on their social media channel.
Try a local university/community college theater program.
Another solid option for finding local talent is contacting local universities or community colleges with theater programs and posting casting notices on their local job boards or social media channels. Because these are actors in training, the chance to work with you, a professional filmmaker, will be just as exciting an opportunity for them as it is for you.
Try taking an acting class yourself.
Try taking an acting class! One of the best ways to meet actors is to try acting yourself. You might discover a fun hobby, learn that you are interested in learning the craft, or, at the very least, meet people and make friends with actors who would be perfect in your next film.
Create a network of actor friends.
We often think of social networks as only helpful in sharing our thoughts and opinions on anything and everything.
However, activating and using your social network is a great way to cast talent for your new production.
Reach out to other friends who are filmmakers or actors and find out who they know.
Regardless of the above resources you use, remember that finding and casting the perfect actor for your next project isn’t just about someone with the best looks or the most talent.
It’s about finding the right person to work with on the right project, and that means getting to know the actors and forming a solid working relationship before ever stepping foot on set.
A quick note on casting actors
Actors are people, not just movie props. Whether you are casting entirely online or in person, remember always to introduce yourself and make the actors feel comfortable.
And remember always to be kind. Even though this person might not be the right fit for your current project, they may be perfect for the next one.
This is where the old-school version of networking and befriending actors comes into play. The more actors you befriend and stay in contact with, the easier it will be to cast your next project.
All of my friends who are directors have their go-to actor friends they love to work with. Think about all the famous directors who gravitate towards working with the same people!
This industry has been known to chew people up and spit them out, and the life of an actor and the craft of acting can be tedious, tumultuous, and taxing for that exact reason.
No matter what industry you are in or what production you are casting, treat your fellow creatives as equals, both artists and human beings.
That way, you’ll be well on your way to building a supportive network excited to work with you and help your work shine just as bright as theirs.