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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 it comes to casting actors for your next production, you might be a bit intimidated by the process – especially if this next production is your first production.
You may not know where to meet new actors, or you might not even know any actors in the first place.
Maybe you usually cast your friends who aren’t even actors, but who looks good on camera making serious faces.
While you can get lucky, and have friends with good acting skills none of you knew about, casting your non-actor friends is rarely a good idea.
So where can you find actors for your next feature or short film? And how do you find actors for free?
Casting actors for your next film is actually quite easy. Some of the best free resources you can use are online websites like Backstage, Breakdown Express, iActor, Mandy, and NYCCasting (which isn’t just limited to casting in New York).
You can also make use of freelancers on Facebook, Craiglist, and Upwork to find talent in your area, or look to your nearby community theaters and universities to find local talent.
Of course, you can always take an acting class to meet actors naturally, or reach out to fellow friends and filmmakers to find quality actors in your immediate circle.
Let’s dive into these resources more below so you can learn more about the pros and cons of each.
1. Backstage. – Best Overall Place to find Actors for Free.
Backstage is probably the biggest free casting website available, and it’s one of the most well known as well. 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 as well.
If you’re less particular about look and age for 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 a lot 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 also 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 include the rate of pay and any 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, in order 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 SAG signatory, or 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 very multifaceted online resource for casting your production – especially if you have specific needs in a certain niche.
Let’s say for example you are looking for child actors, voice-over talent, or singer-dancer multi-purpose entertainers in particular.
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 that are 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.
When you submit, they will review your posting internally and then share it on their website. You can pick which type of call you want, whether its a photo submission, self-tape reading, or open casting call.
You can also request to cast exclusively new undiscovered actors, or 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.
It is a good idea when you’re first starting out, to reach out to your extended network first 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 utilize 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. It’s not often used for acting, at least as far as I’ve seen, 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 around the world 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 reaching out to local universities or community colleges that have 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 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 actually 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 useful for sharing our thoughts and opinions on anything and everything.
But 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.
No matter which of the above resources you use, remember that finding and casting the perfect actor for your next project isn’t just about someone who has 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.
Remember to be kind
At the end of the day, actors are people, not just movie props. Whether you are casting entirely online, or in person, remember to always introduce yourself and make the actors feel comfortable.
And remember to always be kind. Even though this person might not be the right fit for your current project, maybe they’ll 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. Plus, 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 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 as artists and as human beings.
That way you’ll be well on your way to building a supportive network that’s excited to work with you and help your work shine just as bright as theirs.
Grant Harvey is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker based out of Los Angeles. When he’s not working on his own feature-length screenplays and television pilots, Grant uses his passion and experience in film and videography to help others learn the tools, strategies, and equipment needed to create high-quality videos as a filmmaker of any skill level.