Saying Representation Matters is Not Enough - How Casting Depot Can Play a Part in Changing Hollywood’s System


Lacey Kaelani

Lacey Kaelani

·7 min read

What I love most about working in casting is that I'm always challenged with finding a great story. It's my job to place individuals on camera that represent every type of viewer there is, no matter how difficult it is to cast that individual. Why? Because representation matters in entertainment and media. Period.

Historically there's been a handful of things wrong in the casting process, however more specifically in the workflow process itself. When talent is decentralized, access to gigs is limited, and there are high barriers to entry - it makes finding the story difficult. I wrote a little bit about the workflow process here so that I could better emulate the day-to-day inefficiencies that make casting the bottleneck in our industry. In that same article, I also wrote about the massive pivot we saw about 6–8 years ago when the wave of all things digital pushed the possibility and availability of different types of distribution channels on to the market. When there's more to create, there's more to cast, and therefore a shorter turn-around time to find authentic, genuine, human stories. Casting directors are now finding it harder and harder to focus on quality and instead are being forced to focus on quantity.

As the industry evolves as a result of the challenge outlined above, we're seeing more and more avenues to highlight diversity across a variety of channels. So - why am I writing about this? I recently read a report put out by McKinsey that showed "[diversity] inequity persists and is deeply entrenched across the film and TV ecosystem". It went on to highlight underrepresented talent across the industry, particularly on and off-screen. Research on positions of creative control revealed that less than 6% of the writers, directors, and producers of US-produced films, are African American. And to top it off, only 11% of talent cast for leading film roles are African American (which are often funneled to race-related projects, which typically receive lower investment in both production and promotion). As a first-generation American from a culture that's never represented on television (I'm not African American, I'm Surinamese), reading this article made me both upset and motivated. Upset - because these are the facts in underrepresented minorities, and motivated because my team and I are in the unique position to make a special change in the industry. 

At Casting Depot, we recognize that breaking into the industry is hard - regardless of who you are. Finding auditions, getting in front of casting directors, and lastly, telling your story - it's all a daunting monster in your closet waiting to be faced. Booking that dream gig, historically, could take years of work without pay (or insufficient pay), a ton of "no's", and constant frustration. The phrase "it's all about who you know" couldn't be more archaic.

When we set out to build Casting Depot, it was (and still is) our goal to democratize access to every type of on-camera gig, both union and non-union. We're free, which removes the barrier to entry. We're a network, which challenges the idea of the traditional job board in the industry. And lastly - we've built tools that allow you to represent who you are in every facet of your life, allowing for more representation in the talent-booking process. Why has it taken so long for the casting industry to create a tool that celebrate and highlights diversity? Who knows. But I promise we're building as fast, and accurately, as we can.

The McKinsey's report called out "Without a formal search or recruitment process or an established protocol for hiring, industry access can come down to who you know." We're looking to formalize just this - for the casting industry - via our network, so that casting is no longer just about "who you know" and more of a "because you put yourself out there".

As McKinsey proposes solutions to combat the racial complexities and challenges of the film and TV industry through its interviewing on-screen talent, off-screen writers, producers, directors, executives, agents, and crew members, we hope that our users who work at studios and networks make progress towards creating an impact as well. As more industry leaders begin to focus on increasing representation in important decision-making positions (e.g. - casting directors), our goal is that Casting Depot plays a part in promoting diversity equity within each production's talent selection.

Our dream is to continue seeing studios put into place initiatives that "include dedicated training and sponsorship programs (including networking opportunities) for diverse creators, as well as a certain number or share of pitch slots regularly reserved for underrepresented talent" as we build a similar concept of accountability and transparency into our platform.

To learn more about our site and the network we're building, click here.

-Lacey, Co-Founder @ Casting Depot 🚀