Why the Casting Industry Needs A Tech Makeover


Lacey Kaelani

Lacey Kaelani

·5 min read

If you don't know what casting is, chances are you don't work in the entertainment industry. If that sounds like you, I can explain the field in the most simplistic terms - HR recruiting for on-camera placements.

Every time you consume a type of media — whether it be television, news, articles, film, or a Broadway show — there was a process in which someone was placed there.

That process is completely broken.

Often times when you think of a Casting Director you think of old Hollywood — glitz, glamour, and a bit of drama. Well, that was decades ago and the industry doesn't quite shine like that anymore. The casting industry saw a massive pivot about 6–8 years ago when consuming content on channels like YouTube or streamers like Netflix became the new craze. No longer was it about finding the next "star" but instead filling more urgent roles on a much quicker time crunch. While networks increased their original content budgets, they didn't necessarily increase their casting budgets ($900B TAM versus a $5B SOM). Think about it — the 2020 version of Pacino or Hepburn doesn't exist… for a reason.

Fast-forward to today, networks and streamers are creating content on such a higher (and premium) scale that Casting Directors (like myself) are finding it harder and harder to focus on quality and instead focus on quantity. In 2020 alone, the market is expected to grow at 4.3% with nearly infinite on-camera placements per year. How are we supposed to keep up with that given that there's only ~3,500 companies that book talent in the U.S.?

Imagine a workflow process using a system with a craigslist-style interface, turnaround time, and user reliability to fill an urgent staffing need. That's the current status of the pre-production casting workflow. That sounds awful, doesn't it?

So — why hasn't anyone stepped up to disrupt the current status quo? Who knows. But when my business partner and I decided to challenge it, we knew that if we didn't there'd never be a change in our day-to-day workflow. If HR professionals could create LinkedIn and Indeed for staffing, why couldn't we create the equivalence for the entertainment industry? Imagine how incredibly efficient our workdays could be if we could cast more content from one single database? At the time, as a small casting company, we needed a way to work on more projects with a limited budget. We craved efficiency.

The question we had to ask ourselves was _'what would efficiency look like in our industry?' _Well… what does 2020 look like? We concluded that the same differences that staffing networks made in their perspective industries should be the same that would make a difference in ours. Those three things included social functionalities, smart search capabilities, and an end-to-end hiring process. Thank goodness we had a CTO who understood our vision otherwise it would have been incredibly difficult to build it through a dev shop.

While we've inched towards launch over the past 6 months, I want to continue encouraging other casting and entertainment professionals to challenge the current workflow process. Tech has truly yet to infiltrate the production side of our industry and it needs to. With new apps and platforms constantly being introduced — Quibi, HBOMax, Twitch — there's no way we're going to be able to keep up with demand without sacrificing quality. If we let innovators into our space, it'll allow us to focus on quality yet again and become what was the glitz, glamour, and allure of old Hollywood.