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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Using Social Computing Systems To Cast A Project Vs. The Old School Way (or there is still room for dinosaurs)

Always wanting to work efficiently, I pondered how I could make this assignment work multiple tasks.

A Little Background

Before this whole school thing I made a living as a producer and casting director. I still take gigs during my school breaks to pay for my kids’ tuition (that should be the subject of another blog one day).

For spring break I decided to take a gig as the Hawaii Production Coordinator for an episode airing on the Discovery Chanel’s SharkWeek. We did the same gig last year. My husband and I work as a team. As we both have other things going on (he works in house for a different company editing/directing/graphics and I got this dual degree [JD & MLISc] plus work thing); it is easier to do these big projects tag-team.

Among other tasks, I am charged with the duty of casting. I have cast everything from student films to 30 second TV spots to million dollar movies. I have done it the old school way (notices on call boards, agency calls, open call or scheduled auditions) and sometimes I have utilized newer methods (email lists, craigslist, etc...).

Old school style:

This screenshot was found at this site. This is a very real example of what you end up with at the end of the day:

And this is what I normally look like a few hours into a casting session:

For my present casting assignment, I have to cast actors for a series of re-enactments for SharkWeek. They are all non-speaking extras; some featured, but most are non-featured.

After first exhausting the group of players I like to use all the time, whenever I can (they are reliable, good and easy to work with). I decided to cast the rest via an online community of actors.

I joined the Hawaii Actors Network.

Here is the casting notice I posted:

A Bit About Hawaii Actors Network

The site is like a mash up of Facebook/Myspace/LinkedIn community for actors.

They got status updates like Facebook:

They got groups you can join like FB:

You can post resumes and such like LinkedIn:

You can add music like Myspace:

Alert -- mean girl tangent coming up...

Honestly, when I used to do myspace, this used to annoy me to no end! This whole playing music crap when I visit your page...whatever...if I wanted to hear what kind of lame "13-year-old-girl 'I feel soooo emo so I'm gonna bring all y'all down into my quasi-passive-aggressive whine for attention' music, I turn on cable TV or the radio or call up my sister.

Sorry, my mean girl slipped out.

Anyways...back on track....

Casting Online VS Casting In Real Life

In the Dempsey article, the author states, "People connect and share themselves through ‘social objects’ (music, photos, video, links, or other shared interests) and it has been argued that successful social networks are those which form around such social objects."

The Hawaii Actors Network site is made up of users (actors) displaying all their social objects for casting directors, producers or anyone who will hire them to see.
Examples of social objects included resumes, headshots, comp cards etc.....

The Dempsey article also states "Participation in a shared communications space blurs boundaries between work, social interaction and leisure." I found this to be true in the HAN. They do meet ups:

and people ask for all kinds of help:

Getting Users Involved

To illustrate the "eight major decision points" surrounding the annotations discussed in Dr. Gazan's article, I decided to post my casting notice as a blog entry instead of posting it in the "casting call" group.

I wanted to see if people would comment. The actors did not have to comment to submit for the parts, because in the casting notice I asked interested actors to message me privately. Below, I will compare the eight points in terms of In Real Life (old school casting) and casting online.


Online: The display included an option to add comments, view comments, and view all my blogs.
IRL: All you see is the notice on the call board.

Ease of Annotation

Online: Any member can comment.
IRL: Unless you write on my casting notice (frowned upon - -kinda vandalism), there is no commenting.


Online: There is none. A member has to include name and profile information to comment.
IRL: I guess if no one sees you marking up my casting sheet, then it is anonymous.

Control of content

Online: I can delete comments, so can the owner.
IRL: I can take down my notice, so can the stage manager or other authority person.

Harvesting annotation content

Online: Easy to do
IRL: Not so much

Ease of retrieval

Online: Easy to do
IRL: Harder - got to make calls, schedule audition, wait for submissions, look through submissions

Traffic and network effects

Online: This is the best part of HAN! Within minutes I got tons of responses (over 50 responses in 30 minutes). The Leibenluft article also supports this phenomenon, "Post a semicoherent question and the responses will come within minutes, if not seconds."
IRL: Unless a class is letting out nearby, and even then, it does not even come close.

Notification and sharing

Online: Easy to notify (email, private message, wall post) easy to share
IRL: Not as easy (calls, waiting, meetings, waiting)

Measuring Success in the Community

In her article on social networks and information filtering, Kristina Lerma states, "users with active social networks are more successful in getting their stories promoted to the front page. We believe that this, coupled with the observation that top-ranked users have larger social networks, explains their success." I think this is true for my posting. All the commenting, private messaging, and friend adding made for lots of activity.

Also, I think the post was successful because, as Caroline Haythornthwaite explains in her article
"Participation can be motivated by interest in the particular endeavor." The endeavor here is probably the strongest motivator for an actor - landing an acting gig.

Here is the Leaderboard, as of last night:

Interestingly the Leaderboard is viewable by the whole community.

After reading the Geisler and Burns article I realized that a tagging function would have been good to have for this blog post. I think that the tags "SharkWeek" "Discovery Channel" and "Casting" would have drawn even more eyes to my post.


HAN makes a casting director's life easier when it comes to casting extras. If I don't need to see you "act" it is all good.

Room for the dinosaur Old School Way

But it can never replace the face to face - especially then the stakes are high (a featured speaking role).

Although you can do a video chat audition through HAN, I need to see the actors, get a feel for them, a lot of this business is run on instinct. I do not think I can go with my gut based on a video chat.

On a side note - This is my favorite part of the community - Pet Actors! Yay! BEST EVER!!!

Whatever you are looking for they got it....




And dogs (this is the pet of the month)


  1. Wow.. interesting blog and interesting job you got there- between the school and kids.

    I took a look at the site, HAN and will definitely utilize it for my daughter who was an extra on Hawaii 50 and would love to do more of that kind of work!

    I enjoyed the supportive community that HAN appeared to have. It was evident as in the Dempsey article that the community of this site shared pictures and experiences.

  2. I like your example. It is very interesting. The emergence of Web 2.0 changes our life a lot. Almost every person can think of one example that he / she takes the advantage of it. I also took a look at HAN. It has a lot of information, such as the current casting, demo reels, actors news, etc. The divisions of information enable directors and actors to exchange information and get what they want. Your comparison of online casting and real-life casting based on the eight decision points also helps me better understand the difference between these two modes of casting.

  3. I agree with you Mernie, social presence online cannot totally replace social presence on f2f. This is also happened for me as a teacher, when I have to compare between f2f classroom and online classroom.

    In the f2f classroom, I can see my students face clearly. I know guest from their expression, are they confuse, bored, or understand. But, these expressions are hard to find on an online classroom. Although there is video chat, but is still hard to have a video open for 20 students at the same time.

    What I and my fellow teachers always do to get to know what happened with students on their online social presence are by asking them to react with several ways during the class sessions. We asked students to type on chat box, raise virtual hand if they don't understand, and use the emotional icon for expressing their feeling.

    Thank you for a nice post. This is also inspired me on looking at other entities that could be analyzed. I just so stressful with this week post. My mind just like being block by a huge rock, so I couldn't look and at clearly what I have to compare post.

  4. I really love the example you used for this post, it's a great reminder that online communities can really be much more than just Facebook, and that these social knowledge system can go way beyond tagging content or answering questions. It's also interesting to see that no matter how many features a site like HAN has, and how useful it can be for initial steps of selecting actors, or casting certain parts (like non-speaking roles), there's always an aspect of the whole process that works best "old-school style". That's something that's been coming across through almost all the posts this week, despite all the different areas we all looked at. So rather than having to worry about being replace by sites like HAN, you can just use them to make your job easier, and I think the same is true for libraries... which is a good thought to keep in mind whenever the whole "digital collections will replace libraries and librarians will become useless" argument comes up again.

  5. I agree with you about disliking embedded music in a webpage. If I want to listen to music, I'm already playing something myself and don't want to hear your music blending with mine. If I'm not listening to music, then I probably don't want to listen to any, especially your random track. Moreso when I forget that my volume is high and suddenly have some random song blaring in the library.

    I liked your comparison between IRL and online, as it highlighted the main points that people generally see as the role of technology: it makes things easier. Online, everything is recorded and, as long as you set it up right, automatically organized for easy access. It's searchable, convinient to access, and can provide instant feedback. IRL, you burn a lot of time, energy, and resources trying to do the same thing. IRL's greatest strength is the ability to physically meet with people, to see how they really are. If you don't need to do so (for your non-speaking extras), this isn't necessary. Video auditions are nice, but can and typically will be manufactured (e.g., take 43 is submitted). In face to face meetings, you can pick up on underlying strengths (and weaknesses) that aren't readily apparent through any other media. One question: For your non-speaking extras, how do you pick who is better than others? Online, if too many people fit your ideal criteria, do you lottery pick or (I assume) meet with them face to face? I suppose the underlying question is, do you feel that, for the portions of casting that you can conduct online, is it strictly better than doing it as you are now?

  6. I sometimes get concerned that the assignments for this course are too constricting; I am happy to see that once again, this isn't a problem with you ;). I jumped to the parallel of online job postings, where your online representation may be successful if it matches desired keywords, but it's only the first filter, after which you have to meet the hiring person/casting director and really communicate what you have to offer. You mentioned that a critical characteristic shared by your preferred actors is that they're dependable and you would want to work with them again, which can't be represented accurately on the HAN site. For example, if you tried to evaluate this based on something equivalent to their number of Facebook friends, or how many people had "liked" their profile...well, let's just say I suspect you wouldn't draw the people you're looking for.

    The speed and volume of responses you got online was impressive; the researcher in me would be interested in knowing what percentage of those people ended up being good for the part, and how that compares to RL. Very nice post!

  7. Thank you everyone for your comments! I will respond to questions individually.

    But I wanted to give y'all an update. As of now we are in the thick of the pre-production process.

    All the featured re-enactment players are cast (one just dropped out a few hours ago.. ugh...),and we start shooting Tuesday, 4 day shoot spread out over a week and a half. I still need to cast 8 non-speaking, non-featured surfers for a 1/4 day (LMK if anyone out there is interested :) .

    7 out of 23 featured parts went to HAN actors....I will let you know how they turn out ... hoping for the best.

    The rest were from people I worked with before, fellow Law Students, one LIS Student, and friends of friends.

    One thing I did not like about the HAN process, was more that a few times when I did phone interviews or asked for RECENT snap shots, the actors were not what they seemed to be on their site.

    For instance, I explained to one potential actor what the scene entailed, surfing, then escaping a pretend shark, and he kinda got nervous. I pointed out that his resume said "surfer," then he said he was not comfortable in the water and only surfed a few times.

    advice to actors----do not lie on your resume, even if it is in the "special abilities" section----we read that

  8. Hi Mernie,
    Hope its not too late for some work for my daughter.. where can I email you some pictures of her :)