Free account vs paid accounts
There are tons of sites and services out there looking to make money off hopeful and trusting talent. The ones i know of are Actors Access, Breakdown Services, and Casting Networks, and locally NEActor.com. Before you sign up and pay for anything, take a good hard look at what you’ll be getting for that money. ESPECIALLY considering how many scam sites are out there. I generally tell people that there is no need to sign up for the paid versions of anything on any of these sites in order to be called in for auditions here in the New England area that are hiring legit Casting Directors. Create your free profile. Keep your profiles current and updated. There is nothing more annoying than finding your contact info posted in one of these places, but have it turn out to be outdated and i can’t get in touch with you!
Many of these sites are legit, and Casting Directos DO use them, however, HOW we use them varies wildly. Film and TV casting will likely use these kinds of sites more often, and especially for projects shooting outside New England, or shooting here but doing the bulk of casting elsewhere. For commercials, which is the bulk of my work, less so. Largely because the turn around is tighter, talent needs more specific and based on a look, and the work less creative, with way less room to work against types etc. Even a short film is usually minutes long, commercials rarely go over :30 seconds, there’s the OCCASSIONAL :60 spot. I also think a lot of projects that have no budget to hire casting will often post their breakdowns to sites like these, and that is where the benefit really comes for you as actors. Since those productions aren’t using someone like me, or like the other offices in town, they NEED to get their breakdowns out to the masses.
Paradice Casting, and i believe Slate Casting as well, uses Casting Networks as a platform and service for recording, editing, uploading and sharing sessions with our clients. I use it to send breakdowns to agents. They don’t charge casting directors anything for their service (which personally i think is ludicrous, but the service i used to use and pay for went out of business so here i am) but they ask that we encourage talent to sign up and be a part of their service and make their money from actors. They also ask us to use their public breakdown release to encourage more talent to sign up for the paid versions of membership. Which are things i choose not to do. I will never encourage talent to join or do anything that costs them money (outside of getting headshots or taking real classes!). I hate the idea of “pay to play”. It’s part of why i very rarely take part in workshops or classes or showcases, unless i feel like that talent is really and truly going to be able to walk away from it having gained something of value.
I COULD use it to post audition notices publicly. But i do not. The main reason i, and many many others, don’t use the public breakdown option is because you actors are bonkers. I did it once. I got over 2000 submissions from actors, 3 of those talent were actually right for the project, actually lived in the area we are working in and were the right union status. I then had to weed through all the useless submissions and emails and questions about whether production would fly someone in (for a job paying like $100). It becomes such a headache and such a serious waste of time, that I ONLY do things publically when i’m DESPERATE because it’s a hard thing to find. Largely because i know i’m only making more work for myself with very little to show for it.
I DO search Casting Networks for talent that i may not yet know whenever i’m working on a project, it’s just another database i can check in addition to the one i maintain myself. That said, if you’re listed as a talent from another city, i’m not going to go digging to find out if you are New England local or not, i’m taking the info you put in your profile at face value, if it says you’re in Miami or Philly, i won’t be reaching out to you, as it seems you are not a local hire, and production likely has no interest in traveling you. Although, typically i do this after i’ve gone through my database, and all the headshots that are physically in my office.
If there’s a headshot and a resume in your profile, that’s all the info about you i need to know (also, make sure your contact info is on your resume - Casting Networks forces me to email you through their system, and i’d prefer to email you directly because their scheduling system is not usable in the Boston market). I, on occasion, have watched a demo reel, usually to get a sense of whether the talent has a Boston accent or not, either because the role requires one, or requires you not have one. But i can mostly get a sense of whether you’d work for my commercial project based off your headshot and resume. if you have any desire to be doing VO work, make sure you have a VO demo (either in Casting Networks or on your own website) if you don’t have a demo, how is casting supposed to know what you sound like? You don’t need 10 pictures, 1 that actually looks like you is plenty. I honestly think that having a website is probably a cheaper option annually than having paid profiles on a million sites - and web design these days can be super easy and most people can do it themselves (or find a 30 something or younger who can!).
I’ve helped people self tape for tons of projects that came from Actors Access or Breakdown Services, but many of those breakdowns came to their agents and not to them directly. SO, i think, that for people who have representation, and those agents have access to more breakdowns, it can absolutely behoove you to have accounts, however, since i’m NOT talent, i have no idea what kinds of costs are associated with the various levels of membership on various sites. I believe (and correct me if i have this wrong) that you have access to those breakdowns even with your free membership, you just can not have as many pieces of media in your profiles.
Someone specifically asked me about IMDB. I don’t ever look at it, if you send me a link to your IMDB page instead of your resume, i’m not even going to bother clicking on it. IMDB is great when i want to know who that actor is in that movie and i can’t think of his name. Or when i’m having an argument with someone about who was in what film, or when a film came out. But in terms of using it professionally, never, not once. In fact, i silent judge people who think promoting their IMDB page is worthwhile. (Now, that said, i totally get it when someone is excited about a new credit and want to share that with their friends and family on social media. But i feel like that is a different thing than trying to use it in your professional life). I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of benefit people think they’ll get from a IMDB paid account. The website is a disaster, always takes forever to load, it’s super busy, ads everywhere, nothing about it makes me think “professional” in any way. It’s a trivia resource. It’s for settling arguements in Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
So to sum up (tl;dr) sign up for free profiles on every service you can find, and put your money into a simple website.