Casting in the 21st Century: Networks and Distributors Look for Social Media Impact

TheGrill 2018: “Over half the casting jobs, the question asked is ‘What’s their Instagram handle and what are their social numbers,'” Untitled Entertainment manager Jason Newman says

TheGrill Casting in the 21st Century
Photo by Randy Shropshire

It no longer takes a social media flub to cost an actor or filmmaker a job in Hollywood; simply an actor’s relative lack of presence across social media and the breadth of their following can have an impact on whether they land the job or not.

That was the assessment put forward by the agents, casting directors and industry experts talking about casting in the 21st century during TheWrap’s annual media and technology conference TheGrill.

Jason Newman, a manager and producer at Untitled Entertainment, said not everyone considers social media during the casting process. But, he says, it’s increasingly important and can make the difference in choosing between two actors.

“When a director is making a movie — producers studio execs, everyone involved — they rely on the casting directors bringing in the best actors they rep for those roles; the social media part is an extension,” Newman told the audience in attendance at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills.

“If I have two actors up for the same role and it’s between actor A and B, and actor B has 2 million followers across all social media platforms and actor A has 20 million, but they’re neck-in-neck in their acting ability or maybe actor B is even a little bit better, but man we know if we convert one and a half to two percent of their social media following to buyers, I’m hiring that person,” Newman said. “I want to have a bigger ROI on my investment so of course I’m doing that, so yes, social media is playing a massive component in all of this.”

The social media component plays such big role, that Newman said in his experience it’s a factor at least half the time.

“I would say over half the casting jobs, especially at the networks and the streaming services, the question asked is ‘What’s their Instagram handle and what are their social numbers,’” Newman said. “They want to know that now. It’s a question we get asked on a regular basis.”

But as discussed during the panel, a large social media following isn’t the only important aspect because that following could be rendered next to useless if actors aren’t engaged.

“You have to understand what the engagement level is not just volume,” said Alex Amin, co-CEO of Casting Networks. “But there is a potential here to also be a golden age for actors more than probably ever before you do have the ability to control your career in a way you didn’t before.

“I would say about 20 percent of the actors on our system have also cast or produced their own project because they realize, I’m not just going to sit here and wait for my manager or my agent to get me a job, I’m going to take control of my career, I’m can distribute it, I’ve got followers. There’s a lot more we can be doing there as well to help with that self discovery and help actors rise to the top when they are creators as well.”