Friday, August 12, 2016

Casting Manager: the paperless theatre casting solution

by Gil Benbrook

David Dietlein had a problem. As the Executive Producer of Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert, Dieltlein is involved with all casting decisions for the ten shows Hale presents each season. That meant now and then he has to overcome some unexpected hurdles during the casting process.

While he usually encounters dozens of interested actors at auditions, he found that, at one audition, “we didn't have enough people show up. So I went to our filing cabinet looking for past resumes and headshots trying to find actors that met the requirements of the roles we were casting. I realized how difficult it was to search through all of this information from past auditions – the headshots, resumes, scraps of paper with notes, etc. - to find what I was looking for.”

David Dietlein
He figured there had to be a better way to solve problems like the one he encountered as well as other ways to make casting a show less time consuming. A lightbulb went on and the idea for a web based casting tool was born.

He researched different software but found they're all very limited in what they can do. He knew that some theatres were using “Sign Up Genius” as a way to schedule auditions. Dietlein, however, found it to be very basic and generic.

“With Sign Up Genius you can only have actors input their name and select an audition time. It isn’t highly customizable,” he said.

So he figured that the only solution was to create his own casting site “that has everything in one place.” After several months of beta testing and adding even more features than he’d originally planned, CastingManager.com officially launched earlier this summer. Hale has used the system to cast their shows for the past six months and Dietlein used the information they learned to tweak and further customize the site.

An audition overview page on CastingManager.com
Dietlien said that the decision to have this tool be web based and not a standalone software was to make it accessible no matter where you are. Asked to describe Casting Manager in one sentence, Dietlein quickly stated, “the paperless way to have auditions in the palm of your hand. Since the system is web based you can access its features anywhere. It’s fast, paperless, always available and there's an order to it all," he added.

In designing the system, he made sure that items such as the time elements for an audition are customizable and that it was a closed, private system so each theatre who uses it would only have access to the notes they keep for each actor. But he also realized it would make sense to use the site to prepare actors as much as possible in advance, thus expediting the audition process with little wasted time.

A theatre is able to upload “sides” – the scenes that the actors will be reading in the audition - in advance. Music can also be uploaded and video links for dance routines can also be easily added. Dietlein figured the more information available to the actors in advance would only streamline the process. “There is no more photocopying, just uploading a pdf,” he happily stated.

An actor's online resume on CastingManager.com
While a theatre can rate the actors who audition by their acting, singing and dancing skills, and also input private notes about them, he thought it would be wise to add features that also make it a great tool for actors. An actor is able to input their entire resume into their Casting Manager “profile.” They can upload their resume and headshot or build it themselves on the site.

“They don't have to print up resumes anymore as they’re attached to the audition time electronically.”

This also gives the theatre the instant ability, once cast, to download an actor’s high resolution headshot for use in their program, which saves time and eliminates another step in the process. An actor can also input videos and multiple photos in their resumes showing various looks.

“Sometimes an actor has a different look for a different part – leading man verses character part,” Dietlein said, “so showing these different looks may help them get cast.”

Not only can an actor easily sign up for an audition slot and receive email confirmations and notifications about it, but he or she can also upload social profile information and input any date conflicts for the show’s rehearsal schedule in advance.

Final Cast list page from CastingManager.com
The streamlined advantages for the theatre are even richer. They have the ability to see a detailed profile of who is coming out for an audition, “not just a name, which is all that Sign Up Genius gives you,” Dietlein pointed out.

If a large enough pool of interested auditionees doesn't exist, a theatre can search the database to find potential candidates. This feature is beneficial if a cast member drops out of a production, something that Deitlein just experienced on their currently running production of West Side Story.

“We were able to go back into the system instantly. We could quickly see who we called back for the part and easily contact them thereby eliminating much of the pain and the hassle when something like this happens.”

On the theatre side Dietlein also added plenty of bells and whistles including the ability to set up audition announcements as far in advance as possible. “This is good for when a theater has down time, like during the summer months,” he said.

The theatre can then make their audition announcements public when they are ready. He’s also added the option to have sub accounts for directors and choreographers who may only work on one show for a theatre. This way they only have access to the data for the show they are working on.

Audition appointment page from CastingManager.com
One of the areas that Dietlein is most proud of is the way Casting Manager streamlines the paper and approval process, especially for Production Assistants and Artistic Directors who do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to setting up and running auditions

“This is a huge time saver for email blasts for things like selecting actors who we want to call back for final auditions and sending them a callback notice or rehearsal time changes.”

He also decided to simplify the acceptance process for when an actor accepts either a callback request or a role in a show by having the emails that are sent out linked to buttons for accepting or not accepting a call back or a part. The theatre can go into the show overview to see who hasn't replied yet to these requests, “no more manually keeping track of all of that information.” Once the final cast has been confirmed a welcome letter and rehearsal schedule can be uploaded and the site automatically sends this information out to the whole cast, thus eliminating all the emailing back and forth or having to create an email list manually.

But the site is more than just a customizable scheduling tool, it is the built in search capabilities that make Dietlein beam. He says the site has the ability to search by factors such as age range, gender, and character type as well as by ratings they’ve received from past auditions in the acting, singing and dancing categories.

“There have been so many actors and actresses who we auditioned who were great but just not right for the role or show they were auditioning for. So I thought it would also be a great way to capture and hold on to their information. This way for a future part we can quickly search through information from past auditionees to match up the actor with a part they’d be perfect for. It really helps build the talent base that’s out there and available for your theatre.”


Throughout the site design process, Dietlein realized that his site could be used for more than just theatre auditions. “Competitions or anything with judging involved” are other arts groups that can utilize the site. While Dietlein is just starting to contact other theatres to gage their interest in using Casting Manager, he’s already got San Diego Music Theatre and Hale Theatre in Salt Lake City to come on board.

Dietlein has devised several pricing plans to make Casting Manager highly attractive.

“Our monthly ‘Pro Plan’ is for professional organizations who need access to their actor database. We are also coming out in the next few weeks with several organization specific plans. We will be offering an a la carte, ‘Pay–Per–Audition’ package. We will also be coming out with an ‘Education Play’ for Universities and Colleges who hold auditions within the Universities for all their departments such as Film, Music, Dance and Theater.”

Sometimes a problem can be the impetus for a very happy solution. That’s exactly what happened with David Dietlein and his CastingManager.com casting website - a powerful, but simple, consolidated theatre tool.

For more information go to CastingManager.com or email info@castingmanager.com

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