Casting Director Laurie Records Talks About Social Media
Social media is a never-ending source of anxiety for many performers, with questions about everything from content to follower counts. We sat down with Los Angeles-based casting director Laurie Records to ask her your burning questions about how casting directors use social media, and what they do—and do not—want to see when they find your profile.
Tell me a little bit about how you got into casting and how you got to where you are in your career.
I was working at Starbucks, this was probably 2003, I think. The owner of Casting Networks, at the time called LA Casting, was a customer of mine. And he offered me a job multiple times. I turned him down multiple times. And basically he harassed me in the best possible way into saying yes at some point.
So I went to work for Casting Networks, started working with talent and casting directors there. I think I was there for about three years. I went on to work for a commercial casting director as an associate. And then about three years later, I opened my own business. It certainly wasn’t anything I was planning on, but I’m thrilled to be here. I’m very happy.
How do you use social media to help with your casting decisions?
Almost all the time while we’re in callbacks, there is some client somewhere sitting on their computer, searching for the actor who’s in the room. They’re searching their social media. They’re searching them on the internet and seeing what comes up. It’s a common thing to do. Of course, they’re looking for anything that might be concerning, but they’re also looking for, “Oh my gosh, look at that fabulous shot on Instagram.” I’ve definitely seen them [use social media to] pitch actors who they want to book the role. They’re like, “Look at this great Instagram shot.”
There’s a time when I would’ve said, “Your social media doesn’t really matter. Your Instagram account doesn’t matter.” And I would say it probably does now.
I am on social media a fair amount. I love just getting new actors on my radar, actors that I’m not aware of. I think it’s fun. Sometimes I’m positive that I have met an actor in person, and then I realize, nope, it’s just been on Twitter. I just know them through social media. I think that’s cool.
Do you think follower count is important?
That answer has changed over time. I think in certain circumstances, yes, but they’re specific. Absolutely, there are clients who are looking for influencers. That is out there and that exists, and they will say that upfront.
But otherwise, no, I don’t. I would rather watch your funny sketch from UCB [Upright Citizens Brigade], and I don’t care if you have 4 followers, 40, or 4,000. I like to look at the content more than I care about your followers. Can I see the commercial that you booked? Do you have that posted? Do you have a standup routine, a slice from that? Do you have great headshots? That’s far more interesting to me as a casting director than if you have sway or fame on Instagram.
When you’re looking at an actor’s social media, what kind of red flags are you looking for?
Most of the time it’s not me, it’s a client. They’re looking for offensive content. I would certainly stay away from extreme anything, whether it’s provocative photos [or] extreme political thoughts. I think that you can express how you feel politically, but you’re in a danger zone. Keeping civil discourse is a good idea, and just staying away from crass, rude, crude stuff. You’re representing the brand in the end, [that] is how they’re looking at you. If you’re a known jerk online, that’s not going to work out for the brand.
What do you think would surprise people about the way that you use social media?
I think it does surprise people that when I say, “Oh, I actually met that person through Twitter or through Instagram.” I’m sure actors are like, “No way does that happen.” And I would say that wouldn’t happen with everybody. The casting director has to be interested in being on social media or else it won’t happen. And there are plenty of casting directors who totally are not into it.
I am a sucker for watching commercials, so if you, as an actor, are posting a commercial that you’ve been in, I can hardly keep myself from watching it. I’m a student of commercials just like everybody else. That’s my job. If you want to be in commercials, you should watch commercials, too. I love that kind of content.
Do you have any stories you can tell about a time when social media was a key factor in the casting?
I have seen things go terribly wrong when the production team and the ad agency are very excited about an actor, and then they do a little bit of online research and they’re like, “Oh, no, no, no, we can’t.” That’s the negative aspect of it. But I think that directors and producers, as well as myself, we geek out about great actors and all we want is to like you more. We’re looking for more reasons to like you.
So if you’ve got a funny clip up the director will be like, “Oh my gosh, watch this.” I’ve seen social media make us more excited about you. In that situation, it comes after getting the audition, it comes after getting the callback, but it still contributes to your success. It still was another brick in getting to, “That’s our first choice. Let’s put them in the spot.”
In general, what advice would you give to actors who are trying to build out their social media?
If you hate it, I would say then let it go. You do you. But if you have interest in it, be willing to put in the time, and that means daily or every other day. You need to be active. I would put it on my to-do list. Dedicate a half an hour of your time to cultivating that. I think that consistency is key. Just make it part of what you are doing for your acting career today.
It will take time. You are not going to be on everybody’s radar from the get-go. But if you enjoy it, it should be a little bit of fun for you and [it] can absolutely be helpful in some situations. So, take the time, put in the effort and think about what you’re doing. Be careful, don’t slap things up that you might regret later. Be thoughtful. Keep your actor social media account pristine and with a focus that is going to serve you as an actor. Eventually, it will help you down the line. I think it’s worth the time.
Any last thoughts?
I would say, if [social media] is not your bag, stay off! Don’t have an Instagram account. It’s all right! But I believe that if you have interest in it, you will be rewarded. Follow other actors. Look and see what they are doing. That’s a great way to get some content ideas. Some people do it very well, so watch and mimic them. You’ll be different because you are you, but that way you’re not reinventing the wheel. Actors have come before you and done this social media thing quite well. Be a student of theirs, get some great ideas, and have fun. But keep it focused. Keep it focused on the acting stuff and enjoy it as a fun break you have in the day.
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This interview has been edited and condensed.
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