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Photo courtesy of Kelli Lessie.

How Producer Kelli Lessie Uses Casting Networks to Fuel Her Projects

Kelli Lessie is a producer and production coordinator with Bright Sky Entertainment who started her career in front of the camera. The producer achieved her original goal of working behind the camera and has been using Casting Networks for print, commercial and feature film projects. Lessie took time to share excerpts from her “book of life,” as well as tips for actors and project creators to find success on Casting Networks.

How did you become a producer?

Well, that starts way back. I’m passionate, and a dedicated filmmaker with a deep commitment [to] bringing inspirational stories to life. I like to do a little bit of everything. That’s carved out a profound journey of personal growth and exploration, and I never thought [it was] possible in my life.

When you look at my book of life, it has many chapters. I developed a love of the movie industry when I saw Star Wars. Who could ever forget that first scene with the Star Destroyer flying over your head? It changed my life and it was so much fun. I wanted to be a part of it.

I moved to LA and I wanted to work in production, specifically as a camera operator, but talent agents encouraged me to work in front of the camera. My journey has always been anchored in production, especially behind the scenes. But for those early years, I was mostly in front of the camera.

Since you’re an actor as well, would you say that experience helps you as a producer?

Oh, extremely. When you’re working as a producer, you work with so much talent, and if you see talent struggling in front of the camera, you’ve been there. We’ve all been there, we’ve all struggled. It’s nice to be able to relate to your talent and maybe put them at ease or say, “Hey, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. This is what I’ve done.” So having that experience in front of the camera really helps in production.

It’s also easier because as an actor, you know what to look for and you can guide the actors on-set.

Exactly. That happened with one of my very first films that I produced many years ago. It was a short film and we were going through a casting session, and I could really see talent in this one young man. The director didn’t see it at all. He kept reading from his sides and I was encouraging him not to, but he was using it as an anchor.

After the casting session was over, the director gave me the list of those who he wanted to call back and I suggested this one particular actor. He said, “Well, I didn’t like him.” I said, “Just for me, do it for me. I’m going to work with him. Would you please just call him back?” He said, “Yes, absolutely.” So I called this actor and told him, “You’re going to be called back. We would like for you to be totally off-script. You memorize all those lines, you’re going to be awesome.”

During callbacks, he came in, nailed it and he actually landed the lead in this particular film. I think it’s just coming from experience, from working in front of the camera that I’ve been able to help guide that process.

Producer Kelli Lessie filming with a huge camera. Photo courtesy of Kelli Lessie.

When did you start using Casting Networks?

Let me just start by saying my faith has kept me grounded on what I wanted to do. When you watch uplifting films that motivate you and inspire you and encourage you, that has led me to an inspirational sports film project that I’m working on now. I’m a producer that does everything, and that includes casting. I have produced commercials and films and video content for corporations. Casting Networks has been so beneficial in helping me find talent.

About six years ago, an award-winning direct response marketing company named Waldorf Crawford reached out and offered me some projects. They produced high-resolution before-and-after photos, video testimonials for beauty, health and wellness websites, commercials and major home shopping network presentations.

[For] these projects, I had to immediately turn to Casting Networks where casting large groups of talent was essential. That’s how I started using Casting Networks quite frequently. To this day, these projects have grown, and it’s not unusual for us to cast anywhere from 20 to 30 talent a month from Casting Networks.

What do you enjoy most about the platform?

I love how easy it is. First of all, if you’re talent, you’ve got to start off with a profile. It’s easy to post a job. If I have a project and I need talent, it’s very easy for me to land on Casting Networks and get a posting up within five or 10 minutes. I also appreciate that there is a pass-or-fail process, if I want to call it that. That somebody behind the scenes is checking my content to make sure that everything is how it’s supposed to be. Then they get the casting up. They get the posting up right away. And I have to tell you, within an hour, I have plenty of talent to choose from.

The ease of the process is being able to access your talent, being able to see what they’ve done, their resume, their video content. There’s tons of video content on there. If you’re talent, when you are creating your profile on Casting Networks, you are allowed to put up reels, and you can put up multiple reels so we can see a wide variety of what [you] can do.

When I’m ready to book talent, I use Casting Networks to reach out to them. It’s been a very easy process to use Casting Networks. I enjoy it because of the results and the quality of talent that I get.

Producer Kelli Lessie and team on set inside. Photo courtesy of Kelli Lessie.

Tell me about some of the bigger projects that you’ve produced that you’ve used Casting Networks for.

I did a feature film a few years ago where I did access Casting Networks for talent. It was specific talent because this was a Persian film, and you’re able to really specify and categorize what kind of talent you need. I was very successful in finding the talent that I needed using Casting Networks with the variety of filters that Casting Networks provides for us to use.

There was one day where we needed 50 extras. Not only did we need 50 background [actors], but we also needed [them] to look Persian. So, add a triple challenge to that one. It worked quite well. I’m telling you, Casting Networks always comes through for me. They really do.

What advice would you give to an actor to succeed on Casting Networks?

Casting Networks has created a huge innovative online platform for talent, casting directors and industry professionals. It’s so easy to submit your profile to include self tapes and selfies, which eliminates in many cases the need for in-person auditions, which has happened. We’ll book right off Casting Networks without even having auditions, so that’s how the talent platform has worked so well.

Now, so much of the casting is based on profiles, and having a compelling online presence can make a huge difference in getting you noticed and bringing in more auditions, or in our case, booking more jobs. Number one is your profile photo. The first thing we see is your profile photo. I suggest getting professional headshots, but I’ll also suggest having a selfie in your media—having a no-makeup face selfie. I feel it’s important to have both of those on your profile.

Another thing is the section where you can have your profile summary or the “About You” section. You have this short little paragraph. That’s really important because that’s where you can show who you are. I read those. I wish everybody would put something about [themselves] that would really show me who they are. I love that. You can [also] upload reels, and can have more than one reel, which we take advantage of.

Also, you need to create a website with your URL and make sure that your name is on that, and make sure that you look for emails or messages from Casting Networks. There is a small percentage of talent who have lost a booking because they haven’t looked at their emails.

There’s [also] a section in there [called Talent Scout] where you can opt to have agents find you. That is amazing. If you’re a brand-new talent and you’re seeking to get started in this industry, Casting Networks provides this option for agents to take a look at your profile if they’re looking for new talent.

Producer Kelli Lessie and crew editing a movie they filmed. Photo courtesy of Kelli Lessie.

What advice do you have for someone interested in casting or creating a project through Casting Networks? What should they do if they want their project to succeed?

Be as detailed and clear as possible. Make sure you fill out every little box that’s there in Casting Networks when you’re creating a posting. You don’t want to book a talent, and then [the] talent comes back and says, “Well, I didn’t know that you were including A, B and C.” [You] just have to be very clear on your projects.

Casting Networks provides amazing training tools for those who are posting content. I highly advise people to go in and use these training videos to learn the best way to get the most out of your casting.

Honestly, Casting Networks has been the best online source for talent. The tools and services that Casting Networks offers have made our job easier.

Requesting media is also a game changer for us. Asking actors for a video clip helps showcase their talent, acting abilities and on-screen presence.

Casting Networks has played a huge role when searching for the right actor that fits the criteria of our project. Filtering by location, gender, union status and age helps us find those talent who best fit the role.

Have you created or been booked on an awesome project on Casting Networks? Share your success story with us today! Your response could become featured in a future article.

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