Veteran casting director Rose Rosen, CSA, got her start working on Edward Scissorhands and ElimiDate, and has watched the industry evolve from printed headshots and auditions taped on VHS, to burning CDs and sending files via FTP sites during the early days of the internet.
“But nobody mentioned I should edit my video into smaller segments when uploading it so that it would download faster” she recalled. “So, it was an eight-hour casting, all in one big chunk. That amount of video takes a lot of time to download. And my client said, ‘Thanks, Rose. It looks like I’ll have this a month from now.’ You remember how slow everything was! So, I went back in, edited the video and re-sent it.”
Today, online services like Casting Networks have made casting easier than ever, evolving alongside social media to help casting directors to find talent. We sat down with the tech-savvy Rosen to chat about how she leverages social media for casting and networking with her peers.
To start this off, how have you seen social media impact the casting world as it evolved?
In the early days, I did some unscripted casting and it seems implausible today, but I worked on the early days of ElimiDate. It was very early unscripted. And they needed volumes of people.
Back then I personally went out to the bars with a clipboard and a t-shirt that said “ElimiDate.” And [I] just went around asking people, “Do you want to try out?” And true to form, less than half of them show up. And then we [would] call them the next day and they’re like, “What are you talking about?”
I mean, they were drunk. It’s not fair, but where else are you going to find single people if you didn’t have the internet? So those were crazy times. I mean, I’d be out ‘till crazy hours of the night and certainly not drinking. And that’s nowhere near as fun as when you’re drinking.
That was my outreach, person to person. And we still do plenty of that, honestly. But then came Facebook and Instagram. So, when I’m looking for that unusual person, which we always do, I rely on talent agents 90% of the time. But there’s 10% of “I need a professional paddleboarder” [or] “I need a professional golfer.”
So, when I post openly, I love to use social media. Facebook is very well-suited for that because you could add a lot more information and links and all. I’m big on Instagram, but it’s more of a pain in the neck for a casting if you ask me.
But I use it all, and over the pandemic, I kind of drilled down on social media. [It was] something I could do instead of knitting. I’ve got quite a few followers on Instagram, and I had virtually none going into the pandemic.
And then I do this thing on Clubhouse, which is also social media. And Clubhouse, in its day it was phenomenal. I still do this room on Monday nights with all these casting directors. It’s so much knowledge. I would even go into Clubhouse rooms and grab talent! The point is, if you’re looking into the world of real people for whatever needs we have as casting directors, social media is the place to be.
Thanks. That’s a good soundbite. How much does an actor’s social media presence really matter? Has it ever changed your mind about casting somebody?
Occasionally, when I am working on an independent film that needs a little more traction, they will look at the social media and the follower count matters because then we put in their deals that they need to post X amount of times, and it helps the project overall. So that’s nice.
And then the other thing I would say about talent on social media – I just don’t love to see the ‘too sexy,’ if you will. I don’t care what you do personally, but if your face is your business, if it’s public, that’s your business. I want you to treat it as such. If you don’t want your mom to see that, I don’t wanna see it. So yeah, I’ve looked at people’s social and said, “Hmm, you know, it’s not appropriate for the client I’m working with. Maybe I don’t want to see that actor.”
Or, I’ve been in the middle of casting and not had quite enough photos of them, I might hit up their Instagram and get a feel for who they are and what they look like in real life. That can be very helpful.
Do you have any stories that you can tell about a particular time when social media was a key factor in casting? Anything that stands out?
I did a very large job that was coast to coast all summer long and needed very specific types [of talent] and a lot of them. So social media was my go-to. It wasn’t enough to just do the casting sites.
You can put in that you’re a surfer, that you’re a scratch golfer, and the level of ability. If I’m in Wisconsin looking for a person who can roller blade and do flips, I need it. And you would be so shocked at how many different calls [are] like that. I need this, this person has to do this, this person has to look like this. And sometimes it comes through on the casting websites, but not often when it’s weird like that. I’ve got to go out in the world and I have to hit up social media.
So basically social media is just another channel for you to look through.
I’m fascinated with people. I will scroll my Instagram and there’s this one cook that I’m crazy about and I’m just like, “I’m going to find this girl a show.” Some things just sing to you and [you] keep them in your back pocket.
That’s very interesting! Do you keep a list of people who you’ve never talked to, just on the off chance that you need them?
Just in my head. You could talk to any one of us [casting directors] and they’d say, “Well, can you think of an Asian guy in his forties?” And we all have that guy. I have a few go to’s across the country. I’ve got one in Chicago, one in LA.
You mentioned Instagram and I’ve seen that you have some live chats there that you’ve saved. And you have the weekly chats on Clubhouse. What kind of impact has it had on your business?
Hanging with other professional casting directors has been phenomenal. I think it makes all of us better business people. [There are] so few of us, maybe 1,000 to 2,000 worldwide. We’re all tiny little islands [and] most of us don’t have a big office. I’m just me figuring stuff out overnight, and so talking to other casting directors, and realizing that they’ve done the same thing and continue to do the same thing, and that we have similar challenges, just like any other job. It’s not a special job. It’s just a very distinct job that has weird things happening and we’ve had nobody to talk to.
It sounds like the networking is invaluable.
It’s amazing. What did my friends say? We have a group chat and, what did she say? I want to quote it because it was amazing. She said, “It’s so valuable to have the camaraderie over competition.” I mean, come on. Isn’t that a great sound bite? This is just a quote from one of my friends in the group: “Can I just say how much I love this group?” Smiley face. “The connections over competition is truly amazing. You all are truly great.”
I love that.
It gives me the warm fuzzies. A million years in my business and I’ve not had that. We all have the warm fuzzies giving jobs to the ever-talented actor and just giving them their first job. That never gets old. But figuring out how to do it and how to get the right people for the project is always challenging. So it’s great to have a group.
That’s great. What do you think would surprise people about the way that you use social media?
I think what would surprise people would be that they don’t know me. That my social media is business. People have a feeling just because I speak on social media that they know me, but I don’t think they do.
I’m talking directly to them and I love it. I love talking directly to the actor, helping them to level up their career. That ultimately helps me. And that’s why I do the Monday night room. We’re helping the actors level up their career in the process. We’re all sitting around a virtual fireplace and talking to each other and saying, “Wow, you do it that way. That’s so interesting.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.