When Story Time Went Digital, This Author Turned to Remote Casting to Bring His Books to Life

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Photo Source: Unsplash courtesy Mark Zemora

N.G.K. (Nathan) is a U.K.-based children’s book author whose work is known internationally, especially his worldwide bestseller “Harry the Happy Mouse.” When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and people were stuck inside, N.G.K. made the most of the situation and sought to cast actors to step into the roles in his collection of books and read the stories on camera. When he and co-author Sylva Fae wrote a new short story relevant to global events, “Harry Stays at Home,” N.G.K. took to Backstage to find readers to tell that story on video and reassure a generation of confused children. With in-person storytimes canceled, N.G.K. has been able to adapt to the situation and find new ways to share his work and connect with audiences, all while learning how to cast talent for a range of assignments on camera and using voiceover. He shares how he did an online search for the first time and how Backstage assisted him in creating the best possible result.

How to cast remotely.

Tell us about the project or projects that you are currently casting.
I am the writer of the “Harry The Happy Mouse” series of children’s picture books, as well as many other books under my umbrella company NGK Media. We are currently casting many different roles, on-camera read-along pieces, audiobooks, and voices for trailers. I became aware of Backstage recently when Sylva Fae and I co-wrote a short story that was relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic, I was just asking for actors to read the story aloud on camera, as this would be the best way to reassure children during this confusing period. 

When are you expecting to shoot?
The reason this was perfect for the situation we are going through, lots of actors were stuck at home, and the project was something people could get involved with from home, and still can! The other projects that we are looking at running could also be done from home. 

Has anything changed about your approach to your production, or what new ideas or projects have these circumstances created?
These circumstances have really created a different array of productions we can get involved in. Many of the people that contacted me through Backstage had adapted to the conditions themselves at home and could record professional entries themselves in a home studio. There are obviously parts of projects that we can’t do right now, and some we’ve had to put on hold, but I would say that’s only a small percentage. Children’s books and audiobooks have become so important in this time, and even with some basic equipment, voice artists can still work from home.

What are you looking for in talent for this project? 
The main factor is that someone can take a brief and work on the projects remotely, I have been making use of video conferencing software to talk things through, which has been really helpful.

Have you been able to find the talent that you were hoping to find?
Backstage has been amazing, for our “Harry The Happy Mouse” read-along project. I could have chosen about 30 people that were right for it, the standard was so high, it was hard to choose the right person. Backstage made it really easy to do that. 

Remote casting allows the show to go on during a pandemic.

Have you encountered any surprises in doing this entire casting process remotely?
The huge surprise for me was the response, but not only numbers, the amazing, talented people that wanted to be involved. 

What benefits accompany a completely remote casting and shooting process?
I loved the fact that it gave the actors involved real scope to do something different, so I didn’t have hundreds of videos that were all the same. It also meant there was a larger variety of videos to look at. 

Any tips to share with others casting and producing remotely?
I found it best to put quite a lot of detail into the brief on Backstage so that talent knew exactly what we were asking for, sometimes this was also easier on the phone, but we made use of video conferencing software as much as we could.

What advice do you have for talent who is looking to get work right now?
More than ever, the quality of your audition tapes is extremely important, especially as everyone is filming from home. As you may be required to film and record the final piece make sure the sound quality, lighting, etc. is as good as you can make it!

How has Backstage been helpful through your casting process?
I’ve actually been blown away by Backstage. Before the lockdown, I hadn’t used online casting tools too much and Backstage was extremely easy to use and made the whole process so much more enjoyable. I launched my project on Backstage and was then approached by other similar websites, there was honestly no comparison, Backstage was by far the best solution. 

Generally, what opportunities still exist during a time most in-person production is shut down?
All of my projects can still run as most of them can be recorded at home. We are taking advantage of those opportunities by hopefully providing artists with an outlet, and still being able to work on things. 

What should people in the industry know about moving forward at a time like this?
This has been such a tough time for everyone in this industry, I know that work has dried up, and there doesn’t feel like there’s an immediate end in sight. But performance art is more important than ever, people need it to get through times like this, so I hope the industry adapts, moves forward, and is innovative.

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