In the Time of Remote Production, Your Special Skills Might Get You Cast

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Photo Source: Courtesy South James/Harper’s Bazaar

South James, a talent management, production, and creative agency initially sought to change how things were done in entertainment, and now with the industry temporarily remote, they’re having to embrace that willingness to change again. As a company that works with both talent and clients to create branded and original creative content, it’s become clear that taking advantage of the family and skills people have at home is one way for them to keep things moving, whether they’re casting a branded lifestyle shoot to be ready for the return of production or prepping a feature film. 

Producer and co-founder Colin Olsen shared some insight on how to be the most help when producing from home and what can still be done when waiting on in-person production to start back up.

The content creators’ guide to casting remotely.

What projects are you currently casting?
We are currently casting a lifestyle brand photoshoot. In the upcoming months, we will be working on casting a feature film. Our team has partnered with another production company to produce a film in late summer and early fall.

When are you expecting to shoot? 
The lifestyle brand is expecting to shoot as soon as it is deemed safe by the states our teams are scheduled to shoot in. We’re hoping to begin filming for the feature later this summer.

What has changed about your approach to production? 
A lot has changed. We are now looking at production with safety as our number one priority. Normally, we are very cautious when it comes to safety on set, but this is a whole new level. Our approach is really making it work with what we have and keeping social distancing in mind. Our crews and talent are really digging deep in their creativity of how they can continue to work and create for our brands.

Which parts of the production are you able to prep and/or move forward? How is this prep different from normal?
In terms of prep, we can essentially do all of our prep as before, but not in person. Our teams prep everything via video chats, phone calls, etc. We schedule calls with our wardrobe teams, hair and makeup, props, and other positions needed for any shoots and then walk our client or talent through what is needed to accomplish our objective. We’ve created documents to monitor everything that every person working on the shoot receives at the beginning and will need to fill out to track all aspects of the shoot. It includes photos from fittings, product shipping info, video meeting logins for shoot days, shot lists, and pretty much anything else going into production.

What you can learn from late-night hosts creating during quarantine.

What are you looking for in talent? 
It really comes down to the project. During these times it’s definitely more helpful for couples, families, and roommates. Many clients aren’t looking for just one person usually when they’re putting together a commercial or photoshoot, so the more the merrier when it comes to the people you’re quarantining with—if something is being shot at home, you can build a whole “cast” with a full house.

Have you been able to find the talent that you were hoping to find? 
Yes, however, it does require a little more work to find them now.

Any tips to share with others casting and producing remotely? 
Be open minded and stay informed. Right now everything is uncertain, but eventually, the time will come and shoots will start back up again. Everyone needs to be prepared for what comes with that. Stay positive and continue to find creative ways to get through this.

What advice do you have for talent who is looking to get work right now? 
It’s at home shooting right now. We have teams with at home studios and our clients have been able to send products to them. We use video conferencing for any live feedback from clients so we can ensure we aren’t shooting content multiple times if not needed. If you have any experience operating cameras, lighting, production design, or hair and makeup, pitch that. Productions are looking to talent more than ever to help with the whole process. The more you can do, the more valuable you become. 

How has Backstage been helpful through your casting process? 
Backstage has been great. It makes casting a lot easier when you can have everything centralized in your dashboard. Especially since we are trying to piece things all over the country, it's helped us expedite our process.

Looking for remote work? Backstage has got you covered! Click here for auditions you can do from home!

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Elyse Roth
Elyse is a senior editor at Backstage, where she oversees all casting news and features content, including her weekly casting director Q&A series, In the Room. She came to New York from Ohio by way of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism, and now lives in Brooklyn. She might see and write about awards-worthy films, but Elyse still thinks “Legally Blonde” is a perfect movie and on any given night is probably taking in some kind of entertainment, whether it’s comedy, theater, ballet, or figuring out what show to binge next.
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