Over the last twenty-five years, the filmmaking process has been rocked by wave after wave of technological disruption. From digital cameras to the rise of CGI, the rate of change within the entertainment industry has never been faster.
Perhaps one of the best contributions to the production process has been casting websites. Further pushing the film industry digital, casting sites help productions connect with exactly the talent they’re looking for, and vice versa.
In this post, we break down the 8 best casting websites that working actors turn to time and again.
Back in the olden days of the mid-90s, working actors without representation had to put in some serious legwork to score an audition. They’d scour the trades and pound on casting office doors, just for a chance to get in a room with the professionals who may hire them for a role or blacklist them.
Now, the earliest phases of the casting process are experienced mostly on the internet. In addition to working directly with talent representatives, casting agencies will frequently seek out fresh talent through the many services offered by top casting websites.
Backstage is the reigning heavyweight champion of best casting websites.
Established in 1960 as a magazine for actors in New York, Backstage originally published casting calls and industry news. Over time, the company and its scope expanded, until it eventually made the jump online in the late-90s, where it quickly evolved into the Ivan Drago of audition websites.
Regardless of whether you’re an actor, casting director, or representative from one of the many casting agencies, your fundamental goal in utilizing a casting website should be to connect with as many talented people as possible. A casting director wants to see, and an actor wants to be seen.
From either perspective, this is where Backstage shines. The site boasts a database of well over one-million members, posts thousands of new roles every week, and is built on nearly 60 years of industry experience, servicing many of the heaviest hitters in film, television, and theater production.
That said, if you’re trying to figure out how to find casting calls for free, casting websites like Backstage may not be ideal. In order to directly apply for jobs on Backstage, you’ll need to be a member. Membership plans range from $9.99 to $19.95 per month, depending on whether you’re willing to commit to an annual, biannual or monthly plan.
In other words, while you can find free casting calls on Backstage, the service through which you access them isn’t. As we’ll see over the course this list, this kind of fee structure is a common among the best casting websites.
But even with the fee structure, when you consider at its raw numbers, storied reputation, and versatile capabilities, Backstage is an undeniably formidable force among its peers.
Anytime an actor runs into a fee structure for professional services, it’s only natural to have questions – is paying a subscription worth the price?
The short answer is yes, but it’s also important to understand that, as with any of the sites on this list, your personal mileage may vary. There’s no such thing as a magic bullet when it comes to casting websites.
Actors Access is a casting website that connects actors and casting agencies alike.
Technically part of a family of companies operating under the umbrella of Breakdown Services, Ltd., Actors Access works hand-in-hand with one of its sister companies, Breakdown Express, to create a seamless pipeline between productions and the talent they seek.
The fundamental service of Actors Access then is to give actors access to casting breakdowns, as generated by casting agencies or casting directors through Breakdown Express. A casting breakdown is a list of what roles are available to be cast for a project alongside a brief description of the physical traits required for each of those roles.
What most obviously sets Actors Access apart from other audition websites like Backstage is that their basic services, viewing breakdowns and maintaining a profile, are free. However, there is a significant catch.
Under the free plan, an actor will be charged a $2.00 fee each time they wish to submit to a casting call. The only alternative to this the Actors Access annual plan, priced at $68.00 per year, that grants access to unlimited casting call submissions alongside a host of other perks.
Actors Access is a brilliant source of information for working actors and has an excellent reputation in the production community, but, again, if you’re looking for free casting calls, this may not be the place for you. Nevertheless, Actors Access is undoubtedly one of the best casting websites around. Any actor seeking work should take advantage of its reputation and maintain at least a free profile within its database.
If the names haven’t already clued you in, the Breakdown Services family of companies are mostly centered around the concept of a “breakdown.”
In the realm of film production, a breakdown is a document that breaks down the physical needs of a script. They’re organizational in nature, and almost every department creates some version of it during pre-production. The props department, for instance, will generate a breakdown of every prop needed for every scene within a given script.
Compared to websites like Backstage and Actors Access, Casting Networks is relatively new to the game. The company was founded in 2002 with the goal of creating software to streamline the frequently inefficient process of casting film and television projects.
Today, that original goal has blossomed into a family of software solutions that collectively provide end-to-end services for casting agencies and talent representatives.
Casting Networks is one of the best casting websites available right now, but it’s important to note that it was designed to cater primarily to casting directors and the companies that employ them. For actors, it doesn’t offer services beyond those you’d find on audition websites like Backstage or Actors Access.
However, that might not be such a bad thing. It might even be a major advantage.
The tools and services that Casting Networks offers to casting professionals are so robust and efficient that, in 2017, Fox broke off a nearly 46-year relationship with Breakdown Services in order to shift ALL of their casting needs to Casting Networks. It was a major disruption at the time and may presage further disruption still.
The new kid on the block clearly has the eye of some big players in the Hollywood ecosystem, and that alone is reason enough for a working actor to take interest.
If you have an agent, setting up an account on Casting Networks is totally free, which makes it a no-brainer. However, if you have yet to secure representation, you’ll have to pay at least $25.00 per year for a basic membership, plus additional fees if you’d like to take advantage of their premium services. If you have the budget, Casting Networks is worth a try.
Playbill is easily the most widely recognizable company to appear on this list of casting sites. If you’ve been to the theater, you’ve almost definitely leafed through one of their iconic yellow production publications.
But Playbill is so much more than a little book. It’s the world’s leading source of theater news and an invaluable resource for working actors and theater professionals.
Playbill updates their jobs board daily, making it one of the most up-to-date audition websites available to actors. If you find free casting calls on Playbill, rest assured that they’re legitimate, as the staff at Playbill vets their listings thoroughly.
Playbill also touts the major advantage of being entirely free to use. You can browse at your leisure for absolutely no cost. The only downside is that Playbill does not offer a submission portal, meaning you’ll have to take the contact information from their listings and do the legwork of submitting yourself for a role all on your lonesome.
It’s a small inconvenience, but an even smaller price to pay for Playbill’s combination of low-level price and high-level reputation.
Like Casting Networks, Casting Frontier is a younger company that got its start by offering industry professionals a streamlined approach to the casting process. Unlike Casting Networks, Casting Frontier offers actors some access to their submission process for free under their basic plan.
Casting Frontier’s Premium and Premium Plus plans can be purchased at an annual cost of $75.99 and $95.99, respectively. The perks offered by the plans allow you to upload additional headshots, voice reels, and other multimedia files with the one major perk of unlocking unlimited direct submissions to projects.
Exploring Casting Frontier with a free account should be considered by any currently unrepresented actor. If you find it a good fit to your particular needs, making the upgrade to one of the premium plans might be the way to go.
While not as well-known as some of the other best casting websites on this list, Now Casting is another place to turn to find reputable job listings for actors.
If you live or are willing to work outside of Los Angeles, you’ll be happy to read that Now Casting offers free submissions to all non-L.A. auditions.
However, if you want to access casting notices for projects inside of Los Angeles, you’ll have to purchase one of Now Casting’s membership services. The most affordable of their plans that allows access to Los Angeles notices is currently priced at $11.00 per month.
NYCastings is primarily a resource for (you guessed it) projects casting in and around New York City. Registration for the site is free, and if you are based in or can easily travel to NYC you should absolutely pay attention to their casting board.
However, as you can probably guess by now, you’ll need to pay a fee to gain access to some of NYCastings’ more robust submission and presentation features, the most prominent of which is “24/7 access to casting notices.”
While NYCastings does feature casting notices from cities all across the United States, the monthly, quarterly, or annual fee may be a hard sell for the Angelenos among us. For New Yorkers, however, NYCastings might just be a casting website worth consideration.
It may seem strange to list IMDbPro alongside the best casting websites in the business, but, in a way, its atypicality is exactly what makes it appealing.
It’s not the first place you think of, but IMDbPro does, in fact, maintain an active casting notice board, and IMDbPro’s submission system allows actors to respond to these notices by forwarding their actual IMDb page. This allows for a level of interactivity that you rarely see with the standard resumes and headshots on other casting websites.
But the submission system is really a secondary attraction here. IMDbPro offers the most robust presentation of industry information currently available. Having the ability to research a given project before you submit yourself to any of the listed audition websites is an invaluable tool.
Of course, accessing IMDbPro does require a subscription. You can currently purchase either a monthly plan at $19.99 per month or an annual plan that charges $12.50 monthly for a total price of $149.99 per year.
IMDbPro isn’t likely to replace behemoths like Backstage or Actors Access, with their decades-long reputations as the best casting websites around, but its unique features make it a complementary tool capable of enhancing your experience with any of the above.
The best casting websites offer vital services both to actors and those who wish to hire them. From either perspective, these sites streamline the casting process in a way that was unimaginable only a few decades ago. Experiment, find what services work for you, and use them to your full advantage.
If you're interested in other tools to help your filmmaking process, read up on the best filmmaking software and tools.
Now, go get that audition!
*While casting websites do most of the heavy lifting, it goes without saying that you should always scrutinize each online casting listing. If any “free casting calls” ask for your social security number, you should probably report the posting and run far, far away from it.
At Wrapbook, we're all about providing the very best free resources to producers and their crews. However, this post is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Answers do not create a company-client relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer legal advice. Seek the advice of a licensed attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction before taking any action that may affect your decisions or rights.
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