Updated: Jan 30
There are plenty of online services with the intention of supporting an actor in procuring more work for themselves. The unfortunate reality is that the services used to find acting jobs are part of the long list of expenses making up the resources an actor needs to book paying jobs. Considering that it is estimated that only two percent of actors earn a livable wage through their craft, it is important to consider all factors when paying for a new service. In this article, we will discuss the best online services for an actor to use and how they should be ranked in their arsenal of tools. That way when budgets tighten and a subscription needs to be canceled, you know exactly what's first to go.
What types of services are out there for actors?
A majority of online services for actors are job aggregates, which function as places for casting departments and individuals to list roles that they are looking to fill on a project. Now the reality is that these services are overpriced, considering that most individuals in other industries use services such as indeed or LinkedIn for job applications, both of which are free services. Many jobs are posted over multiple aggregates so having multiple subscriptions to different services may only be costing you more as opposed to exposing you to more opportunities. The main aggregate sites for actors are:
There are other services that you may hear about (Casting Frontier, Mandy, etc.) that offer similar services. Realistically, these platforms won’t have too many projects not listed on the top four, and significantly fewer casting offices use these smaller platforms. If money is no object, then why not expand your reach as far as possible, however for those of you looking to be smart with your money, I wouldn’t invest in these sites.
Other auxiliary platforms online for actors revolve around providing information that is being gatekept from the public. This may include large-scale projects that are in pre-production to contact information to expanded project databases. The two most commonly considered auxiliary platforms for actors are:
Be wary of any services that claim to have hidden knowledge or industry secrets. These are generally scam sites and should be avoided.
So what’s the best service for The Unestablished Artist?
The most useful sites in my opinion are ranked below:
1. Actors Access
There is no comparable service to Actors Access. This service is attached to breakdown services, so practically every job coming through this aggregator is legit and many pay at industry rates. AA is updated multiple times a day and is considered the most professional service for actors looking for new work opportunities. You have the ability to create a free account on this site, but if you are serious about your auditioning, I would recommend spending the 68 dollars for an annual subscription, otherwise, you will rack up costs quickly for just submitting to projects.
One downside is that It does cost money to put photos and video up on Actors Access. Your first two photos are free but any more photos will cost ten dollars each. Uploading video is 22 dollars for every minute of media. So realistically, the initial cost to set up a proper Actors Access account will land anywhere from around 100 to 120 dollars depending on how much media you upload. To reiterate, however, this is the MOST important service to have as an actor. If you can only afford one of the listed services, this is the one to get.
While more a website than a service Playbill is ranked number two for one reason only, it’s absolutely free. Playbill’s website has a built-in job aggregator that is available for everyone to use and can even filter results based on union status, pay, and job category. Now granted, not everything on Playbill is an online application. Many times (Pre-pandemic particularly) Playbill was simply used to release The location and time of EPA’s for shows. A lot of listings may be limited by union status required to apply, and the site is almost never used to film or television. If performing in New York City’s theatre scene is your dream, however, then playbill may give you enough information to show up for the job you want.
What used to be another bastion for non-union projects is slowly falling into becoming a dump of user-generated content calls and spam projects. The platform is not cheap either, coming in at an annual cost of 150 dollars a year (Not including tax which in NY state brings it to 163). I’ve been disappointed with the listings I’ve seen on Backstage as of late, however, it's not to say the site is totally worth abandoning. There are still a fair amount of low-budget but legit projects that might be a good fit if you need to bolster your acting reel. What’s more significant is that Backstage has really put a focus on getting more voiceover artists on the platform and offering more opportunities to those who are not exclusively actors and live in a more freelancer kind of role. Another factor to consider is personal goals for the direction you want your career to take. I personally have very little interest in the influencer/user-generated content field, but someone who gets excited about making that sort of content may find Backstage to be a fantastic resource for them. When it’s time to renew my Backstage subscription, I probably will not do so. However, that does not mean it isn’t an established platform for all kinds of artists and may be the service you need at this point in your journey.
4. Casting Networks
Comparable to that friend of a friend that’s always at parties, you kind of know them, they don’t personally offend you, but they don’t particularly offer much to your life. Most jobs that can be found on Casting Networks can also be found on Actors Access, but the reverse is not the same. Not as many Casting offices use Casting Networks, and it’s become one of those services that I have an account for because my agent told me to make a free one. That being said, the one area where Casting Network deserves a little more credit is in the commercial world. More commercial casting directors tend to gravitate to Casting networks (for what reason I could not tell you). Commercial jobs while very particular and challenging to get, usually pay large sums of money for very little commitment time. So if you’re looking to focus on the commercial industry, it might be worth investing some money into it. Otherwise, I’d say just make a free account and check it every so often.
5. Casting About
Not a site for booking auditions, Casting About is a site used to tell you what’s currently casting, who’s casting it, and at what stage in the process the production is. The annual subscription is 48.95 which is fairly cheap, and the services it offers are interesting and certainly tantalizing to young actors. That being said, there are a few realities with its services that bring it so low on this list, the first being related to the beginning of this paragraph. Nowhere on Casting About can you APPLY to projects, you only see what is being worked on. On top of this, while the service of providing casting contact information may also be exciting, there’s not much you can do with it. Unsolicited emails to casting offices are not looked upon favorably and almost always will not result in an audition (more likely to be blocked from submissions entirely). So who is this service for? Individuals with agents can use Casting About to help educate their agents on projects they are particularly keen on being submitted to. Actors who have strong networks in the industry may also find this service useful as well to see which people in their network are working on projects that they could reach out to for a contact on the production. Lastly for those of us looking to take some classes with a select group of casting directors, seeing which ones are currently casting may motivate our selection process.
Casting About is a well-intentioned and curated service that may provide benefits to those more established in the industry. If you’re a young actor, however, I would say your money is better spent elsewhere.
6. IMDb Pro
A fantastic resource for those of us interested in the world of television and film, IMDB Pro is a massive database of information revolving around current, future, and previous productions that have taken place around the world. IMDb does offer free services and if you have participated in the production of any film that has gone through a festival circuit, it is likely you are already listed in the database. Unfortunately, you don’t have much control over your presence on the database if you are only using a free account. Only pro members of IMDb can edit their pages and gain access, and at 150 dollars a year, it is a steep price to pay just to add information on yourself to the database.
The reason IMDb Pro is ranked in the final spot on this article is not because the information provided is not valuable, it’s because it’s really not necessary for any actor that isn’t significantly established in the industry. IMDb is used for research mainly, not casting projects, not to mention if you cancel your account all the information that you put on your page is removed. So for an actor who is being searched enough for the movies they are in, there’s a little more justification in subscribing to pro membership, but otherwise, it's really not necessary unless you're a big movie buff.
There are a lot of services out there for actors and it can be pretty confusing as to what will benefit you if you haven’t been in the industry for a while. I hope this article helped lift some of the confusion and prioritized where your budget for acting should be spent. At the end of the day, any money spent to prioritize your passion is money well spent, so keep pursuing what you love and eventually, it will come to you, regardless of the service you use.
All the best, from one unestablished artist to another.