When it comes to casting, choose a wide net and hope for the unexpected.

Keep an open mind and consider hidden potential when casting. There's probably a gem out there you might not have considered who can add life and character to your production.

May 27, 2021
Associate Creative Director

Where’d they find that actor?

When our creative teams come up with a TV commercial, for example, we generally have a pretty good idea of what the 0:30 seconds worth of video is going to look like. During that process, we find a production company that can add value and a certain quality or style to the campaign. We’re the behind-the-scenes players who pull things like props, and locations together.

Then comes casting, where you can toss how you thought the commercial was going to look out the window – well, not all of it. That’s because it’s the people in front of the camera or behind the mic in the studio who are the faces and voices of much of what we do – which is why casting is so important.

There’s no normal process that we go through to casting talent because it all depends on the project.

In general, we provide a casting company with a script and talk about the types of people we’re looking for. That casting company then reaches out to talent agents and organizes preliminary auditions for people who could fit the roles we’re trying to fill. These first auditions could be as simple as providing headshots or a self-shot video along with brief actor resumes.

Next come in-person auditions where we can get a better idea of who our talent is and what they can bring to the production.

Although, over the past year, auditions have been through services like Zoom, there are still memorable gems like flying to New York City where we ended up casting a dog with my name.

Now, the fun part.

Keeping an open mind and considering hidden potential, we begin to narrow our list of candidates down and set up call-backs. This is usually the fun part because it typically involves people from the production company, client-side and the agency side. It’s when we can dig in and get to know more about the actors and what they can bring to the production, including their ability to follow direction, ad-lib or improvise. It’s also when unexpected intangibles appear that lead us to consider someone we didn’t previously have in mind for a certain role, which happens quite often.

We also have to think about diversity and authenticity. For our recent Embrace Recovery campaign for DAODAS, scenes called for a swimmer, truck driver, arborist, piano player and more. So, not only did we need a range of people and ages, we needed to find the right people for those roles – like a true arborist, not an actor without professional experience who is 30 feet up in a tree with a real, running chainsaw. On the other hand, sometimes we get lucky. The truck driver featured in one commercial had auditioned for a previous project. And, sometimes the friend-of-a-friend connection works. We were able to find a swimmer who was not only comfortable swimming in the cold ocean but also showing up at around 5:30 a.m. to do it.

It is an engaging process and exciting to see the people who will help bring concepts to life. And if you’ve done the job right, choosing who to cut and who to cast should be agonizing. The bottom line? Fight the urge to pre-cast based on what you have in your head, what you see from headshots, or even the first round of in-person casting. Let yourself be open to changing things up and being surprised. It’s a lot more interesting and it will result in a better end product.

When casting has made a difference.

MUSC Health: Don’t Go Viral Campaign

While the pandemic was busy breaking records, this safety campaign was designed to break through the clutter. For radio, we combed through dozens of auditions to find the right combination of big personalities and subtle sarcasm.

SC Education Lottery / Tiny Stories / Behind the Scenes

When casting for the Tiny Stories campaign, we envisioned Tiny as an ironic nickname for a larger-than-life male who traveled around the state. In the end, we cast the character as a female named Tiny Tina.

These are just a few examples of where we think casting made a real difference in creating something special. If you agree, we’d welcome the opportunity to add some personality to your marketing or branding efforts. Complete this short form and our President of Advertising, Heather Price, will contact you.

Chernoff Newman has deep category experience in agriculture, food and beverage, education and workforce development, energy, economic development, financial/insurance, healthcare and infrastructure. We design integrated marketing and strategic communications that are impactful, thought-provoking and influential. We marry ingenuity with business know-how to influence beliefs and behaviors for brands, companies and their many stakeholders. We influence attitude and inclination. We influence opinion and outcomes. And when needed, we also influence to quell contention.