Casting websites are the acting sites which help performers find auditions for acting jobs. This page look at why you need to sign up for some of them, suggests the best audition sites for actors in the UK, and why free audition sites are don’t get you far.
What are Casting Websites?
Casting websites are audition websites, listing casting calls added by casting directors and filmmakers.
Depending on the model used by the casting website, job opportunities can be for Film and TV drama, Voiceover work, Theatre, Musical Theatre, Commercials, Reality TV shows, Corporate work, Supporting Artistes, and Modelling.
Some of the applicants are invited to an audition, known as a casting, and a selection of those receive a callback or two. One will be chosen for the role.
Most casting websites work on a freemium model, allowing performers to sign up for free and see the listed casting calls.
But then you take out a subscription plan to apply for the online casting process, in the hope you’ll be invited to audition and ultimately win the acting job.
Acting agencies in London and the UK insist their represented clients subscribe to Spotlight if their training and experience allow them to. They may also suggest membership of other casting websites for actors, used in collaboration with the talent agency or just to find your own casting calls independently.
The demand for casting call websites have become big business in the UK and internationally, with several earning millions in revenue each year. Recently, there have been several takeovers of casting websites, involving substantial sums from international investors.
Now let’s move on to the best audition sites for actors in the UK.
For many years, the printed Spotlight directories were THE place to find the UK’s acting talent. The number of available actors was so small two directories the size of a hardback book could be flicked through quickly. A black and white photo with basic information told casting directors which agent to contact when someone looked interesting for the available role.
Today, with Spotlight’s centenary on the horizon, there are tens of thousands of actors and aspiring actors looking for acting work in the UK. Printed Spotlight directories would fill bookshelves – even though Spotlight’s applicant criteria is the toughest in the UK’s casting calls market.
The restricted access to membership means Spotlight is seen to offer the best online profiles for actors, confirming their status as a professional actor. Therefore, the best British casting calls, including TV casting calls and film auditions for high budget productions, are most likely to appear on Spotlight.
Spotlight has worked hard to keep up with the modern age, by adding all subscribers to its casting website. It also has a wide range of invaluable articles and video links, as well as regular training events. These all help actors take the right practical steps to help them get into the audition room.
Spotlight takes child protection seriously. Only casting directors can view the profiles of child actors unless parents choose to share the link. Copies of the child performers directories are tightly controlled and difficult to access.
Talent representatives like their actors, young performers, and child actors to subscribe to Spotlight. All actors pay for headshots, showreel, and the annual subscription charges, which are deducted as a business expense in self employment tax returns.
In 2021, Spotlight was acquired by North American casting software company Talent Systems, financed by Morgan Stanley Private Credit and Falcon Investment Advisors, LLC as co-lead arrangers in providing capital to Talent Systems, LLC, according to Deadline.
Between 2015 and 2017 the famous Mandy site merged with the different Blue Compass sites run for specific types of performers. The new Mandy.com platform was launched, with a number of skill-specific sites. Then in 2021 it was acquired by Backstage.
All jobs listed on the Mandy site must be for paid work. For actors and child actors, the work advertised includes commercials, corporate and short films, TV, films, and theatre.
The site also encourages support and interaction between performers through the forums.
Starnow is a useful site for those with no experience, especially as the subscription rates are lower than most other sites.
It was launched in New Zealand several years ago, and acquired by Backstage in 2021.
There are a number of paid jobs, calls for reality TV participants, lots of listings for unpaid roles in student and microbudget films, beauty pageant listings and open book calls from agents.
A well established US online platform which has been operating internationally (including in the UK) for several years, Casting Networks offers a nice profile interface for performers and streamlined online process for casting directors.
It is free to join Casting Networks.
If you’d like to upload more headshots and reels to increase your chances of landing a role, you can upgrade to a premium membership which costs £7.99 per month, or an annual charge of £79.90.
Once you have subscribed to CastWeb you should receive at least 2 emails a day with details of theatre, film and commercial roles.
Launched back in 1998, Shooting People is one of the UK’s largest networks of independent filmmakers.
The annual subscription is much better value than the monthly rates, as long as you find opportunities throughout the year.
If you are interested in theatre work, try the two week free trial of Dramanic before deciding which of the four packages to choose from.
The US online platform Backstage now has a large presence in the UK casting calls industry.
In addition, 2021 saw it acquire both Mandy and Starnow, supported by a significant strategic investment from TA Associates, a leading global growth private equity firm.
Can you get acting jobs from free audition sites?
In nearly all other industries, the employer pays the recruitment agency and the employee applies for free. On casting websites, the casting teams list acting jobs for free, and the actors who pay to apply.
Remember, most performers fail to earn an annual living wage from acting work.
Computer software is not cheap to create or maintain, and customer support teams are an essential part of running websites for professional and aspiring actors. There are no national bodies funded by the taxpayer willing to spend serious amounts of money to help get performers into acting jobs for a few days a year. Therefore, the UK casting calls industry relies on the private market, which expects to make a decent profit from its hefty investment. Meanwhile, the popular desire to be an actor creates a very sizeable and willing-to-spend customer base.
Instead of wasting time looking for free audition sites, sign up to a free trial with some of the ones listed on this page, without taking on a subscription plan. Then you can see the quantity, quality, and relevance of the casting calls, and see if they are a good fit for you.
At some stage you’ll need to take out a subscription and start applying for the listed acting jobs. Think carefully if you want to take out just a month to see how it goes, before committing to an annual subscription if it looks a worthwhile investment.
So Which Casting Websites Should You Join?
Spotlight is a heavyweight in the UK entertainment industry, and it holds a strong reputation as the place you’re most likely to find professional roles advertised.
However, Spotlight limits its intake based on training and experience, so you may not qualify yet if you’re still an aspiring actor without drama school or experience. The other sites we have listed here should give you enough opportunities to keep you busy and build some experience.
Remember that the subscription costs are just one of the costs of applying for acting work from these online platforms. You’ll also have to provide headshots, and these days casting directors want to see showreel when looking through the responses to casting notices.
Then if you’re called in for acting auditions in London or Manchester, you’ve got to cover the cost of audition outfits and expensive train fares.
Also remember that most auditions in the UK happen with little notice, because the casting director is working to a tight schedule. These days an acting audition can take place on any day of the week, or any time of day. It’s hard to balance acting and job that pays the bills.
Other Sources of Free Casting Calls
Open casting calls for the latest big film production, where thousands of people turn up to a big venue, are essentially an advertising ploy. You’ll spend time and money attending a session which is like a lottery, and has no guarantee you’ll be seen by anyone other than bored runners.
Open casting calls where you pay an entrance fee are a scam. While we’re on the topic, avoid agency representation scams too.
You can email a casting director if you understand their role, the type of productions they work on, know they accept direct contact, and structure your contact to look like a professional performer. Don’t send selfies, don’t ask them to represent you, don’t bother them on social media, and don’t ask about job opportunities in film acting if they only cast for commercial acting jobs!
Follow a casting director on social media if they work in the area you’re interested in. Lots of casting notices are advertised on Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook, especially where there are fewer working actors suitable for the role.
It’s also a good idea to find working actors who retweet a lot on Twitter. You’ll see the casting calls from a range of casting directors, and regulary spot an opportunity to volunteer on a microbudget project for experience and an IMDb credit.
Seeking A Talent Agent
For any actor or actress, representation by a talent agent helps present you as a professional actor when the casting team reviews thousands of submissions from a casting call on an audition website. For a musical theatre performer, representation is essential.
If you get in to a decent drama school, you’ll perform at a regular showcase, watched by a selection of invited acting agents and casting directors.
But even if you aren’t a drama school graduate, work hard to find a good acting agency to improve your chances of being seriously considered for auditions and acting work.