BTS... The Mystery of Street Casting

It’s 6.30AM on a Saturday morning and we’re already on a plane to Melbourne following go ahead on the job at 5.30PM the night before. We’re on the ground in Melbourne by 7.30AM and in a cafe scoping out some locals and joining every local Facebook group by 8.30AM and we haven’t got somewhere to sleep yet. This is the beginning of a week long, three city hunt for talent. AKA ‘real people’.

Street casting. It sounds a little bit rogue and let us tell you, it IS rogue. It’s overwhelming, exhausting and brutal. But it’s also eye-opening, creative and fascinating. We can’t under emphasise how fascinating it truly is.

You know when you meet someone at a work event, or a night out and they are just quite literally the most random, unusual, interesting person who gives you a story to tell for weeks later? This is street casting, meeting a new version of this every 10-15 minutes for days on end.

We seem to already get some puzzled faces when we explain what we do, but more recently, we’ve been shlepping around more and more places and each time we partake in the mystery of street casting we often get asked what the heck are you guys doing now?

So, before we give you the sneak peak (AKA truly detailed, god honest truth) look at the behind the scenes on these jobs, we should probably give you a little more context on what street casting actually is and whyyyy we do it.

Street Casting is quite literally casting from the street. It’s looking for what we in the casting industry call ‘real people’. We understand you are all real people, but real people to us are non-actors. The muggles of actors, if you will.

Quite often the reason for street casting is to find authentic people to represent a story or ‘character’, cast people with specific skills or abilities (for example actual mermaids… a legit brief we have actually seen and fulfilled - because we are wizards), or when we’re looking for people outside of the box in terms of looks or personalities. The types of people are endless, as you can imagine.

It’s easy to see why anyone would question this technique. Wouldn’t the client prefer actors that can be directed to perform in the ad, or aren’t actors better on camera than real people? You would be surprised just how many briefs come through the door these days looking explicitly for street casting. It’s very on trend right now.

But consider this… go back to thinking about all the strange, weird and wonderful people you have ever met or seen in your life and assume that only 5% of them have agents or do any form of acting or performing. Look at how many amazingly wonderful people we are missing out on if we never explore outside the box!

But besides all the reasons street casting is wonderful for the end product, what actually goes down in street casting is what we’re really talking about. We decided after copious street casting escapades and trips, we’ve got enough stories to write a book.

Street casting, for us, has typically been for commercials and the nature of commercials is always and notoriously fast turnaround. From the go-ahead on the job, we could be in studio two days later and the ad could be on air within 30 days. For street casting, whilst we need a little more time and always try to encourage some prep time and research before we are on the ground, it’s not always an option and we have to think quick, prep and research as we go.

Case in point for the story at the beginning. On location street casting is a whole new ball game and brings with it a plethora of additional challenges…and stories.

So here are the highlights and a little sneak peak into the life of street casting a la Chicken and Chips so far…

Say goodbye to your personal social media life

Aside from the literal casting on the street process, social media is our best friend. It’s a sweet online version of street casting and the wonderful world of people sharing content is a true blessing to us when there aren’t enough hours in the day to wander the streets. It also helps that we know how to use Facebook Ads Manager.

But anyone monitoring the activity of Al’s social media would be alarmed by not only the number of random places she becomes a member of the community, but also the variety of hobbies she aggressively partakes in. She is simultaneously a member of just about every Buy Swap Sell group in regional NSW, and is an avid filmmaker of Melbourne, actively interested in all surfing escapades of the Victorian surf coast and is a childless member of the Mother’s Groups of Adelaide to name a few.

You are never 100% convinced what you need actually exists

Do you ever embark on tasks or jobs (that someone is paying you to do) and a little part of you is legitimately not convinced you can actually do it?

That is street casting. The idea is searching endlessly (but within a short timeframe) for something that someone really wants, but with no idea if it actually exists. And if it does, you need to find them, they need to be willing to audition and also want to be involved in your project (i.e. take a day off from their ‘normal’ lives, go to a production set and be okay with that). Many variables and no guarantees.

Travelling to some unglamourous places

Generally, you have to go to some quaint places when you’re engaged in a location street cast. More often than not, we book shitty AirBnB’s and always share a bed (we tell ourselves it’s because we want to make a higher margin on the job but it’s really because we don’t want to be the victim of some AirBnB nightmare where you get kidnapped and locked up in someone’s basement so sleeping together is always the safer option).

Once, we drove all the way out to Wagga Wagga for a Telecommunications campaign we were street casting based on the word of some guy, whose name we won’t reveal, who told us he was with the network. We booked a shitty motel (the ‘motor inn’ kind) and decided that once we met mystery man, he would hold the key to everyone else we needed to meet to prove that people in regional NSW were on this network.

Needless to say, he did not hold any kind of key. We drove 10 hours in two days and were completely unsuccessful. It was cold, the coffee was bad and everyone in the Wagga Wagga Buy, Swap Sell Facebook group that we used for recruiting trolled us and our business.

This was not a good time.

The upside to travelling to these places is that we always reward ourselves with at least one nice dinner everywhere we go...then we cook ourselves healthy dinners like domestic goddesses in our shitty AirBnB’s every other night.

We have to run our business on the road

So, back in the early days of CnC, we were a two woman band. Mostly, we can run the business from the road (except when we physically have to be in the studio running a session, right?) Once, we ended up in Radelaide and someone else back in Sydney wanted a callback session, director was attending, must happen tomorrow. So Steph jumps on a plane to come back, facilitate the 4 hr session and then jump back on a flight the following morning. Al had to spend the night in Adelaide, by herself and after street casting in the rain all day, she vividly remembers literally dropping her bags on the hotel floor smashing a nurofen and some Coke (a Cola) and was forced to eat a sad leaves only salad from Coles in the hotel room because there was so much admin work to do.

These were the days we refer to as the Dark Ages. We must not go back there. But we can laugh now.

On location means rain, hail or shine

Casting footy players means you must follow them out to their training sessions and run around with them in the freezing cold. Sometimes in the rain.

Other times, you end up in their locker rooms, while their coach introduces you and explains what the hell you’re doing there. This is generally highly entertaining.

Having to approach people on the street and trying not to act like a creep

While looking for Surfers on the Victorian surf coast, Steph decided the bartender ‘looked like a surfer’, therefore, we must recruit him to come to the auditions. So, we waltz up to the bar and she smoothly hands over her business card while the audience of onlookers gathered.

He didn’t call her. Why? Because he thought she was trying to pick him up.

It's also like being office homeless

One of the challenges from the get go with street casting in Rural or remote places is sourcing and accessing spaces to actually meet and film people. In the comfort of our warm (or cool) Clovelly office and studio we feel so #blessed. On the street we wing it, and we wing it last minute let me tell you. 

The first thing we do when we get to a location is scope out the public library - they usually play host to either meeting rooms or nooks in the corner where you can hoard people and film them (using our inside voices). 

Other times we book weird "Business Spaces" which leave a lot to be desired for doing business in everyday. The ultimate back up option becomes local pubs where we can set up shop in a corner and buy about as many soda waters (later to become beers) and snacks as required to keep our place. We know how to outstay our welcome. 

It's an endless adventure and we safely say we can do our job in just about any environment thrown at us. 

This is 'subtly' scoping a library

This is 'subtly' scoping a library

Despite some weird shit going down on these trips they are some of the best stories we’ve got in all of our time in casting. Whenever there’s even the slightest chance of a location or street casting gig, we always get a little excited flutter. Ultimately, you get to meet the most awesome people with the most interesting lives and stories. We live off coffee, wine and adrenaline for the most part of the trips and we come back to Sydney with this strange sense of achievement. And hey, anyone that’s used us for street casting in the past knows that we crush it every time and we freakin’ love doing these kinds of jobs.

There are WAY more stories to tell but you’ll have to wait for the book because we can’t give too much away just yet.

Peace Out!