Hiring talent for video production

 On-screen talent, extras or models can be a major cost for production houses when making a video.  

Talent agencies come in various sizes and areas of specialty.  While some are background talent specialists who are able to supply crowd scenes and extras, ‘walk-ons’ – others represent personalities and models of international caliber whose faces appear across fashion spreads and billboards.

While it can be fun choosing faces with your client, the process can be time-consuming and can produce diversity of opinion on who is really suitable for casting. The casting process needs to farm out to a company who can refine your search to a short list of faces and types.

A video reel of each talent performing lines and simulating their role is vital to confirm that the talent can actually produce the right response – and importantly, can this individual take direction? If you are working with a director, get them to rehearse with the talent to see if there is a rapport or not. This is vital if the role requires some intense acting moments.

Price is the main sticking point in your client getting the talent they really want. However, every talent agency is negotiable. The details lie in where the video will be shown and for how long. The catch off comes when the video campaign, if an advertising campaign, goes on and goes for years, as can happen. In this event, roll-over fees will be paid for the talent at a percentage (to be negotiated with talent agency) for years hence. Sometimes these fees can be really significant.

To give an example of how all this might work, here’s an example: you need to hire a group of extras to play a crowd of well-wishers at an airport. You will need to budget their hire, possibly their food as well transport to and from location. Background talent fees are usually fixed per head, per day. Some agencies will charge for a block of time for a minimum sum.  Featured extras will cost more if they have lines to say or have some minor featured role. Models who are hired for their good looks and profile will require some serious negotiation to get them to fit your budget that includes per-diems, all meals, expenses and maybe flights and accommodation.

The best way to get around some of these cost issues is to street-cast talent.  A production assistant can approach likely candidates in the street to ask about their availability and to see if they are willing and able to appear in your production, minus agency fees. While this can seem a hit-and-miss approach, there is the option of acquiring faces who genuinely look the part and could solve your video budget constraints.


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