With studios in full operation again, workflows are relatively familiar but also a bit adjusted to lessons learned from the past year's chaos. Casting is no exception, so Daniel Jester, host of The Creative Operations Podcast, had Clair Carter-Ginn, a Michael Kors veteran and current partner at Forecast, hop on the pod to chat about casting in the new normal.
You'll want to hear the full chat, so stream it on our site, or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Amazon Music. But for just a quick sample of the informative banter, read on below for a few highlights.
Reduced Sets Require More Decisions in Advance
Clair has noticed that post-pandemic, more brands and retailers avoid the crammed 50-person sets for a shoot. It's nice in some ways-fewer people chiming in-but it creates a need to get advanced input to compensate for the lack of real-time feedback.
"You don't have the spectators you used to have, where half of the marketing department shows up or 10 merchants show up and say, 'We can't have that shoe with that dress,'" Carter-Ginn says. "You really have to be strategic back when you're doing your shoot planning."
For content teams, this means deciding in advance what the needs will be for a campaign, in-store, social, and so on. Then casting teams have to prep in response to that planning.
"As we look at planning the shoot in a deeper way before we go out to shoot, we can also manage the usage for the talent," Clair says.
Influencer-as-Model Marketing Adds to the Contract
From Daniel's view in Los Angeles, he sees brands still using models booked through major agencies, but increasingly often, turning to social media influencers and trusting them to model. The allure of using influencers as models? It's in part those extra perks in marketing, like behind-the-scenes social posts the influencers show to their following. But details like these belong in ink, so contractually, look to see more merging of marketing contracts into the model usage agreement. Clair was seeing signs of this already in her Michael Kors days-up-front negotiations that included a particular number of social posts.
"There was one particular shoot I was on some years back where, after dinner, the model decided to go for a swim and just happened to put on one of the swimsuits we'd been shooting on her during the day," Carter-Ginn says. "And so of course I'm like, 'Oh my God, where's the photographer? Let's drag them down to the pool. Let's capture as many images as possible for social of this very authentic, organic moment.'"
Just like a studio has to make more content decisions in advance, with the influencer-as-model approach gaining popularity, it also needs to do more advanced planning to prep the usage deal.
Don't Say Goodbye to Your Shoot-at-Home Rig
While Clair sees fewer at-home shoots now than in the height of the pandemic-"Let's face it, we can't necessarily get all the views or capture the detail that we do in-studio," she says she still sees a need for complementing those shoots with more informal work. Whether it's influencers' own shoots, employees' content, or user-generated content from a brand's following, at-home content will continue to be part of a brand's editorial direction.
Re-Meet Your Audience
Consumer behavior has changed in an accelerated way at the dawn of this decade, which explains why Clair sees brands needing to reacclimate with the audience and ways to connect.
"We're seeing what I'd call the mid- to high-level brands looking to have focus groups and do A/B testing with emails and seeing what people respond to," Carter-Ginn says. She says that, even as brands play catch-up in terms of content creation, it's time to look at metrics and look for data-driven responses to new consumer behavior.
Cast More Specific Sizes and Backgrounds
One of the most important ways that casting is evolving is in terms of diversity-in sizes, races, and cultures represented.
Clair notes that brands producing sizes 0-24 may have previously shot just sizes 2 and 4, as well as 12 or 14. But now there are more requests for sizes 16 and 18 as well. "I think it really does come down to samples," she says of the difficulty to obtain a wide range of sizes in the same garment, noting there's still an industry-wide failing to represent sizes 6-10.
Just like we're seeing more care to represent a range of sizes, we're witnessing a more articulate approach to casting for race and ethnicity. "I think there was a time when 'Asian model' could mean a lot of things," Clair says. "Now people are very specific. 'I'm looking for a Japanese model.' 'I'm looking for a South Korean model.'"
As Daniel points out, diversity doesn't "begin and end with on-camera talent, but representation and perspectives and different points of view in your crew as well." If, as Clair has witnessed, American-based brands are advertising around more holidays, such as Chinese New Year and Boxing Day, it's important to have people on the team who truly understand the spirit of the celebration. "If your studio is in LA, but you're doing a shoot for Diwali, then you need a stylist who understands that," she says.
For Daniel's full chat with Clair-including banter on soap operas, Tiger Woods, and TikTok-find all of Episode 8 on our site, or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Amazon Music.