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Transforming Background Casting: Celebrating 10 Years of the Casting Portal

The Entertainment Partners Casting Portal is a premier casting platform where supporting artists can sign up to be cast in UK films and TV shows.
April 13, 2024

Katie Weekes, Entertainment Partners’ Managing Director – Global Casting, looks back at how the Casting Portal has transformed the world of background casting and created a smarter, fairer future for UK supporting artists.

Cast your mind back 10 years. Pharrell’s “Happy” was in the charts, Kimye got married, and Ellen’s Oscars selfie became the most retweeted tweet of all time.

Although we were already on the iPhone 6, technology had yet to transform every aspect of our lives. This was particularly true in the film and TV industry, which was still dominated by manual processes and lots (and I mean lots) of paper.

A Herculean task

No one felt this pain more than supporting artists and the casting agents responsible for finding them and getting them to set – and then paid – on time. Filling a single scene could take weeks, with agents having to trawl through outdated photo books and make hundreds of calls (or send hundreds of emails) to get everyone booked in.

On set, supporting artists had to queue for hours to get their paper salary vouchers (or “chits”) signed. They’d then have to hope that their paper chit made it safely to the accounts team – and that the accountant could read it – so that they could be paid correctly.

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Enter the Casting Portal

Launched in 2014 by Kate McLaughlin, ex-Assistant Director and founder of We Got POP (which was acquired by Entertainment Partners in 2020), the Casting Portal was designed to streamline the background casting process and make it quicker and easier for everyone involved. This revolutionary platform provides a one-stop-shop for finding, booking, managing and paying supporting artists on the UK’s biggest productions.

Gone are the days of supporting artists having to register with multiple agencies, as their single Casting Portal profile is searchable – and bookable – by all of the agents and agencies using the platform. Artists also have the freedom to update their profile when needed, keep track of bookings and availability enquiries and see their entire payment history in one place.

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But it doesn’t stop there. We also introduced our paperless payment technology, which eliminates the need for paper chits and allows productions to sign in and wrap supporting artists with the click of a button and pay everyone quickly and accurately, every time.

Transforming the industry

With the industry ripe for change, the Casting Portal launched with a bang. In its first 12 months alone, it powered background casting on epic UK productions like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Spectre and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

Since then, our community of supporting artists have been cast by the leading UK agents and agencies as:

  • Weary soldiers in 1917
  • Reveling concert goers in Bohemian Rapsody
  • Cheering royalists in The Crown
  • Corseted courtiers in Bridgerton
  • Nimble footballers in Ted Lasso
  • Iconic plastic dolls in Barbie...

... to name a few!

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Ed Mcvey as Prince William in The Crown, surrounded by an adoring crowd of supporting artists. Photo by Justin Downing/Netlix/Justin Downing/Netlix - © 2023 Netflix, Inc.

In 2017 we took the Casting Portal across the pond, launching our New York office and going on to support epic productions like Mank, The Bear and Shameless.

And in 2020, We Got POP was acquired by Entertainment Partners, the global leader in entertainment payroll and technology and the owner of Central Casting, the leading background casting company in the US. The Casting Portal was also used in Ireland for the first time on Ridley Scott’s medieval blockbuster The Last Duel.

2023 was another big year, as we launched the Casting Portal in Canada! We also broke into Europe, signing our first casting client in Malta.

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Katie Weekes, Managing Director – Global Casting, and Jonah Bell, Senior Account Manager, sign up supporting artists to the Casting Portal in Malta.

The next act

Over the past 10 years, the Casting Portal has truly transformed the world of background casting. But none of this would have been possible without the wonderful, passionate, dedicated supporting artists who make up our UK Casting Community.

As we celebrate the past decade, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for being such an important part of the UK’s film and TV industry.

And if you’re not a member of the Casting Community yet, what are you waiting for? Sign up today and join us as we embark on the next 10 years!

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