Street Casting: The New Buzz Word on the Street

street casting

Street Casting is the new buzz word on the street, but it has actually been around since cinefilm was invented back in the 1890s, and certainly since Mark Summers started out over 20 years ago. Any casting director worth there salt is constantly on the look-out for fresh faces and talent- it’s a given, right- but in recent times there has been a trend in advertising towards the use of street casting for a few different reasons.

Mark Summers says that, ‘currently advertising is going back to a more honest place. There’s no doubt that authenticity is key right now.’

Mark also adds that actors have no need to feel threatened by this because there will always be a market for the actors’ skill set and professional training. Like fashion these trends go in cycles.

The advent of the personal testimonial seems to still be on the rise with consumers hungering after genuine real-life experience. In fact, advertising legislation protects the consumer by making a company clearly state, on screen, if they are using professional actors to sell their product. That is why campaigns like Dove, one of many cast by Mark Summers and his team, have been so committed to street casting because they know inherently that real women sell to real women. And this level of authenticity compels the viewer to share it peer-to peer which is the ultimate goal for the advertising agency.

street casting

Real Women sell to Real Women.
Dove Campaign

So how do you find these so-called ‘real’ women, or men? Street casting takes a lot longer than traditional casting. It requires a team of street casters who have an astute eye, excellent people skills, a sharp visual memory as well as a gift for organisation. It is also a case of understanding the brand inside-out, the type of person who fits with that brand, finding that person in a town, city or village and then approaching them and persuading them that this is something they want to be involved with.

You never know how someone out on the street will respond to the invitation to attend a casting session. As the rise of the Selfie proves, people are keener today than ever to be photographed. However, this in itself does not necessarily mean they are willing to engage and commit to a casting session, especially when they have to cover their own travel costs with no guarantee of success.

street casting

As the rise of the Selfie proves, people are keener today than ever to be photographed.

And from those who were initially eager for their 15 seconds of fame (it would be unusual to get the original Andy Warhol prediction of 15 minutes of fame especially in the commercial world), oftentimes confidence is quickly lost through the casting process, especially if recalls are required, or an individual may back out having thought it over.

The least keen candidates often prove to be more authentic and need to be almost mentored, or coached, out of their shell, and another reason why sensitive and nurturing people skills are a must.

All this can happen on the assumption that the client has provided us with a clear brief. This is not always the case as in the Pearson Education corporate film series. A UK and US search was on to find successful, interesting individuals who had been inspired by a teacher to pursue their goals and dreams. A wide remit indeed, but the finished films prove how powerful ‘real people’ casting can be.

Thorough research is also key to street casting. Mark Summers Casting operates 24 hours a day, in London and with associates in Los Angeles. As Mark says, ‘Street casting is not just street casting. It takes proper research utilising all available avenues and contacts, as well as the use of all available platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc etc.’

Working on Dove, Mark loved hearing each woman’s individual story and feels ‘it was an honour to witness so many incredible women’s stories. Totally empowering for me and them!’

Another growing trend in world-wide advertising is to place an individual and a product together to create a story. In the Industry this is known as branded content and is gaining huge popularity as we spend more and more time on Youtube, Vimeo and other streamed content platforms. The Mustang Moments for Ford Motor Cars, directed by Alex Gibney, Oscar winner and American documentary film-maker, is a prime and very successful example of this.

Street Casting

Our Street Casting Team Sarah & James are out about in London always looking for fresh talent. 

Street Casting can be rewarding for both the production company and the individual. What a real person may lack in performance and camera experience is often compensated by enthusiasm and excitement at the process, whereas mixing street cast with professional actors can create an interesting dynamic. The director may have to work extra hard to get a ‘performance’ as the individual may become intimidated by the rigours of film making.

However, the results speak for themselves and this trend is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it will probably continue to rise as we become more enmeshed with our screens and advertisers take advantage of our seemingly unending commitment to keep watching.

Real People Casting was used by Mark Summers Casting in all these recent campaigns:

The Pearson Education campaign films speak beautifully for themselves, including the story of Faye Banks, an electrical engineer and executive, brought up in care. She was recently listed in The Telegraph as one of the UK’s 50 most successful women.

Hussain Manawer, a first generation East London poet recognised around the world, also fulfilled his other ambition of becoming an astronaut. He credits his teacher for his on-going commitment to him as a young teen, helping him to change his perspective. Powerful stuff!

For Mustang Moments our extensive casting unearthed six unusual and diverse individuals from the UK, USA, Australia & France who got the opportunity, alongside Team Detroit, to drive the all-new 2015 Mustang through San Francisco and along the scenic California coast; and then, empowered by this experience, oscar award winning director Alex Gibney surprised the driver with an opportunity to step towards the realization of their individual dream- like taking the mic for the first time at a well-known comedy club. This was the ‘Mustang Moment’.

For the empowering This Girl Can by Sport England, real women opened up to share their inspiring stories of having overcome an obstacle in their life using exercise and sport. A nationwide search was essential in order to gather together a wide and diverse range of women that reflected UK society.

By Clea Myers
Follow me on Twitter @Camtweak

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