Hiring Professional Talent

05.06.2023|By Daniel Mendoza|9 Minutes

In early 2023 The Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak was looking to create content showcasing the many amenities and features of their resort. During our pre-production discussions we identified five specific vignettes, or showcases, to feature in the campaign. As the property’s ideal target demographic, a Family showcase was top of the list. Other vignettes included Adult Casual, Meetings & Events, Spa & Fitness, and Hole In The Wall Restaurant & Bar. This would be a lifestyle shoot utilizing professional actors and we had about three weeks to pull together a casting call and secure the talent.

So often, mainly due to budget restrictions, clients rely on friends, family members and employees to fill these on screen roles. This approach can sometimes limit the ability to create truly engaging content so we were thrilled to be working with a client that understood the benefits of hiring professional talent for their campaign. I think it is important for brands to know that there is a difference between having bodies to fill in the space versus models or actors who can help tell the story. Obviously there are many considerations to take into account such as if we are working on a project requiring footage of a specialty skill or trade that you want to display accurately.

Our Producers worked hard to get the casting call out and in front of as many actors as possible with the time constraints we had. As submissions began to stream in, we did our best to filter through the best options and begin envisioning our groups for the various scenes. The biggest challenge was by far the family unit. Finding child actors that would be available on a weekday while also fitting in with the adult actors who would play the parents made the task a bit more difficult, but we were confident in the process. Once we managed to pair together a family unit that was not only visually believable, but whose schedules all aligned, the rest of the actors fell into place.

After working out all of the details with the actors, our Producers began working on the production schedule. With so much ground to cover on the property, we slated between 30-45 minutes per location. This was critical to not allowing ourselves to get caught up trying to get the perfect shot, every time. It is very easy to spend hours setting up for just one shot, only for that shot to not make it into the final edit. Our experience has shaped us to be as efficient as possible in order to keep us on schedule. Nothing is more stressful than falling behind schedule so staying on task is key to everyone performing at their best.

On production day, we arrived around 8:30 am to unload gear and begin setting up for our first shot. Our four person crew consisted of a Producer, Director of Photography, Director/AC and Talent Coordinator. This allowed us to move efficiently and stay on schedule. Sean was helping me with the camera set ups as well as directing the talent through the scenes, while Kellie and Drew were constantly in communication to ensure the actors were always ready for the next scene. One major benefit of hiring professional actors is that they are hired to complete a job and so you can expect them to be readily available while on set. By utilizing friends or family that you may or may not be compensating, there is often a carefree sense about it all that is just hard to break and can easily slow down the production.

We managed to stick to the production schedule fairly well and even got ahead at one point. This helps instill greater confidence in the minds of clients. Even though we emphasize that production schedules are loose and more of a guide, the psyche still latches on to the times on the pages as if though they will determine the success or failure of a job. Our Producers feel the same way and that is why they are Producers. Their job is to keep every project on schedule and on budget. Our team strikes a great balance between creative freedom and meticulous attention to detail.

Our final scene of the day featured the fire pit on the patio of the Hole In The Wall Restaurant and Bar. It was about 7:30 when we wrapped up the scene and released the last of the actors. We began tearing down equipment and loading up the vehicles by 8pm. We knew we would have to return at a future date to get the property establishing shots as well as a few pick up shots of other activities but overall Day 1 was a success. The only thing left to do was get home, unload gear and back up footage.

Comparing this project to similar projects that chose not to hire professional talent, the results can be very apparent. We have been fortunate on occasion that the friend or family member a client used for a shoot happened to have some acting experience or a natural flair for taking direction, but that is certainly a rarity. Seeing the footage and the impact professional actors have on the scenes is so empowering. We certainly do our best to encourage clients to make the investment in hiring talent when we feel that the project can benefit from it. It not only makes our job easier and keeps us on schedule but it definitely shows in the results.

This isn’t to say we are being lazy by preferring not to work with non-actors, it’s just that filmmaking has its own language. Communicating with trained actors is easier because they understand that direction is not criticism. It is merely everyone getting on the same page to achieve the desired results for each scene and project. A direction as simple as asking someone to smile can really get in their headspace if they haven’t trained to understand that this basic request serves a purpose. We have made a great effort to build a network of talent and find ways to make it more affordable for clients to utilize professional actors to help make an even bigger impact with their content.

The greatest advice we can offer on this topic is that if you are planning to invest in marketing your business or brand, strongly consider the benefits of hiring professional talent. When paired with a production company motivated by storytelling, the results will not only be worth the investment but so will the experience. It is so important that your content be engaging and leaves the viewer with the greater sense of production value this combination brings. If you are looking to discover ways to better connect with your audience, we would love to hear from you and exchange ideas to help you get the most out of your investment.