The Casting Depot, a LinkedIn for Hollywood Talent, Has a New Beta and a Six-Figure Investment
As a casting director, Lacey Kaelani has a leading view on Hollywood's content pipeline. Based on what she's been seeing on her venture-backed casting platform, Casting Depot, prepare for a deluge of unscripted shows.
"It's all gonna be handheld videos where everything looks like a Zoom call," she said. "Dating shows, talk shows, food competition shows – that's what was cast and is going into production."
The Casting Depot launched its latest beta version on Friday, with a "six-figure" investment from global venture capital firm Antler. Its board includes leaders from companies including CAA, Airtime, iHeartMedia, WorkMarket and IAC.
Kaelani, 26, described the site as similar to a social media platform. Users build profiles, can join groups and have access to industry news. On the middle of their page is an aggregated feed of casting calls tailored to them. The idea, she said, is if there's an actor that has an interest in food, they will see more food based opportunities than they would using a database because of the interest-based feed.
Kaelani founded Casting Depot in New York but she's been working in Los Angeles since the pandemic and eventually plans to permanently move the company to Southern California, the industry's epicenter.
A screenshot of the dashboard of the latest version of the Casting Depot.
Kaelani started the company as a casting agency in 2019 and helped companies like Hearst, Buzzfeed, HGTV and several streamers find talent. But she quickly pivoted to an online talent network.
"It's a millenial view of what casting should look like in 2021," she said.
She says the casting process is like H.R. for Hollywood. And after years as a casting director for companies like Netflix, Bravo and HGTV, she and her team were flummoxed why what seemed like a straightforward process tended to be complex and costly.
Casting directors can pay up to $800 a month to access a database and artists often have subscriptions that range from $20 to $50 a month. Those databases, she said, are dated.
"We thought there could be a better way, so that networks don't have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per season per show," she said. "That's when the lightbulb went off: a centralized marketplace that has every single type of on-camera gig, kind of like a LinkedIn."
Casting Depot is free for casting directors and it takes an 8% cut of the deals that it helps talent forge. That's a departure from the subscription model that typical casting hubs use. But, by bringing down the paywall, she hopes to widen the pool of talent for shows while also giving casting directors access to better candidates.
Kaelani pivoted her casting company last year bringing in a chief technology officer with digital marketplace experience and launched its first beta version in July.
Over that 12-week period, the company says it saw 446% month-over-month user growth. In all, 10,000 users have joined on the talent side, and 350 production companies have tapped the platform, including HBO Max, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Discovery, Twitch and Snapchat.
She added in payment processing and legal document management for items like NDAs, contracts, and image-release forms with its latest version. The company sees itself now as a valuable "end-to-end" solution.
COVID has hampered the content production process, but Kaelani sees it as a boost for her business. For one, it has generated demand for unscripted productions, since they are cheaper to make and easier to produce in accordance with social distancing protocols, as they generally require fewer people on set. That works well for the type of users that have flocked to Casting Depot.
"On the talent side, in our beta, around 75% of our users were real people," Kaelani said. "Chefs that want to be on Food Network, real estate agents that want to be on HGTV, financial experts that want to be on Yahoo Finance."
The feed view of the most recent version of the Casting Depot.
As the industry continues to work remotely where it can, Kaelani thinks her business is well positioned.
"You'll see more companies with casting happening over Zoom and Skype and having virtual relationships," she said. "But it makes for a stickier workflow process to manage that remotely, and we're building tools to help with that."
The company expects its success to skyrocket, claiming it is "set to hit half a million users by 2021 with thousands of on-camera gigs booked every week through the platform."
As for the content that Kaelani sees coming through the pipeline, she says to get ready for a new generation of "Keeping up with the Kardashians," "The Great British Bake Off," and "The Bachelor."
"My opinion on the future of content is that it'll all be unscripted, short-form content," she said. "I've seen a massive shift toward real stories, real people. It's cheap to create, has the highest impact, and major streamers like Netflix and HBO will have to continue to create content within that sphere."
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Sweetgreen has pledged to be carbon neutral in six years by cutting its carbon output in half. Santa Monica and the L.A. Cleantech Incubator launched the nation's first zero-emissions delivery zone, a project meant to encourage companies to embrace EV transportation. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for more updates.
- Sweet Green wants to get greener
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Sweetgreen Promises Carbon Neutrality by 2027<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzEzODQ3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTc4NjQxNn0.sad0ogJEI_n5zonFpimBFFqqkA6NSvjXVhk3ckIyeUo/img.jpg?width=980" id="e77aa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0997ff2630815ab1b3505090cfdb38ca" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />LA Tech Updates: Sweetgreen to Go Carbon Neutral by 2027; Santa Monica Opens Zero-Emission Zone<p>Sweetgreen wants to be greener. </p> <p>The Culver City-based fast casual unicorn has pledged to be carbon neutral in six years by cutting its carbon output in half.</p> <p>"We believe that climate change is the defining challenge of our generation, posing a real and systemic threat to the health of people and the planet," Sweetgreen's founders <a href="https://medium.com/@sweetgreen/our-commitment-to-be-carbon-neutral-by-2027-875a29698252" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote in a blog post.</a> "As restaurant leaders in an industry that drives 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is our responsibility to use our platform and resources to confront this crisis head on."</p> <hr><p>The company says it started measuring its carbon output in 2019, which helped it identify areas where it could save energy. It was already well ahead of most other restaurants because of its heavy use of low impact fruits and vegetables rather than beef, but it wanted to do more.</p> <p>Sweetgreen will now use carbon output as a metric for deciding what to put on its menu. It will also work with suppliers to be more environmentally friendly.</p> <p>"To truly future proof our company, we must evolve our supply network and fix our relationship to the soil — and cultivate an environment that benefits the entire agricultural ecosystem: our food partners, customers, team members, and the planet," the founders wrote. </p>
Santa Monica Opens Nation's First Zero-Emissions Delivery Zone<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY5MDU3OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTI1NTIxOH0.T3W4XNFrl3_7TZ-fPB9kBRheOBEh-WeZY3LdoouwhdU/img.jpg?width=980" id="7afd5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d0d1afe8b6f9d941da5b2c303f975ba3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="kiwibot Santa Monica" data-width="1080" data-height="1080" /><p>Ikea, Shopify and the yerba mate brand Guayaki are just a few of the companies that vow to cut pollution in Santa Monica by using electric vans and delivery robots to fulfill orders.</p><p>The seaside city and the L.A. Cleantech Incubator launched the nation's first zero-emissions delivery zone on Thursday, a project meant to encourage companies to embrace EV transportation by giving drivers access to 20 reserved parking and loading spots. The one-square mile radius will span Downtown Santa Monica and Main Street. </p><hr><p>City officials will be watching for changes in traffic and pollution with an eye towards introducing permanent zones down the line.</p><p>To do that, <a href="https://dot.la/automotus-2650510029.html" target="_self">they've hired Automotus</a>, a venture-backed software startup that monitors curbside traffic. The company will install 20 small video cameras on street lamps lining the parking spots to collect data on factors like congestion and safety. Plus, the technology will alert drivers to open parking spots through an app. </p><p>Automotus' CEO says the cameras will not pick up personally identifiable information. In other cities, however, the software has been used to automate parking violations and issue tickets. </p><p>Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich said in a statement that the pilot comes at a "critical moment" in the city's recovery. </p><p>"Beyond reducing carbon and congestion, the added bonus is that restaurants can keep higher margins of sales on delivered food items," Himmelrich added. </p><p>To encourage use of the space, local businesses will be given access to two Nissan electric vans and ecommerce software company Shopify will equip merchants in the area with <a href="https://dot.la/kiwibot-delivery-robot-2649919954.html" target="_self">Kiwibot delivery robots</a> to help drop off orders.</p>
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My, how times have changed.
Five years ago, Eric Yuan, chief executive officer and founder of video conferencing company Zoom, was asked to deliver an insider's look at his business at the influential tech-savvy conference Montgomery Summit in Santa Monica.
But there was a catch: He wanted to show up online, not on the dais.
Yuan wound up giving his presentation at the Summit backed by Jamie Montgomery, who runs March Capital Partners, the Santa Monica-based venture capital firm that invests in breakthrough technology companies in person.
Ceres Group Holdings is becoming corporate America's biggest cannabis dealmaker out of its Century City offices.
The venture and private equity firm this week announced that its special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, would take Atlanta-based cannabis producer Parallel public in a merger that will value the Canadian-listed company at $1.88 billion.
Parallel has about 42 retail stores outside of California, but has big plans for a big expansion into L.A. sometime in the next year or two.
Joe Crouthers is the CEO of Ceres and head executive of the SPAC that bought Parallel.