It was while standing in line for an extra casting session for the movie Veronica Guerin that Derek Quinn got the idea of MovieExtras.ie. “I ended up being an extra on the film for a couple of days and from seeing how it worked – I spent three hours at the casting – I realised the internet could help the process,” he explains.
After his experience, Quinn, whose background was in telecommunications, found a technology/business partner by the name of Kevin Gill whose background was software and development. “The two of us sat down and had a chat about it and he said that what I wanted to do could be done.”
It took Gill about 10 weeks to write the content for the website, which went live in December 2002. Initially the film companies were sceptical of the new idea and took a while to come on board. But come on board they did. RTÉ’s Fair City was the first production to use the online service. Since then, more than 200 casting companies have registered with the site. Quinn estimates that 20-40 production units are looking at the site every month. The service has provided extras for Laws of Attraction, King Arthur, Asylum and Starfish, as well as for numerous adverts.
“We run two services,” explains Quinn. “The first is the traditional agency service, where a production company rings us up and requests 20 extras. The second is the directory service, which is unique. A production company can go online, find the people it needs and then does a unique availability check that is sent by email or SMS.”
Potential extras sign up by providing their names and contact details, description and a headshot. There is a €49 fee for registration and so far 3,000 individuals have signed up. Production companies, on the other hand, can use the service for free. Casting directors can log on, enter the criteria they are looking for such as age, height, skin/hair colouring and so on. They get a list back and they can pick who they want to contact.
“Anyone can register on the internet,” says Quinn. “Up to now they had to be available in the Dublin area during daylight hours to attend a casting call. Now they can register at any time and from anywhere. Productions can also cast 150 extras in as short a time as four to five hours instead of days.”
The site runs on software written expressly for the project by Gill using the Zope open source application and the hosting is provided from the Netherlands. Quinn and Gill are now examining ways of licensing the software to other companies in other countries and there have been expressions of interest from casting companies in the UK.
By David Stewart
Pictured: Derek Quinn, marketing director, and Kevin Gill, technical director, of MovieExtras.ie
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