Welcome to Swirl Studios' new scribe series: Showrunner Strategies.
Showrunners are in charge of every aspect of producing a television show. From hiring the staff to approving locations, from addressing network notes to managing talent asks. We are, as they say, the chief, cook and bottle washer.
We get dirty and we don't stop until the job is done right.
Each article in our series features: advice, tips, moves, insights and business solutions from experienced television veterans. Our goal is to provide information for all those who are expanding their company's content.
Whether you're a CMO, a PR professional, or an entrepreneur striving to make an impact with your video content, we are here to assist YOU.
Providing quick reads, Showrunner Strategies targets unscripted formats to support storytelling objectives with a polished tone.
The world of branded content was birthed from television formats like reality, talk shows and documentary. Memorable branded, original content is actually tv in disguise, just shorter.
First up: Casting.
When considering who should to be the face of a video, remember...authenticity leads. On all vertical platforms, the scrolling stops when something or someone real stands out.
People will buy into messaging when they believe it's the truth.
Actors act. They have learned the art of transforming themselves for a role. And there are incredible scripts for them in film and commercials. But if your content is anchored by someone pretending to be something they are not, it will not fly.
Here are a few ways to find real people for your unscripted content.
JOIN FACEBOOK GROUPS
There are hundreds of thousands of niche groups on Facebook, with very targeted populations. Facebook is where people generally have their guard down. It is possible to get a sense for someone's personality by the tone of their posts. If the group's moderators require questions to be answered before joining, be truthful that you are scouting their population, and ask them for assistance locating members who fit your criteria.
SEARCH FOR A CERTAIN # (HASHTAG) ON INSTAGRAM
Let's say you need a middle aged dad and an adorable dog. Go onto Instagram and search for words under "tags" like: #dad, #dadlife, #nycdad, #dog, #dogsofinstagram. Millions of options are instantly at your fingertips. Send the results at the top of the list a direct message or comment on one of their posts so they can contact you back.
ASK YOUR NETWORK
Remember that people want to help other people. Many times marketing, advertising, television, social media is an alluring field to those working in other industries. So a simple email to friends and family that is specific can yield amazing results. Try making a flyer on Canva to include as a forward or post for others. Be sure to ask your network to forward your email to their people, too.
HIRE A CASTING DIRECTOR
Uncovering talent seems easy enough, but knowing how to mold each rock into a diamond can take some elbow grease.
Asking the right questions as it pertains to origin story. Knowing what motivates a human. Being able to assess how emotional and responsive someone will be once the camera rolls. These are all things that are nuanced. If you're project has a budget, hire a casting director.
Once you've identified talent for your content, schedule a zoom call with them and let them know you'll record it. Make sure to ask a few throwaway questions at the top to get them warmed up. Keep it to 15-20 minutes and save the videos to share with your colleagues.
It is an exciting time for video content. So much possibility. So many platforms. Let's Swirl!
Abbey LeVine is the Head of Content at award-winning Swirl Studios in NYC. She has launched and run television shows like: "Dr. Phil", "Beyond Scared Straight", "Love + Hip Hop" on network television. Now, an evangelist for leveraging social media and digital platforms to tell stories, LeVine's agency partners with PR Firms, Brands, Production Companies and Influencers.