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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What in the World is Story Casting?

Clever new websites normally come from young visionaries - but not always. Late-50’s, long-married, stable employment; proud husband, father, and grandfather - Independent Lens, Jeff Reid says I’m “Helvetica - an industry standard. Classic. Reliable. Okay, maybe a bit boring…” But I’m not really that easy to pigeonhole. I’m a life-long learner, one of just a few guys my age who went back to school late in life to finish a degree. I’m the oldest guy among my friends who is active on Shelfari, Facebook, and Twitter. I’m an engineer, so straight-line thinking works great, but I’m also an inventor with three U.S. patents (and a clever new website…), so I sometimes think outside the box. We’re too independent to put up with a pet right now, but I sure like to visit kittens and puppies! I cry with good books, good movies, and good friends of both genders. I still play guitar and sing to my honey, read constantly, and want all my favorite books to be made into good movies. has to be a business, of course, but it will always be just plain fun to play “what if” and make connections between authors and readers and celebrities.

What is Story Casting?

Storycasting is the premier website for creating and posting a “fantasy cast” of your favorite fiction – because books make a “movie in your mind”. People start with a book, select the characters, and then “cast” the roles using current film and TV stars. Each cast is a vote for that actor in that role, and after multiple casts the favorites rise up to create a Top Cast. Over 40 authors have come on and cast their own works, and then sent their fans to cast. A few authors have used the site as their “collaboration point” with a producer or screenwriter.

What sparked the idea for you?

Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly’s loner Hollywood detective. I wanted to see who everyone else was thinking of, but there was very little about it, even at the Michael Connelly web site. Many author sites had fantasy cast discussions, but I wanted to find a website that posted the casts for all fiction, and soon realized that it didn’t exist. After a few years of frustration, I decided to create it myself.

Is this just a time killer or do you see it serving a real purpose as a bridge between pop culture and literature?

The site works on several levels. It’s fun for readers, informative and useful for authors (do your readers perceive your characters the same way you do?), and provides Hollywood with something they’ve never had before: a numbers-based “pre-project” look at the kind of actors the readers want to see.

But it should also help literature instructors. Literature can be a tough sell to young adults, who think movies are fun and books are boring. But by casting the book themselves, and then sending the class to offer alternative casts, teachers can inject movie fun into books, and the classroom discussion can start with a new energy level. From there it moves easily into discussion of character development, background and setting, and the major themes of the work. Plus, the site shows who people want in the roles today, not just who they wanted in the past, so it stays current.

What are your hopes for the future of the site? is a great site that links lots of great movie and celebrity info. I see Storycasting as linking books, authors, readers, and celebrities in some of the same ways, plus growing up to include genre-based blogs. Someone is going to get to “own” and blog about Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, the 20th-century South - and they’ll do it at Storycasting when they talk about “the movie in your mind” for those works.

Do you write? Are you a book enthusiast?

I have two works in a drawer that will both just have to wait until things settle down a bit. But I’ve been reading since I first found the book-mobile in the 4th grade, and I hope I’ll be reading on the day I die.

Which books currently seems to get the most attention?

The site has only been alive since May of 2008, but we’ve seen waves of paranormal romance, historical romance, Sci-Fi, and many of the classics. Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind) came on and cast his own book and then sent 1000+ fans, and there’s a crew of George R.R. Martin fans who are casting Game of Thrones and others. But Twilight still gets alternative cast suggestions, as does Gone with the Wind. We’ve had a middle-school class come and cast The Count of Monte Cristo, too. People are still just learning about the site, and we’re still adding authors and actors every day.

Who would you cast as Aticus in To Kill a Mockingbird?

The image changes as time changes the faces. At one point, it would have been Sam Waterston from Law and Order, but he’s not young enough to be a believable young father in that timeframe. It could also have been Ed Harris – he can do tender and stern, too. I think Tom Hanks or Nicholas Cage would do well, but Brad Pitt and Val Kilmer are also now old enough for that role, as is Jim Carey.

I see Ane Mulligan as Scarlet O'Hara. Thoughts?

Gosh, Ane, I love ya, but…Scarlet? Our storycasters also have favorites who wouldn’t really work in the roles. One early cast for Pride and Prejudice has the four Potter moppets in the leads. Now, I can’t really see Rupert Grint as Mr. Darcy, but who knows; in five years the studios could go for it – think of the guaranteed audience!

And after I showed the site to Diana Gabaldon, she blogged about the many actors who have been suggested to play Jamie Fraser, and then said, “…James McAvoy is probably a wonderful actor, but he’s only 5’7”, for heaven’s sake.” Plus, the studios have to work with those who are available and willing (for a price) to give it a try. In REAL casting, it’s a tough slog, but in fantasy casting, a walk in the park.

Do you get any heated debates over which actor should be cast in which character role?

When I asked Laura K. Hamilton about casting, she said, “DON’T ASK ME ABOUT THAT!! IT JUST STARTS FIGHTS AMONG THE FANS!!” But, except for a few rabid readers (Twilight…), most folks have been rather civil, at least so far. Plus, it can’t just be a war of words – we designed the site so that casts are the only way to vote, and that means one per person. Want more votes for your movie hottie in the role? Get some friends to go on and cast the same way you do.

How do authors get their works on your site?

Some day, Amazon will buy us and we’ll have their whole catalog. Until then, we take suggestions from all sources. Just give your information to our author support person: We use Amazon for cover art, but we’ll put anything on the site for which we have an author, title, cover art, and an 85-word synopsis, including ebooks and podcasts. If it has a cast and tells a story, it should be on


  1. Scarlet?

    In my WIP, this is the first time I've used a actor's photo as a character model. But the role played in a certain movie so suited my character, I found it helpful. So does it matter if I'm using Storycasting backwards?

  2. Cool site. I just did a post for it on my film blog at

  3. Interesting idea! Thanks, Gina for finding and sharing.

    Thanks, Jeff, for taking the time to explain it. I'll be checking out the site!


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