This prompted Mooney to create Actor Trade, an app that connects players with each other to rehearse.
Founded in 2017, Century City-based Actor Trade allows actors to play lines and practice scenes before auditions.
The platform also allows actors to make auto-cassettes or video auditions, which are recorded on users’ phones or shared directly from the app.
“(Actor Trade) was born out of a need,” said Mooney, president and CEO of the company. “If I have this problem, I guarantee actors all over the world have this problem.”
As the pandemic has limited opportunities for rehearsals and in-person auditions, Actor Trade’s digital practice and self-check-in platform has attracted over 11,000 new users over the past year, giving the platform has a total user base of nearly 23,000. Every day, Mooney said, “hundreds” of players use the app.
In the wings
Although auto-cassettes were a hearing option before Covid-19, Mooney said the pandemic “consolidates” the need for remote hearing options. Due to the ease and wide range of actors who can submit to auditions, Mooney said self-registration will remain after the pandemic.
“We knew that the technology was merging with the acting and that ultimately the auditions in the room were going to go away,” he said.
Actor Trade is available in the Apple and Google Play app stores, and most of its features are free. Each user begins with 30 minutes of repetition on the app. Users upload their scripts to the platform and connect with others to run lines, and the platform automatically shares the script with the line reader.
In order to gain more rehearsal minutes, users can act as line readers for other actors. Every minute an actor spends reading for someone else is a minute saved for their own rehearsal time.
During the first 30 days, users are granted an unlimited number of minutes of automatic recording. After that, it costs $ 5 for two days of unlimited auto-recording time, a charge that Mooney said helps cover the company’s video storage costs.
The minutes can also be redeemed for prizes in the in-app rewards store, he added, such as discounts on headshots or a free website design.
In 2016, Skyler Caleb, vice president of corporate operations and filmmaker, joined Mooney to help bring his app idea to life.
Mooney brought the developed idea to Avery, an actor who has appeared in films such as “Napoleon Dynamite” and “The Secret Life of the Bee”. Excited by the idea, Avery gave Mooney a small undisclosed seed sum and joined the project as vice president.
In 2017, Mooney and Avery joined We The Incubator, a Century City-based startup incubator, through which they received more than $ 150,000 in funding for the company. Mooney said that was when Actor Trade came to fruition, giving the company a springboard to officially launch the app in April 2018.
Although the platform had grown steadily before the pandemic, it skyrocketed from March 2020. Mooney said Actor Trade’s app had around 12,000 users at the start of the pandemic, with its Facebook group of about 6,000 people. Now its user base and the number of Facebook group members have almost doubled.
As the pandemic has eroded the gears of television and film production, auditions and virtual rehearsals have become a new standard for the entertainment industry, said Stacey Pianko, casting director and hearing coach.
The digitization of the casting process has given casting teams a wider choice of talent, she said, making it more important for actors to convey their energy and emotions well through their self-recordings.
“We don’t have the luxury of seeing them in the room and feeling their energy,” Pianko said. “As far as (Actor Trade) goes, it’s so good because actors can read with another actor, and it really helps their performance.” With its user base growing amid the pandemic, the company is now working to expand Actor Trade’s offerings. He is ramping up his content production through YouTube, his Facebook group and his website by producing two series titled “Celebrity Scene Spotlight” and “Unrehearsed,” which featured actors like Rainn Wilson, David Lee Strausberg and Gary Cole.
The company also aims to increase its marketing, add casting workshops and expand its technology to be available on desktops by early 2022.
But to grow, Actor Trade’s next challenge is to secure the additional funding it needs, Mooney said. He has been self-financing since leaving the incubator, he said, and is looking for another level of investment.
“We have so many ideas for development,” Mooney said. “But our timing depends on when the next person cuts the check.”
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