Now there’s computer casting

INTERACTIVE CASTING: If Global Talent Guild’s Nick Morf has his way, CD-I might put an end to that bane of many actors’ existences — the casting couch. Morf has developed the “Interactive Casting Directory,” which will allow casting directors to access headshots, clips from demo reels and resumes at the touch of a button from a Philips CD-I machine.

In development for the last two years, the program began to take shape when Morf conducted research and interviews with the leading talent executives in the entertainment industry. Morf discovered during his research that most casting directors were reluctant to learn additional computer skills. With this in mind, Global Talent hooked up with Philips, the company behind the CD-I player, which easily connects to a television, converting it into a virtual storehouse of information.

Using a hand-held remote control, a casting director can point at various categories, enter in certain criteria — such as physical build and abilities — and the machine will begin searching. After the search is completed, the user can view any photo in full screen mode plus the actor’s resume and, if available , a full-motion video or audio clip from the candidate’s demo reel.

In order to get wide acceptability for this new product, Global Talent is providing 100 casting directors, including Amanda Mackey (“The Fugitive, “”Sliver”), Dianne Crittenden (“Three Men and a Baby,””Pretty Woman”), Dee Miller (“Wrestling Ernest Hemingway”) and Tony Shepherd (talent VP at Aaron Spelling Television), with Philips CD-I machines, and the software, at no cost.

The system will be a particular boon for actors, offering them much greater exposure by placing their data in the hands of numerous major casting sources. For an annual fee of $ 100, an actor’s headshot and resume will remain in the Global Talent Guild’s database. The $ 100 fee is considerably less than what most actors and agents spend mailing and messengering headshots, resumes and demo reels. What’s more, the actor knows his headshot won’t end up in the wastebasket.

MOVE OVER EBERT: As though there aren’t enough movie critics around, Illinois-based Entertainment Decisions has developed a computer system called TOPpics, which uses artificial intelligence intended to help consumers decide what videos they may want to rent.

Already being tested in several videostores, TOPpics could also find its way into book and record stores.

“We’ve collected thousands of preferences,” says Entertainment Decisions’ Brad Burnside. “With that information, the system can relate to millions of preferences that customers can choose from. The more data we throw at it, the smarter the computer gets. Every user’s opinion on a product relates to other user’s data and that helps us identify patterns.”

Here’s how the system works: Using a computer monitor and mouse, a video customer can tell the computer that he or she is looking for a great comedy, for example. After asking several questions, the computer will then offer suggestions. And the more times users access the computer, the smarter it gets about an individual’s movie preferences.

Another convenient feature of the system is that as new movies hit the marketplace, the systems can be downloaded by modem with current movie titles, thus making the systems up-to-date.

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