A new online casting portal catering to the regional entertainment industry has gained momentum since its launch last month after years of careful fine tuning.
The site, www.castmeonline.com, is geared towards film, television, theatre and advertising professionals seeking to cast their projects and for actors to promote themselves. It was launched by the UAE-based filmmaker Greg White, whose first feature film will make its debut this year when Separation hits the big screens. The psychological thriller stars Peter Stebbings, from 2011's blockbuster movie Immortals.
The Basic Talent Membership for CastMEOnline is free, with access to casting calls and inclusion of talent in the searchable database spanning the Middle East North Africa (Mena) region.
"There are casting and talent portals but they are largely limited to featured companies. Casting calls are also posted through social media because there were no alternatives - we are aiming to fill that void," said White, who runs the site with his wife. "There have been a tremendous amount of exciting Mena projects and the UAE is pushing this further with interest from TwoFour54, Image Nation Abu Dhabi [owned by The National's parent company, Abu Dhabi Media] and Dubai Studio City, for example."
He believes such support will make the Emirates a "premiere location for media".
"The UAE provides an interesting backdrop for stories. I remember driving in Dubai recently and seeing a sign for the first time that read, 'This way to set', which is something you often see in Canada and North America," he said.
White is developing another feature film called The Warehouse, a classic slasher/horror produced in Canada. He is also working on a sci-fi/horror feature film that is on course to be a UAE production.
"I was looking for film projects based in the Middle East with international appeal, so this is going to be a big-budget film and I'll use the online portal to look at casting local talent," he said.
After spending years in the finance industry, White decided to follow his dream and left his job to work as an actor. He then began writing for a TV trivia show called Inside the Box, which led to his debut short film Angel (2006), which won the Audience Favourite Award at the Washington DC Short Film Festival.
He is now evaluating the potential for a UAE-based film investment fund.
"Many huge celebrities began as waiters, acting for free or working on set. I was on the verge of turning 30 and thought it's now or never to chase my dream," he said. "I landed my first TV commercial through a casting portal like CastMEOnline, that's why this system is so important."
The "unbiased tips and information" and the building of demos, audio samples, film reels and students reels were essential, he added.
• For more information, visit www.castmeonline.com
Follow Arts & Life on Twitter to keep up with all the latest news and events @LifeNationalUAE