Why Casting in the MENA Region Sucks!

VERDICT: Actor Eyas Shanaah, the founder of Casting Arabia, talks about real-life casting in the MENA region in his first column for Al-Takdir.

When I set out to write this article, I debated what the title should be. “Why Casting in MENA Falls Short in Serving Production”  was one option that came to mind … but it’s too long. Another was “Why We Don’t See All the Great Talent MENA Has to Offer” … even longer. Then I said to myself, just say it like it is … Sorry, but casting in MENA does suck!

In 2012, I moved back to the U.S. to pursue a career in acting. As my acting career started to gain momentum in 2013, I kept thinking that I didn’t want to become the Hollywood guy who loses touch with his roots. With a rare proficiency in several Arabic dialects, I yearned to participate in quality projects filming across the MENA region — however, there was a serious obstacle.

Unlike the streamlined, straightforward casting process in the U.S. where actors, or their agents, can use different websites to apply for gigs in the performing arts, accessing opportunities in the MENA entertainment industry seemed archaic. When I asked about auditioning procedures, the response was disheartening: “You need to know someone to find work!”  Primitive, to say the least.

That’s when the idea of Casting Arabia was conceived, and I bought the domain name that same year. It wasn’t until the pandemic that I was able to get a break from acting to build the platform. One of the very few advantages of COVID, I guess!

Casting Arabia is a revolutionary platform, inspired by Western casting processes, aimed at revolutionizing talent recruitment in the MENA region. It bridges the gap between artists and opportunities, offering a seamless experience akin to those enjoyed in the West. Gone are the days of relying solely on connections or browsing outdated databases. Producers, directors, and casting directors can now post jobs, receive applications, and explore profiles effortlessly. The app and website are a quantum leap from the traditional reliance on social media, WhatsApp, or cumbersome phone calls.

And it’s not just about connecting talent with opportunities; it’s about empowering the MENA entertainment industry as a whole. By providing valuable education and insights into industry trends, Casting Arabia nurtures a vibrant ecosystem conducive to growth and innovation.

Collaboration is key to driving change in any industry, which is why Casting Arabia is joining forces with the visionary Eric Mika and Al-Takdir. We share a common goal: fostering education and contributing to the advancement of the entertainment industry in the MENA region.

While the status quo of casting in the MENA region is far from ideal, small initiatives like ours and the expansion of networks that allow fast and free flow of information offer a chance to compete globally. It’s high time to take our productions in MENA to the next level for the betterment of artists and the industry. I started with Casting… What would you improve?