In the entertainment business, hiring decisions were very difficult. This
was because there have been many talented actors, few quantitative measures to
directly assess actor performance, and subjectivity in who would fit best for a
given role. This used to give producers a lot of discretion over who to hire.
Today, the casting couch has been replaced by psychometric testing and early
audience screen tests. I hire based on the results of these quantitative
assessments and my subjective assessment of how much of a team player the actor
As a producer for Wharton Productions, a studio that films biopics of famous
historical figures, it’s important to have a rigorous system to vet who should
be an actor in one of our productions. First, we perform a psychometric test to
see if the actor will likely have the right on-screen personality. For example,
an introvert with an emotionally reactive personality may not be the right fit
to play Bill Clinton in a biopic about the 1992 presidential election. If we
did select this person, critics would no doubt be merciless.
Second, with this narrowed list of candidates, we perform screen tests where
the actors perform scenes from the film. Then, audiences from key demographics
assess how much they enjoy the interaction. This yields surprising data in some
cases. Prior to the recent Martin Luther King biopic, screen testing showed
that audiences from the South loved the performance of the actors playing
Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King, but New England audiences struggled
to understand the actors’ unique southern accents, and felt the relationship
between the two in the film came off as insincere. This screen testing
encouraged me to select another set of performers because New England audiences
typically contribute about 25% of our box office receipts.
Finally, I am the deciding vote where there is not a clear-cut winner out of
the quantitative metrics. It is key to have actors who show empathy for others,
work well with the studio personnel, and have a bent toward getting things done
collaboratively even when things go wrong. I assess this by asking questions
about the interviewees past experiences and by speaking with former employers
to understand how the actor has behaved in the past. This team-focused quality
is particularly crucial because an actor with a selfish outlook can demoralize
studio personnel to a point where finding new hires and production delays cause
costs to skyrocket.
In short, Wharton Productions is managed so that psychometric tests, early
audience evaluation, and a team-focused bent determine who gets a part in a
film. I believe it is fairer this way, audiences get what they want, and our
production costs are reduced because team-focused actors bring drama to the
screen and not the production studio.