Defending the Rights and Dignity of Workers in Entertainment Industry

Actors Getting Work

In most countries, actors need to audition to get work. The process consists of the movie producer contacting casting directors with a list of characters. Casting then sends out that list to talent agents.

Agents submit actors from their roster to casting for each role and then if casting chooses one of their actors to audition that actor is contacted by their agent.

Most auditions are either 'Zoom auditions' or self-tapes. Zoom auditions are run by casting directors. For a self-tape the actor films themselves and sends their audition tape to their agent. Most of these self-tapes are done in the actor's home and sometimes in a professional studio.

The movie industry is highly organized, all to suit the needs of producers. Actors, like all the film workers, have no say. So it goes with auditions. Refusing an audition is looked on very poorly by agents and casting and an actor can be blacklisted for doing so.

Actors need auditions and are loathe to say no even though that is the only act they have to protect themselves.

A survey conducted in 2016 by ACTRA (The Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists) showed the average annual salary of an actor to be $15,000.00 and that 20 per cent of ACTRA's members earn zero dollars per year.

Actors are asked to deliver auditions on very short notice, sometimes in just twenty-four hours. This means the actor's creative work is at a minimum with all the effort being spent on just memorizing the lines.

In Great Britain the situation is similar and a code of practice for self-tape auditions has been developed to address unrealistic deadlines and script demands on actors and foster a better working environment.

Four leading industry bodies have come together for the first time to create the guidelines. Equity, the Casting Directors' Guild, the Co-operative Personal Management Association and the Personal Managers' Association have developed and published the code, and will meet regularly to monitor its effectiveness.

Key points include limiting the number of pages actors can be asked to learn for a self-tape or Zoom audition, as well as minimum turnaround times and commitments to inform actors about whether or not they have been successful.

A significant number of performers responding to a British Equity survey said they had been asked to turn around auditions in less than 24 hours, with some asked to produce self-tapes in less than five hours. Actors also reported having to learn up to 50 pages for a single audition.

Section A28 of the Independent Production Agreement between the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) and the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) deals with Auditions and Interviews. Clause A2801, Auditions, states that ‘Performers shall not be required to learn special material or spoken lines or special business.'

Even with this clause in place actors in Canada have a history of learning their lines and most feel the pressure to do so thinking that will better their chances of booking a role.

In recent years, since the pandemic, studios producing streaming content have been making record-breaking profits and are running at breakneck speed to produce more and more content. Production is at a high in Canada and other countries. This quantity and pressure to produce quickly forces actors to get auditions done in short time and to do lots of them.

More actors are auditioning for the same role as producers can now scroll on a device looking for an actor that looks right for them. This means the actor's work isn't looked at carefully, adding humiliation to the actor's work life.

Casting has the power over actors, so they can ask for anything of actors doing self-tapes -- including good lighting, good background, good readers and for the actors to have memorized their lines. This means the burden of auditions is now on the backs of the actors.

Often, it is difficult for an actor to find someone to read with them for a self-tape as the auditions are given on short notice.

ACTRA is in the process of developing their own guide and putting new clauses in the agreement to better protect actors doing self-tapes.

This article was published in

November 22, 2021 - No. 110

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