Monday, 14 May 2012

No Pay, No Way

Casting call: "“Unfortunately we’re not able to offer a fee on this occasion.”

Unfortunately this is casting call that we're all to used to seeing. A good 75% of casting calls probably contain this line or a variation on it (such as the incredibly inventive 'This is a no-pay experience!') However, what we're not used to seeing is this kind of casting call from an established company. And they're not just any old established company, they're the company behind shows such as Have I Got News For You, Outnumbered and Episodes and whether you're a fan of these shows or not, you have to admit that it's pretty shocking behaviour. As companies go, they're probably one of the biggest so why the heck are they advertising unpaid acting roles?

Now, I saw this casting call a few weeks ago and was utterly outraged and it has now been reported on in the stage here after Equity got involved and rightly questioned what on earth they were playing at. (Whether you want to praise me for being way ahead of the news is entirely up to you but I am currently accepting cash rewards and/or a Nobel Peace Prize for my work.) But I think we're all in agreement that this isn't on. There is no freaking way a company such as this should be allowed to get away with hiring actors for nothing. That, my friends, is the job of university students and unscrupulous directors. If actors can't be paid for a role on a show which will almost undoubtedly be a primetime show and will probably be slated on Twitter then when can they?

But it's the backtracking that this company has done which is even more worrying. It's the kind of awkward backtracking you do when you've been caught talking about someone behind their back. 'Oh no, not you. I meant the other Hugo Smith.' When questioned on why they're trying to get actors to work for free, they have now claimed they will not be using professional performers and will instead be using members of the public and friends and family of the production team. Is this what's going to happen now? Have we now got to the point where companies are so reluctant to pay professionals, they'd rather rope in their mates to work for free? Other people's mates are rarely funny. Other people's mates are the type of people you get cornered by at a party and then have to listen to them talk about their tedious jobs and boring lives. Other people's mates think drinking twenty bottles of WKD and then running around Derby city centre with a traffic cone on their head is the definition of 'quality.' Other people's mates should not be allowed anywhere near a television unless they happen to know a clever way of filtering out annoying adverts... Has our profession become so lowly-regarded that we can easily be replaced by the director's second cousin? And it's worrying that one of the biggest TV production companies has started this trend. Surely it's only a matter of time before smaller companies follow suit and our TVs will become awash with casts made up of the make-up artist's university mates and the man in Muswell Hill who wanders the streets asking everyone for 20p. Irritating and baffling people do not maketh the good television programmes. Actors are being pushed out of TV at an alarming rate with shows such as TOWIE and Made In Chelsea gaining far more viewers than well-made dramas and comedies so what hope have we got now?

And what's even more worrying is that yet again, actors are going to be forced into unpaid work just to hold on to to a career that's more slippery than a greasy seal. Companies are again holding us to ransom where we can either accept their terms and work for free or spend a lifetime waiting for one precious job to come our way. It's unfair, it's unethical and it's ridiculously frustrating. Plus it's extremely worrying that high profile companies are choosing cheap labour over high-quality programming. If production companies are more worried about making low-rent television than supporting the industry then what's the point?

I would love the opportunity to gain the exposure that a primetime TV show would bring but not at my own expense and certainly not just so a very wealthy production company can save a few pennies. I refuse to forego a well-deserved wage just so an exec can continue to fund their lavish lifestyle. Why should they get to go on fancy holidays while I sit at home wondering how to make a tin of chopped tomatoes and a bag of Scampi & Lemon Nik Naks last me until the end of the week. It's exploitation at it's lowest, meanest level and until we all make a stand against these companies, all we're doing is encouraging them to turn our already fragile industry into a laughing stock.


  1. Really great article. Very well written.

  2. so does minimum wage legislation not apply to actors? And if so why not, are we a sub species?