Friday, 8 June 2012

Network Fail

It's very normal to see a casting that only promises food and travel to actors. However angry it makes me, I'm used to seeing it now. So, last night, while taking one final look at castings before retiring for the day, I wasn't expecting to see anything particularly out of the ordinary. Maybe a few mentions of bikini-clad zombies who turn to a life of prostitution but nothing more. So imagine my surprise when I see a corporate casting that isn't offering any pay. That's quite a thing in itself because corporate work is one of the few strands of acting that can actually pay your bills but it happens very ocassionally for smaller companies. But this wasn't just your local start-up business. Oh no. This is the company that you probably complain about on a daily basis. This is the company that's responsible for making you late and meaning you spend your commute pushed up against a pain of glass. This little company is Network Rail.

Network Rail appear to be producing an internal film and they're in need of ten extras to help them out with this. Fair enough. But for your efforts, this company which made a profit of £754 MILLION last year, is only offering to give you food and cover your travel expenses. And I'm not sure, given their track (gettit? Track? Y'know, like rail track? Oh forget it...) record, they would even get food and travel right. An over-priced stale sandwich and infuriatingly late trains, anyone? And don't even get me started on their depressingly limited choice of crisps...

So what the heck is going on here? Why can't a company that made more money in a year than I'll see in a zillion lifetimes not even offer a minimal payment to their extras? Ten extras at a £100 each for a day's work. That would cost them £1000, about the same amount they make from one very small person purchasing the opportunity to possibly get a seat on the 10.04 from London Paddington to Reading. Even if they paid each extra £1000, that'd mean them begrudgingly handing over 0.001% of their eye-wateringly huge pile of money. But no, instead of paying actors (who make up a huge proportion of their customers anyway) they choose to smugly sit on their pennies and watch on in the hope that yet again, they'll find a few performers willing to pimp themselves out as a very unglorified slave.

Network Rail's ethos is the following:

‘We are passionate about what we do and take pride in a job well done’ 

Apparently it seems that their primary passions are keeping their grubby hands on their profits and exploiting actors for their own personal gain. Apparently a job well done means that Sir David Higgins, the Chief Executive of National Rail, protects his £560,000 a year salary by denying actors the right to even receiving the National Minimum Wage when working for them.

But the worst thing about all of this? The fact that this situation is becoming all too familiar. Actors have now gone for so many years where they've allowed companies to take advantage of them that it has now become the norm rather than the exception. Equity now know about this and I seriously hope they take action otherwise these money-grabbing, exploitative companies will destroy that final scrap of dignity that the world of acting is still desperately clutching on to.


  1. I think you've got to look to your own actions here. You say you've done unpaid work in the past - I'm afraid that's the problem - so is everyone else - except they are doing it now and will give it up in the future because its unsustainable.
    Its no good asking authorities to clamp down on the big guys but leave the little guys alone - because they're small or they might be run by some nice friends.
    Don't buy tickets for Fringe where you know the ticket price wont go to the actors, and don't be so soft on the little guys they too have to learn the hard way.

  2. Thank you for your comment. I completely understand but surely there's a difference between students not being able to offer money and large corporations who makes millions of pounds every year asking actors to work for free. I think the whole industry needs a big overhaul as I don't agree with anyone working for free so surely it needs to start with the larger companies and then the smaller companies can follow suit.
    Of course, I realise having done unpaid work in the past means that I can sound very hypocritical about this subject. But that's why the industry needs to policed far better to try and ensure that actors aren't faced with the choice of either doing unpaid work or not working at all.