Monday, 12 November 2012

A Letter

Dear Production Companies/Advertising Agencies/Whichever Of You Damned Fools This Concerns

Please, on behalf of all us actors who have invested many years and much heartache into honing our skills and persevering with this ridiculous job, cease with this current obsession for casting non-actors in your adverts.

This may surprise you but we actors are capable of acting. We can play friends. We can play lovers. We can play the fact that we are loyal customers of your stupid, jumped-up brand. That's what we do. That is our job. We do well at it. Audiences pay money to watch us play these roles on stage. They'll fork out the hard-earned pay to see us at the cinema. They might even cancel a night out because they want to see something we're in on the TV.

This is our job. You know, those things that doctors and shop assistants and accountants and lawyers and street cleaners and secretaries have. Those things that you have. Like everyone else, this is our living. Yes, we may not save lives. We don't keep the transport system running and we don't ensure people have groceries to buy every day. But we still play our part. We entertain. We inform. We ensure that daytime TV remains watched. Imagine that a gang of 'real' people were drafted in to create an advert. How would you feel if that contract went to your cousin Dave while you remained unemployed for another month? You. Would. Be. Livid.

This job is tough enough at the best of times. We attention-starved jesters have thrown ourselves into an already over-subscribed profession so why do you insist on making it even harder for us? Just one well-paid advert would stop an actor fretting about how they're going to pay their bills for a few months. Maybe it doesn't fulfil that artistic wish that we constantly strive for but it lifts that horrible weight that remains on our shoulder like a poorly designed bag for a short amount of time.

I've seen you offering 'real' people up to £3000 to be in your adverts. These real people have real jobs that pay them real wages. The only good that can come of this is that my temp agency might finally have some work for me while this 'real' person goes on a swish holiday with their winnings. However, if you just gave the job to me then I wouldn't need to keep harassing my temp agency and I'll finally have a credit on my CV that doesn't require people to look at it quizzically and wonder if I've just made up this obscure list of unheard of roles.

I know the trend is for reality. TOWIE and Made In Chelsea and Geordie Shore and all the others have taken over our TV channels meaning that dramas and comedies have to fight harder than ever just to get seen. But that doesn't mean you're not allowed to buck the trend. You can trust actors. We will do whatever you ask of us. We'll Shake 'n' Vac. We'll tell the world that we buy any car. Heck, we'll even swallow our pride and let everyone know that they should go compare.

So next time you go to make an advert, please think of your local actor. Think of how much your job would mean to them. Think about how much easier they'll be to direct. Think about the fact that this is their job and this is what they do for a living. Professionally.

Yours restingly,

Miss L

10 comments:

  1. It's beyond ridiculous! Not only can actors act (controversial, I know) but they have the added skills of knowing how productions get made. Actors know and therefore come fully prepared for long shooting hours, aware there will be periods of waiting whilst the crew set up the next shot, how to keep energy & focus high and how to work with a crew & who to talk to about particular things (You wouldn't approach the cameraman if you had a problem with wardrobe!) how to interpret direction, work with a camera, etc. The list goes on!

    I cannot describe how infuriated I become when I see 'Real People, not actors' showing in the bottom left corner of an advert currently screening on UK Television.

    I'll ask my agent to help me remove any public record of me being an actor, perhaps then i'll get more work...

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  2. ...and not only that, but guess what? actors are REAL people too. I cannot count the number of times these REAL people casting directors have seeked real people to play, well yes you guessed it, real people. no strings attached. just real people. real people holding hands at a concert. real people smiling at a supermarket. real people frowing on the bus.
    ...cause i haven't trained for 7 years and invested thousands of pounds to play a real person, oh no.

    ...I soooo wish a new production trend appeared where the producers and directors hired "real people" to cast other people, based on - say - the fact that they are fresh, spontaneous, not influenced by their deep knowledge in the business...or something like that.
    then you'd see the corporativisms of the casting directors world go up in riots.
    disgraceful.
    this is DEFINITELY something Equity ought to do something about/look into.

    signed,

    a real person.

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  3. you're stupid its not only actors that can act let alone i am only 13 and i am lookng for a job in the acting carrer but if it makes you STUPID and HEARTLESS then to be honest stuff it. You've just offended lots of people like the people who was chosen to be on adverts like febreeze so stuff your letter coz your dumb you really are...



    Signed

    A real person

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    Replies
    1. This is simple advice to someone who, at the age of 13 has a clear plan about what to they want to do in life (well done, by the way; I didn't at your age).
      First, never respond aggressively to advice. You will need it from the day one of your training to the day you die because, believe me, you will almost certainly never be able to afford to retire. If you do not listen to it carefully and consider it, how can you tell whether it is good advice or bad (as opposed to simply not being what you want to hear)
      Your ambition is to make your living with, among other things, words. So, second, learn to spell. If you have a condition that makes consistent use of the written word difficult, like dyslexia, start to develope coping strategies and support networks now before you have to impress potential employers in writing and learn lines at short notice for a living. This should include people who will vet everything you put out in writing for errors that you might not notice. You will make a lot of your living, if you are in the 15% of the purported actors in the UK that actually make a living from commercials, always provided that you remember to do your potential paymasters, like Febreze, the elementary courtesy to capitalise and correctly spell their brand names. I know someone who lost the contract that paid his mortgage like that.
      Third, you have a vocation, I presume, to work in a field that calls for you to interpret almost every detail about a character from the way in which a writer makes them use words. Therefore, second, learn to use words properly, so that when a character you are creating does not do so, it means something and you and the audience to whom you owe this duty clearly understand what it says. Many young actors in training will tell you that this is not necessary. They are wrong, and are limiting their careers and the choice of parts open to them. Your grammar at the moment sends the most unfortunate (and surely unfair) signals about you.
      Fourth, learn that you are ALWAYS on display. In case you would answer my last remark with the argument that ‘this is a just an anonymous post on someone else’s blog’, you must take on board now that from the moment you announce that you want to be an actor (let alone the moment that you announce that you are one) any weakness in the above will tell the decision makers in this industry, who are comparing you to hundreds of others for every job, that you are not serious. Anyone could be watching you at any moment, whose opinion of you matters. Unfair but true.
      Fifth be careful about the terms in which you parade your passion, or complain of the rampant unfairness that accompanies our job. Your ambition is to make your living with, among other things, words. No-one wants to work with a whinger, and your passion is the one given which you will or should share with all your competitors 20,000 of them in the UK at today’s figures. Your passion will be taken for granted, and no-one has the time to listen to you, or me, telling them about it all over again.
      Stephen Mangan recently encapsulated all advice to a young actor as follows: ‘turn up on time, work hard, and don’t be a dick’. Not very romantic is it?
      If you do not want to be an anonymous failure like me, start to ask yourself NOW every day ‘what have I done to turn myself into an actor?’. No-one is going to do it for you. Go on, think about that now. Then DO IT, please.
      I have spent about half an hour thinking about what to put in his post, checking the spelling and grammar, not because I am a bit dim (though I am) but precisely because all the above matters, and because I wish that someone had taken me aside and hammered it into me when I was your age.
      If, reading this, you think that none of it does matter, or it scares you, think again about whether you really do want to be an actor, or at least, an actor and nothing else. I have seen too many people become deeply unhappy because they didn’t.

      Delete
    2. And of course, undermined my own point by failing to proof-read properly in the end. Blast, blast, blast!

      Delete
  4. Dear anonymous.

    You are 13. You have no idea how difficult it is to train for years to do something, and then have a company assume that someone with no experience or wish to work in the industry can do it better than you. If you went to your doctors and there was some random person off the street, you'd be concerned (yes I realise we don't hold lives in our hands, this is an example). Actors get a paid job roughly twice a year. It is a hard, badly paid and over subscribed career line. so to then see someone who agreed to do it 'as a bit of fun' outside of their usual jobs, is not particularly delightful. It is also insulting for companies to assume that the average Joe can do better than someone who has worked very hard to be an actor (and if you listen to public opinion, the overriding opinion is that using 'real people' is cheesy). 'Real Person-age 13' this article is not heartless. Heartless is taking a job from an underpaid actor when you already have a job as a teacher, or a businessperson or a vet. Ask your parent how they would feel if they were replaced in their jobs by someone with no experience or training, I'm certain they'll be able to explain to you why it's a bad thing.

    Signed

    A real person (and actor, funnily enough!)

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  5. I'm a 'real person' who wouldn't only not dream of taking a job from an actor but would actively run a mile if asked to do so (extremely unlikely since I'm a chubby fifty-something female with an annoying voice and a squint, but still...) and I agree with your blog. I bemoan the amount of reality TV crowding the TV schedules (by that I mean the likes of TOWIE and its ilk). My definition of entertainment is escapism - who wants to escape into reality?

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  6. .... So lets have lots of proper drama with people played by actors, and leave reality TV to the wildlife dramas and political discussion programmes...

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  7. ...just found another gem. absolutely brilliant. keeps proving all of our points:
    "Sorry - but no models or actors can be used for this one - Dove have a strong "real women" policy!"
    congrats to Dove, and to those casting directors subscribing to this insulting trend by simply not saying "no". and btw thanks for helping women, too.
    and they even say "policy"!!! how ironic is that? this is now a "policy"?

    imma go to bed, and cry.

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  8. I was once sent by an agent for a casting by my agent who asked me not to say I was an actor because they wanted real people - I went for the casting but refused to lie and told them what I thought. There have also been other instances of people casting actors and asking them to pretend not to be actors - this is dishonest to the public.

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