Friday, 19 April 2013

Spare Any Change, Mate?

Today, a casting call arrived on my laptop screen offering the actress it was looking for the princely sum of £3 an hour. Yep. £3 an hour. Sometimes there are jobs where I think I'd prefer they just paid nothing rather than price-matching the first job I had at the age of 14 where I found myself holding the head of a dead pig while an autopsy was carried out. In 1997, that's what £3 an hour bought you. A teenager holding a dead pig's head. Now, £3 an hour buys you an actress. Apparently.

It was only when I read through the rest of the casting that I saw the film also required the actress to get naked. Of course. If the world of casting calls are to believe then all films need at least one lady to get her bits out. And fair enough. I mean, that's totally why we got into this job. We like to watch the male actor folk do what they love while we wander around in the background wondering if our nipples are in shot.

The thought of getting £3 an hour for bringing your boobs to the yard is pretty grim. Unless the filmmaker is paying by BACS then there are very few positive outcomes:

1 hour of filming: the filmmaker sheepishly drops three pound coins into your hand and you slope off into the night without even having your bus fare covered. You later find that no machines will accept one of the pound coins.

2 hours of filming: you get a grubby pound coin wrapped in a tattered £5 note. You use the money to buy a KFC Hot Wings Box to cry in on the way home.

3 hours of filming: the filmmaker asks if you have change for a £10 note. You've now become the shopkeeper of your nudity.

4 hours of filming: you get a £10 note, one £1 coin and two 50p coins. While you depressingly funnel the change into your purse, you wonder whether this was really worth it.

5 hours of filming: this doesn't include change! You rejoice...until you're left waiting in the filmmakers living room while he spends 15 minutes searching his flat trying to find a £5 note.

6 hours of filming: you're cold now. The crew bought two pizzas an hour ago but ate them all while you were crying in the bathroom. You're given a £10 note and a load of change gathered up from the rest of the crew. You can't even be bothered to count it to check.

7 hours of filming: you've forgotten that you're even naked now. You get given a £20 note and somehow you're made the feel the awkward one when receiving the additional pound coin.

8 hours of filming: the filmmaker asks if you have a pound. You don't. You spent it on crisps. Although he could just give you £25, he instead spends the next 10 minutes nervously asking the rest of the crew if they have £4 in change to give you.

9 hours of filming: you don't really care what happens any more. You just want to go home. You're given an envelope with your £27 in as a lot of it is made up of coppers and 5p coins.

10 hours of filming: £30! YES! You skip home with the newly acclaimed knowledge that pride is apparently worth 10 hours of sitting around nervously with your boobs out.

So, when you think it can't get any worse, just imagine receiving change for getting naked.


  1. Hello, I got introduced to your blog by the doctor who commented on your previous post. Different person, same computer. We were all in the doctor's office reading your blog at lunchtime. Don't worry our patients are all fine, medicine is not all emergencies and crash calls.

    I read through this post and I don't know whether to laugh or cry at how disgraceful this is. I do feel that the acting profession has been progressively squeezed by the show biz industry and this is exactly where they want all actors to be: willing to work for nothing or just spare change.

    My junior doctors are all for a stronger unionized workforce and for legislation on the minimum wage to apply to all acting jobs. I fear that if this happens - these casting directors will simply stop calling their jobs "acting jobs" and instead label them as "free positive experiences" or something equally ridiculous. The problem is that the industry has realized that they can force actors to work for peanuts and like a wolf that has tasted human flesh, they've been on a ravenous campaign to cut costs ever since.

    The government too has realised that doctors are willing to work more than the law allows for no extra pay. None of us ever work 48 hours a week, there just aren't enough doctors for that to actually happen. Instead the NHS terms all the hours we put in past 48 hours a week: "voluntary work" or alternatively tells us to lie on our time recording keeping sheets.

    We get no recognition or payment for our over time because they don't have to give it to us. And trust me it's frustrating when relatives and patients say: hey you only work 48 hours a week now, how dare you be tired!

    I really wanted to ask you a questions about nepotism in the acting industry. I was reading the new the other day and Abbington, Martin Freeman's partner is joining the set of Sherlock is a major role. Now she's a professional actress in her own right but when I delve a bit deeper into this: I find out that Benedict Cumberbatch's girlfriend got a part in Sherlock and so did writer Mark Gatiss' partner. Is this considered normal in the acting industry? Or is Sherlock particularly...connections driven?

    I thought the small parts in Sherlock might have been a really good career boost for budding actors.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. Sadly nepotism is rife in the acting world and it's often very much about who you know rather than what you know. Also, it's all about ratings and ticket sales so us actors who could really do with the career boost are overlooked as there will always be someone else who can do the job and help promote the show as well.

  2. For a start, that's illegal and goes against NMW! Sheesh

  3. is that Benedict Cumberbatch the son of Wanda Ventham (famous actress) and Timothy Carlton (famous actor) you are asking about?

  4. The thing I want to know is.... WHERE IS EQUITY IN ALL THIS???

    I thought they were meant to be a union fighting for the rights of all actors. This is what actors pay their membership fees for surely? (And yes I know your name probably isn't Shirely)

    1. Unfortunately Equity seem to be rather powerless with these things. Unless someone who is involved in the show and complains then they tend to not get involved. It all falls under low pay/no pay work & the law sadly doesn't seem to be on our side.

  5. This sort of casting saves having to pay a Casting Director too!

  6. About a year ago, a well-known regional theatre was advertising for unpaid "supernumerary" roles (to play black slaves, of all things). They initially came under a lot of pressure from Twitter users, but it turns out that unpaid supernumerary roles are, in fact, allowed by Equity. I genuinely can think of no other union that would allow its members to work for no money. But, you have to be a member of Equity to be a member of Spotlight and other casting websites, so most actors don't have a choice.

    1. You do not have to be an equity member to be a member of spotlight. Equity are a glorified insurance company.

  7. Yep, I remember it clearly. In fact, I even wrote a blog about it. But yes, again, the law is very much not on our side when it comes to being paid and acting work. However, I'm pretty sure you can be a member of Spotlight without Equity membership so there is some choice there

  8. Part of the problem is that comparativly few actors feel it is necessary to joing Equity. Sadly, Equity's strength will only come with numbers. If every single professional actor was a member of Equity, then the union would have the muscle it needs to force changes. Because sadly, even though Equity has put forward what it feels are the minimum standards of employment in this industry, there are always actors prepared to ignore these, and so employers will ignore them too. Catch 22, I fear!