Disclaimer: In this blog I will be discussing the recent remarks made by casting directors on social media concerning actors’ attitude and availability. I would encourage every actor to communicate with their agent about their work situation/living arrangement/availability. If casting directors are experiencing a back-and-forth with agents because actors have not kept them updated, then I can understand their frustration. This article is NOT about those situations. It is about the suggestion made in recent public posts that actors should not live a life outside of acting.
I have had a busy #actorslife this week. (hoobloodyray) I’ll give you a little insight:
On Monday I was wondering through St. James’ Park in the glorious sunshine with a couple of hours to kill before going to the theatre. My phone goes: it’s an audition for the following afternoon. I locked myself in the nearest Waterstones, took hundreds of photos of the Arden Shakespeare (sorry, Waterstones) and spent two hours learning lines out loud in a public cafe. Classic. On Thursday morning I had an audition. At 4pm, my agent called and asked if I could go back to read for another character before 6pm. Luckily I wasn’t at work; I was with a friend. So I left early, travelled across town, and got back into that audition room.
Let me say this - I am not complaining. Not at all. To be honest it’s mostly really exciting. I am just giving you a flavour of the types of situations that arise for actors every single day, and the ways in which we make things work to get in that audition room. In my experience, most actors would have done exactly the same. So when I saw the latest of a string of posts calling out actors for their ‘filthy attitudes’ and arguably suggesting that we are all lazy, arrogant, and selfish, I was a bit confused…I don’t know any actors that have that attitude. Do you?
Ok, I’m sure there are people in our industry who don’t take it as seriously as they should. But 99% of actors I know would miss their own bloody wedding for an audition. Actors frequently put their personal life to one side for the sake of their careers, and sometimes, this can be damaging. Sometimes, an actor’s work-life balance is so warped that they put their physical and mental health at risk. It is every actor’s right to be a person first and an actor second, and yet it is so hard not to give into pressure and let acting consume you. Sometimes we feel guilty for living a life outside the audition room, and that way of thinking is dangerous to our health and detrimental to our craft.
So this recent post really concerns me. I’m worried that it encourages this damaging way of thinking. I’m worried about the powerful effect it could have on actors. And in particular, I’m worried about the message it sends to those just starting out in our industry. In fact, I was prompted to write this response after receiving a private message from a third year drama school student. He had seen this particular post on Facebook after it was shared by one of his tutors - not in criticism, but in support of the views expressed. I was horrified that he had seen these views endorsed by a tutor. I was horrified that other young actors might read it and believe every word. So this article is for all of us, but especially for you.
This post paints an unrealistic picture of the average actor, and plays into our anxieties and our sense of powerlessness. The message it sends to young actors is this: YOU ARE LUCKY TO BE HERE. PIPE DOWN. Leave your kids at school; cancel your holiday; risk losing your day job. If you’re not prepared to do that, you don’t want it enough. If this is too much for you, you’re not welcome in our industry. I went through the drama school system, and in my experience most graduates are eager, a bit terrified, and prepared to do anything for their career. This post sends them further down that rabbit hole of fear, subservience, obsessive behavior and lack of self-care. This post also paints an unrealistic picture of the average casting director. I can’t recall meeting a casting director who wasn’t polite, professional and respectful. In many cases, casting directors have been so lovely and so welcoming that I’ve felt at ease in the audition room. And that brings out the best in everyone. Casting directors are not our enemies, and yet these posts suggest that they are. I would hate young actors to read these posts and think of casting directors as people to be feared.
This post was right about one thing - our industry is changing. It is changing all the time, and I think is changing for the better. Actors are using social media to call out dodgy castings, to connect with others in the industry, and to talk about mental health. Equity are improving our safety, pay and working conditions every day. It’s slow but it’s happening. Perhaps the hierarchal system which, for years, has prevented those at the bottom of the chain from speaking out and politely demanding their rights is starting to break down. And that’s amazing. Imagine what this could do for our industry:
Let’s communicate more. Let’s sit down and talk. If there’s something actors can do to help casting directors do their jobs, let’s talk about it, not rant about it on social media. We could work together to improve the situation for everyone, and this would, in turn, improve the quality of our art. It is collaboration, not fear and dictation, that makes this industry exciting. So, to all the fresher-faced, younger actors out there, I implore you to ignore that post. Ignore it. Ignore others like it. Just update your agent about your availability and all will be well.
You are a person first and an actor second. I promise you that living your life will make you better actor and a happier person. And don’t forget that this post is one voice: There are some truly wonderful people in our industry and for all our sake’s you mustn’t be afraid of them. Take care, take a holiday, please pick your kids up from school, and go have fun out there.