Open letter to the casting industry

Many congratulations to our Casting Director comrades on finally being given a dedicated award by BAFTA.
There has been quite a lot of social media chatter about casting recently, and one thread in particular struck me with such force I felt the need to try to communicate to the casting industry just what it feels like to be an average working-when-we-get-the-chance actor.

Some of the more unfortunate comments have been about actors not turning up for auditions and an implication that sometimes (often) we just can’t be bothered. Seriously? While I cannot deny that there may be some actors who behave in this fashion I have never met one. If an actor asks for a change of time or cancels at the last moment there will almost invariably be a very good reason.

Our world is changing and in many ways for the better. With our own Manifesto for Casting, which has been largely adopted by the Casting Directors’ Guild, and the support of comparatively new groups such as Parents in the Performing Arts and Equal Representation for Actresses and the All Party Parliamentary Group looking into Shared Parental Leave, the members of Equity are asserting their right to live a fully realised personal life while they pursue their dreams of making a living out of their talent – and why should they not?

It is impossible to quantify the amount of time, energy, passion, stress, rearranging of our lives, and money it takes to attend even one audition for however small a part, whether it be in person or via Skype or a self-tape.

Each time that phone rings or that email alert pings with an availability check a performer’s heart begins to beat faster, and through all the glorious and ghastly ups and downs of the process from then on we eat, sleep and breath that chance to whatever degree. Holidays are cancelled, child and adult care is re-arranged and paid for, the second job which keeps food on the table is put in jeopardy, pages of lines are learned in super-human timescales.

I am not being dramatic – this is the everyday experience of the actor versus the casting process. And at the end of it all some people who make their living out of those very performers don’t bother to let us know that we haven’t got the job.
I cannot tell you how soul-destroying it is to find out that you haven’t got a job when you meet someone at a party who all unknowingly tells you they are so happy for their friend because they’ve just landed the part you were up for.
I know this is not just the actors’ experience, it happens to all of us in the Equity family, and it has to change.

If you, the gate-keepers to work in the entertainment industry, do just one thing I ask you to let us know if we haven’t got the job. I’m very proud to say that our members’ right to be told is now embedded in Equity’s next generation of agreements, and I hope that you will embrace these clauses wholeheartedly.

Maureen Beattie, Equity President