Industrial news

First ever code of best practice for self-tape auditions for commercials launched

We've launched a new Code of Best Practice for Self-Tape & Zoom Auditions for Commercials, agreed together with the main industry bodies representing agents and casting directors.

This is the first ever code of best practice that has been produced for commercials in the UK and follows the launch of a Code of Best Practice for Self-Tape & Zoom Auditions for Scripted Drama in August last year. The Code of Best Practice for Self-Tape & Zoom Auditions for Commercials includes best practice such as:

  • A minimum recommended turnaround of self-tapes of two days.
  • Avoidance of anti-social hours for taping.
  • The payment of a recall audition fee whether the recall is a live audition or online.
  • Safeguarding guidance on requests for artists to audition fully nude or partially nude.

The code has been agreed by the Casting Directors Association, Casting Directors' Guild, the Co-operative Personal Management Association, Equity and the Personal Managers' Association.

Commercials tend to be less regulated than other areas of production such as scripted drama and feature films, which means that the terms and conditions for many working in commercials can be less favourable.

Our members have notified us of extremely short requests for turnarounds for commercial tapings, often coming in late on a Friday and to be returned by Saturday lunchtime, and generally with little regard paid to members' work-life balance, caring responsibilities, and other paid work.

These matters also apply to the working life of agents and casting directors, and the guidance will help us all to improve our practice.We support the use of self-tape and video conferencing apps for auditions, which increased during the pandemic. If used well, this can encourage a much wider and more diverse representation of artists to enter the industry, including those who live outside of London.

The main difference to the Code of Best Practice for Self-tape & Zoom Auditions for Commercials, compared to the Scripted Drama version, is the timescale. The code for Commercials recommends a minimum of two days for the turnaround of self-tapes (compared to the four days recommended for Scripted), giving artists a reasonable amount of time to prepare and record, while recognising that self-tapes for commercials shouldn't require as much time as those for scripted self-tapes.Other guidelines include:

  • Best practice to respect work-life balance and caring and work responsibilities by asking for turnaround times to be within normal working days and hours, avoiding bank holidays and weekends.
  • The amount of material (e.g. headshots, pre-audition slates/introductions) performers are to send should be reasonable, relevant to the role and not excessive.
  • Recall audition fees are payable, whether the recall is to a live audition or on Zoom, and artists, agents and casting directors should insist on these
  • Performers should not be required to provide their own props or re-arrange their home as though it were a set.
  • Casting directors should ensure that performers and agents are updated about casting decisions as soon as possible after they have been made.
  • Under no circumstances should any actor be asked to self-tape fully nude or partially nude. Nor should an actor be asked to send fully or partially nude photographs to a casting director or producer at any point during the auditioning process.
  • A parent or chaperone should always be in the same room when a juvenile performer is making a self-tape and they should make themselves known to the casting director when a child is auditioning.

Laurence Bouvard, actress, Chair of Equity's Screen & New Media Committee, and member of the Self-Tape & Zoom Best Practice for Commercials Working Party, said:

"Equity strongly welcomes the publication of the Code of Best Practice for Self-tape & Zoom Auditions for Commercials, reached in collaboration with the CDG, CDA, PMA and CPMA. Alongside our code for scripted drama, this code aimed specifically at commercials delivers important guidelines for our industry that will help performers, agents, and casters alike benefit from the advantages that the new technologies provide, while at the same time addressing many of the challenges these new working practices can present and ensuring that standards are upheld.

"Equity would like to thank all our colleagues for their hard work and open spirit of collaboration, and look forward to continuing our work together in the future."

Dan Dewhirst, actor and Equity member, said:

"Now, more than ever, we are starting to realise the importance of good mental health. Having a healthy work-life balance is a part of this and I believe this code of practice, with particular reference to its policy on allowing enough time for self-tape turnaround, is a positive step towards this.Of course, there are further improvements that can be made, but this is certainly a step in the right direction and for that I am grateful."

Ali Fearnley and Anna Stark, Co-Chairs of the Casting Directors Association (CDA), said:

"The CDA very much welcomes the Code of Best Practice for Self-tape & Zoom Auditions for Commercials as a guideline for agents, casting directors and performers alike. As the casting landscape changes to include self-tapes and Zoom as part of the commercial casting process this is a valuable guide to all involved and shows how industry standards can be upheld and strengthened.

"The CDA would like to thank the CDG, CPMA, PMA and Equity who have collaborated on this valuable guide and feel it is a great reflection of what can be achieved when all parties work together."

The Casting Directors' Guild (CDG) said:

"The CDG is very happy to have collaborated with Equity, the PMA, CPMA and CDA to produce this new set of guidelines for self-tape and remote commercial castings. The nature of casting for commercials has changed dramatically over the last two years, and the creation of these guidelines is an important step towards ensuring that we all strive towards best practice in this new landscape, and continue to evaluate and enhance the experience of all of those involved in the commercial casting process."

The Co-operative Personal Management Association (CPMA) said:

"The CPMA welcomes Equity's Code of Best Practice for Self-Tape & Zoom Auditions for Commercials, reached in co-operation with the other organisations involved. It goes a long way towards solving the many difficult issues felt by actors auditioning remotely via self-tape and Zoom. The CPMA looks forward to collaborating with Equity, the CDA, CDG and the PMA on issues in the future."

Catherine Considine from the Personal Managers' Association (PMA) said:

"The new code is an important set of guidelines reflecting changes in our working practices and honouring the real-time impact on actors, agents and casting directors. Continued collaboration and understanding will help us all create an industry that we are proud to be working in; and which supports and attracts the brightest, creative talent."

For more information, contact Equity's Industrial Official for TV Commercials Yvonne Smith

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