Equity calls the BBC on failing to cast unknown actors

  • Adam Anouer

    Actor

    www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/equity-slams-bbc-for-failing-to-cast-unknown-actors-9442286.html

    Equity are calling the BBC on failing to Cast Unknown talent. Please note that when I say unknown, I don't mean young I mean those who have worked tirelessly to get on spotlight but almost never get the chance to be seen. Presumably the reason Equity are calling them on it is because with the BBC being one of if not the biggest employers of talent in the UK it's things like this which directly why so few actors are unionised because so much talent goes unspoken for and unaccounted for.

    Personally I understand why you would stick to certain names because you can attest to them and with so many actors vying for the same goals there are only so many hours in the day you can go scouting for something new. That said I also believe that if you match the brief and if you've made the effort of checking all the details and making sure your a match then you should be given the chance to show among any other than you can live up to it.

    I realise it's a deep and complicated issue but what do we all think?

    • 18th Jul 2014
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  • User Deleted

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    I agree, it's quite complicated.

    As an actor, of course I would love to be seen for more tv stuff, and as a tv watcher I do get sick of seeing the same faces every week.

    But I can honestly understand how hard it is for a casting director. There is of course the pressure to have a "name" leading a show, to draw in the viewer, and then for the smaller roles, that we all are left to dream about.......

    As I understand from CD' s I have met at workshops, they tend to get about 3/400 submissions for even a one episode part, and due to the quick turn around/number of parts they have to cast, they usually only see 4/5 people.

    I've just come back into the industry after a 10 year break, and it is so much harder. I used to regularly get seen for tv jobs, but that was before the internet ruined it all !!!

    • 29th May 2014
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  • Richard Dawes

    Actor

    Its a very difficult industry as we all know, but its also hard from the other side of the table, i completely understand what Julie is saying.

    There should be chances for actors to be seen for more TV roles, it can depend greatly on your agent. As some have more push over casting agents.

    My agent has told me to get a show reel together and then they're going to put me up for more tv and film, as then there is more chance to be seen, as they can see you on screen.

    But its hard for a company like BBC to invest in lesser known actors, it should be the RSC that takes more chances with its actors. As BBC like using those actors as they have alot of stage experience and have earnt a 'Credit' of high caliber.

    So i say that the RSC should give more actors a chance to work.

    • 29th May 2014
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  • Eddie Connor

    Actor

    I am baffled that it's taken this long for this discussion to come to the fore.

    If you've made it to the top lucky you but what about the rest of us? Do we have to wait for someone to retire or die before being given an opportunity. Especially where black actors are concerned there seem to be five black actors who do all the TV work. The BBC should be a beacon to nurture talent not hinder it and solely reward those already recognisable jobbing actors.

    • 29th May 2014
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    ..Which is why some performances on TV are stage like and not all together convincing in comparison to USA TV shows these days.

    Also, it seems the only way to get seen by a number of Cd's in TV is to pay for the pleasure! (workshops ect).

    It's good that Equity are highlighting this issue with the BBC but I feel

    it's that supply & demand curve arcing again!....

    • 29th May 2014
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  • Adam Anouer

    Actor

    I think it's a matter fear factor if I'm honest. Because I completely understand how hard they work with the many many applicants on spotlight and in the case of another few in their workshops. It's just a sensitive subject because these guys are the play makers they do all the work it's saying anything to the contrary feels like they'd believe I don't respect what they do when nothing could be further then the truth.

    I don't wanna cause any unmistaken backlash really but I don't know maybe it's different for a lot of others.

    • 29th May 2014
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    ...The whole BBC casting team do private workshops that you have to pay for if you want to get seen for 2mins!

    An idea would be for license fee payers who pay BBC cd's salaries, to fund this 'process' if they want to influence a change and get more new actors on the telly! This could be suggested at the meeting planned between Equity & BBC.

    Also, from the article:

    'Peter Barnes, a secretary of the Co-operative Personal Management Association which represents 30 agencies, suggested it may not be feasible to open up the process because of the practicality of dealing with thousands more applications. “They probably don’t want to get inundated,” he said.'

    .. In my opinion,more workshops are the solution met with a possible joint venture of the PMA ,BBC & Equity funded by the license fee.

    • 29th May 2014
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  • Adam Anouer

    Actor

    Oh now th-...well actually that makes a lot of sense. I mean if you're gonna shave £50,000,000 a year off the BBC 3 closure you may aswell use it to open up more space. That's a brilliant idea Charles someone should pitch that to equity.

    • 29th May 2014
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    Hi Adam,

    I've spoken to Martin Brown at Equity and he's asked to see this idea which I've just emailed/pitched over to him.

    Will keep you posted....

    Best,

    C.

    • 29th May 2014
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  • Vikas Vasudeva

    Actor

    Did anymore get said on this?

    Charles do you know how to get more information on the workshops the BBC CD's operate?

    • 11th Jun 2014
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    (Hi Vikas, attached below is Martin Brown's response.I'll follow up next week. Best, Charles)

    Thanks Charles. I will pass this on to the Recorded Media department, which will be managing the process of talking to the BBC.

    With best wishes

    Martin Brown

    Assistant General Secretary Communications and Membership Support

    Equity, Guild House, Upper St Martin's Lane, London WC2H 9EG

    • 11th Jun 2014
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  • Stuart Hough

    Actor

    Great idea Charles.

    • 11th Jun 2014
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  • Daniel Page

    Actor

    Hello Everyone,

    Just thought i would post in here as the Proposer of the motion at the Equity ARC (Annual Representative Conference) and the name behind the interview with the Independent (although ended up with a repeat from The Stage) hopefully Ill put across what is meant by the motion.

    The BBC is a Publicly funded body where jobs from the Director General down are advertised in various forms of the media. Most, if not all, casting for the BBC goes through Spotlight, either by independent or employed Casting Directors of the BBC. Each actor pays the same amount for Spotlight services. If you or your agent is not on a "favoured" list of a CD than you do not receive such information. 90 percent plus of members are not receiving equal breakdowns either from personal or agents links.

    This is neither a dig to be at WAR with the BBC or Spotlight but a way to a open up dialogue so that casting can be more open, transparent and a fairer system. Directors and Producers are of course always going to want to have certain names in their productions and we covered this in the motion - it certainly wasn't about Olivia Coleman or David Tenant getting the roles, we fully understand why they do but its for all the other infinite roles.

    Casting Directors are probably fearing that they are going to be inundated with submissions but being more specific and filtering with breakdowns will only see minimal increases. I do hate to say it but it is their job to sift through applications, get out and meet actors and agents and watch productions. For too long there has been a hidden closed shop, a cosy nest between a few Agents and Casting Directors and not just from the likes of the BBC.

    We have had some really positive feedback from Directors themselves who have said they are seeing the same people over and over again in castings and want to see different people.

    After discussions, if the BBCs casting directors are able to adopt or start a more open casting thread, we would then also look at other publicly funded institutions to consider a more progressive approach to casting.

    Thanks.

    Not a bad idea of the casting workshops above - I think they use something like that already for long term soap characters, so there is a precedent set. I will also mention it at my next commitee meeting as we are arranging discussions with Ian Bayes who will be dealing with the talks at the BBC.

    If anyone is interested we are the Equity West Southwest London Branch - check us out on Facebook (closed group) all actors welcome.

    We arrange rehearsed readings with Theatre 503, the Hope and recently Drayton Arms, we hold casting days with Directors and Casting Directors and we have a great programme of workshops.

    We hold regular monthly meetings in Central London, with guest speakers including Richard Wilson (most recent), James Grieve from Pains Plough, Pippa Ailion and next month David Luff producer from Soho Theatre.

    Any questions please let me know

    Regards

    Daniel Page

    Vice Chair of the Branch and Council Election Candidate

    • 11th Jun 2014
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  • Adam Anouer

    Actor

    Charles you're an absolute soldier. I admire your dedication I hope it leads to some positive resolutions. Thanks mate.

    • 11th Jun 2014
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    ...We're all in this together and anyone that 'pays their dues' deserves a shot at the 'close knit' casting breakdowns that have been going to certain agents & bypassing Spotlight!

    If 'new' actors (..you know,the ones that have been paying their dues for 5-10 years!) get a meritorical opportunity either through license fee funded workshops at the BBC/Theatre 503 or by simply being 'called in' by the casting team, it creates more variety/interest,(which would mean potentially increased viewing figures) from the ultimate 'litmus testers'....THE AUDIENCE

    Thanks for your update Daniel & it's great news Equity understands this issue is looking for a resolution to 'casting elitism' that's been going on far too long!

    • 12th Jun 2014
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  • User Deleted

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    I have read this with great interest as an agent, performer, producer and script writer.

    I feel most people are looking at it the wrong way. It has nothing to do with the casting directors, BBC or producers and everything to do with the public and viewers.

    BBC casting directors, producer work they way they do because they have to, sad but true.

    I put a play out no one took no notice, put it out again starring four household names/quality actors and everyone was their and it has since been subject to lots of interest. The script has not change only the cast. I have been in many production meetings where the be all and end all is cast, not because they want it to be but because it is the only way to make things sell.

    Public want names, they like to know and do not take chances (even down to scripts mumma mia over Wild Party, Known actors over who is that guy).

    I have a film under option and the cast will decide how much it sells, jude law films sell more than Michael Head films.

    It is a shame and it is something that has affected me more than most (as a writer and performer and producer and an agent) but it is not the BBC or casting directors fault. Celebrity is craved by audience why TOWIE will be watched over that new drama unless so and so is in it.

    • 10th Jul 2014
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    >>we're looking at the casting process currently in situ for the support roles more than the leads;

    We need a supply of new talent who can make a sufficient impression if they're given the opportunity to make one!

    'Towie' is popular with a certain demographic but the audience figures are around 1.5M max per episode. (probably a bit less).

    ' I'm a celebrity...get me outta here' has peeked at 12.5M per programme.

    There is always a market for 'brain dead' celebrity/reality shows because it's entertaining but ultimately most of the audience 'see thru' the whole thing!

    I used to be a celebrity agent and turned one of my clients into a household name when I placed her on that jungle programme for at least 4 weeks and secured the highest fee at the time for any participant! Not my fault she was a self destructive person who couldn't act!!

    • 11th Jul 2014
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  • User Deleted

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    To be honest I think the casting process for the support roles is 100% open and there are no issues there.

    Spotlight does filter most jobs to actors and some jobs to most agents, apart from the chosen few.

    The main roles do not always come through to myself (Most do but even I notice some are missing) however support roles are always open to I am assuming all agents and we often get people seen for support roles and sometimes lead roles.

    Getting the role is a different matter as there is so little work for so many actors (due to the high volume of shows that do not have actors in them) which means the pecking order has really changed.

    Lead 'household named actors' are taking the smaller roles and stage projects (just to secure work), the 'lesser known' household names are taking small paid projects.

    We now have a situation where lead actors from TV are doing profit share productions this was not happening 10-15 years ago.

    The trouble is while Towie and the likes are popular only with a certain demographic they are cheap and easy to make so flood the telly creating less jobs for actors making it so hard to find work because for a one episode character you are now up against actors with a profile (who often producers of course prefer) which was not the case years back. Again I do not think it is a problem with casting directors as everything is open and people are getting seen, just very hard to get.

    The same with stage (which is where actors should be getting the work) I have been in almost all of my production meetings where they have liked the script and said get the right people in it and we will give you a run, because it is only way to sell seats and because we can get these names now, which is taking jobs away from lesser known but quality actors. It's a shame but does happen. That said I do feel actors and the acting community do not help themselves in most cases and the only way to stop this is if they work together to make things change but at the moment I only see this happening with a small % of actors (and they are the ones going places in my opinion)

    • 11th Jul 2014
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  • Adam Diggle

    Actor

    The impact of reality tv is huge. I don't have a tv in London and when visiting parents up north I was genuinely shocked by the amount of it out there, every ad on channel 4 seemed to be for a reality tv show or a show shipped in from the US. I hadn't fully realised how bad it has become. The amount of opportunities for actual actors is constantly shrinking, no wonder CDs getting utterly swamped with submissions when they do come up.

    • 11th Jul 2014
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  • User Deleted

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    Goodman & Charles...

    Spotlight does not filter most jobs to actors. Only a small percentage of what's being cast goes onto the Link board, so that unrepped actors can apply.

    Which means actors can't directly apply for Holby, Casualty, Doctors, Silent Witness, New Tricks (to name a handful) - all of which have a high turnover of guest episode opportunities and are generally considered good starter TV credits as they're 1 or 2 lines or a small scene.

    The exception is when they are casting for actors with disabilities - in this instance I have seen breakdowns on the link. But they only open up the casting as the agencies they usually cast with aren't able to sub anyone or they want more submissions to choose from.

    • 11th Jul 2014
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