Are actors tired of sending in their self-tapes?
The entertainment industry is still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some people have returned to their offices or in-person workspace, many are still working online, meeting virtually while working in the safety of their homes.
A part of this collective are casting directors, and some people, like January Jones, are not happy about it.
On Saturday, IndieWire reported that Jones expressed her discontentment on her Instagram story, writing, “Note to Hollywood: It’s time for casting directors to come back into the office like everyone else. To audition actors in person.”
Since the pandemic, self-tapes have remained the common way for actors to audition for roles. Not only did self-tapes keep actors and casting directors safe during the height of the pandemic, but they also allowed actors in different parts of the world to have a shot at a role and take the time to showcase their talents as an actor.
The actresses continued, stating, “And if anyone asks for a FEE to audition please know that this is criminal and PATHETIC. I personally have had to self tape several times since the pandemic began and there is zero benefit to it for anyone involved. It’s time consuming, expensive, and a drag to whomever you have to drag in to read with you (sorry Mom), and is often done with zero direction/notes.”
“I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for an actor just starting out if an established actor has to beg for a Zoom [meeting] when an in-person audition is ‘unavailable,'” Jones concluded. “Please do better.”
Although Jones did make a good point about audition fees, I can’t help but question whether or not casting directors need to return in person.
Do Casting Directors Need to Return in Person?
I am not an actor, nor do I have experience auditioning for anything. The closest experience I have to this is interviewing and pitching ideas to higher-ups.
From a logistical perspective, it is understandable why casting directors remain virtual.
According to casting director Leigh Ann Smith’s article for Evercast, remote casting may be here to stay for a while because of how strong the case is for continuing with the method. Smith points out that the accessibility to a wider range of actors, the freedom to not work behind a desk, the quality of actors’ performances, and the reduction of cost and time are huge contributors to why virtual casting will stay in favor.
Contrary to Jones’ statement, I believe that auditioning in person or virtually should not make a difference in an actor’s ability to perform.
Ultimately, there is no need to spend the extra money so a seasoned actor who is used to in-person auditions can return to a space they feel comfortable in as they compete against a smaller pool of actors who could actually carve out time in their schedules in a specific city. Jones’s statement comes off as an elitist being tone-deaf about their privileges in Hollywood opening up to a wider range of people.
As for auditions that cost a fee, that is generally considered unethical unless under specific circumstances like talent agencies or casting workshops are offering training, coaching, or other services in addition to the audition. In these cases, a fee is typically for the training or coaching services, and the auditions are part of the package.
Another possible reason is if a student or independent film has a limited budget and is using the fees to cover the cost of running the casting call.
I encourage actors and casting directors reading this to not charge a fee for someone to audition. Times are already tough, and we are all looking to break into the industry while still being able to pay rent.
If you are an actor who does run into a casting call that has a fee, I recommend you do your research to make sure that you are not falling into a scam. Resources like The Better Business Bureau, SAG-AFTRA, IMDbPro, Common Sense Media, and Backstage will help actors determine if a casting call is legitimate or a potential scam.
The world is changing, and work practices are changing with it. I understand that there will be some people in the industry who are comfortable with what has been the norm and are upset that changes are happening. However, change is necessary. Hollywood is on the cusp of something big. Whether that change is good or bad, we need to have as many doors open for new talent in every department to come in and have their voices heard as Hollywood morphs into its new era.
Should casting directors return to in-person auditions? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
I'm not an actress nor Am I a casting director but I get where she is coming from. To me it seems like in person auditions are better.
March 7, 2023 at 9:05AM
Most of our casting is for smaller things (not big TV shows or big movies). I think a third way is best right now: self-tape for initial auditions, then callbacks in-person. Especially if you are casting multiple actors who interact it's nice to get a read on compatibility together, not to mention their ability to take direction on the fly. I am very giving when casting, because I am almost always the director on the show as well. It's not a cold experience, and replicating that online during Covid has been tough (but not a complete loss, there's ways to bring some of the give-and-take actors crave and often really need in an online setting).
March 8, 2023 at 6:39AM
Both sides of this issue have pros and cons. But I side with January. And I thoroughly disagree that January sounds elitist. Not at ALL! I'm a seasoned veteran actor with 28 years in SAG and a resumé many would die for. In-person reads...all I had to concentrate on was THE WORK. PERIOD. Nothing else -- JUST THE WORK. Build my character, walk in, read. Work it right up until I'm called into the room. I went in, did my thing, and left. Sometimes had the benefit of re-direction to exhibit a different take! That's EXACTLY how I got this resumé. Self-tapes...now I'm the DP, Sound, Gaffer, Editor. Take after take, checking to verify sound and everything else was properly captured. The mindset fluctuating from character to crew, back to character, etc. I want the "old days" when all I had to do was -- JUST AS ON A SET -- be the character who walks into the room and PERFORMS. I MUCH PREFER others to do the technical stuff. And I'm NOT being elitist in ANY way...I just want to do MY best work (just as I've done for 28 years and resulting in this resumé) completely unencumbered by ANY external tech issues that I'm now responsible for in this new world we're living in.
March 9, 2023 at 11:39AM
I love self taping. It's nice not having to drive from the valley to santa monica at 5pm on a Friday, see the 5 other guys in the waiting room who I've been competing with for the last 40 years, wait for whatever delays they casting people are doing, and then read with an assistant who wants to go home. The one thing I did enjoy about live reads was when the director & producers were in the room, but that was becoming increasingly rare as casting would just send the tapes to producers, anyway.
I have a set-up in my garage and a couple of good actors who read with me off-camera. I can concentrate on the work as all of the other crap that comes with auditioning is gone.
I know a couple of actors who hate self-taping and I get it, but I love it.
March 9, 2023 at 11:58AM