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.

Should casting calls return to in-person auditions?Credit: iStock

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.

Should casting calls return to in-person auditions?'I May Destroy You'Credit: Warner Bros. Television Distribution

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.

Should casting calls return to in-person auditions?Credit: SDI Productions/iStock

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.

Source: IndieWire