Today I’ve decided to share an Open Letter that the well-known Liverpool Actor, Stephen Fletcher wrote in response to an Article on The Stage (See article here).
The reason I am sharing the letter is because I think it is important for the industry to always listen to new suggestions or concerns from working actors.
The industry is ever changing as we all know. We as active professionals have Social Media and an online presence and if we don’t know what is going on in the audition world we now have ways of finding out. Not only finding out what Casting Directors are doing via social media but also through word of mouth. So this can easily cause frustration if you’re an actor sitting by your mobile waiting for the news. The news that could change your life or just simply answer the questions if you can attend a family party next week because you may or may not have rehearsals for a show you may or may not get. It can be stressful not knowing…clearly.
Not only would a solution to ‘not knowing’ as Stephen puts it would prevent the long post-audition silence, but it could also help the Casting Directors out a lot in terms of Agents chasing regarding clients submissions. Maybe the right solution has yet to be discovered but I look forwarding to hearing what options could be explored.
I decided to check in with Stephen and see what type of response he has had since he posted this letter online.
HC: Ideally – What would you like to achieve from your open letter? What is the end goal and since the letter what has the social media response been like?
Stephen: “Social media has gone mental over it. Lots of nice comments and support, some ways to improve the idea even further, a few negative comments from people who don’t like the idea of hearing no, some people preferring to “live in hope” but overall a great response that tells me something has to change.
I would love to see a deadline set on projects, a timeframe in which everyone from actor to producer can work within, and arenas that there is a more decent way of doing things than the way they are now. It’s not enough to say “it’s how it is”- it’s not fair. There has to be a correlation between the uncertainty of the business and the levels of stress and anxiety most actors feel. There is little control to begin with but the overthinking of why there is a delay or why they haven’t been in touch just adds more pressure to an already stressful situation. You only have to explain this to anyone from outside the business to see how messed up it is.
I’m surprised how many people on Facebook, not working in the industry, have reacted with shock about the lack of respect given to actors. When I meet family members going for an interview, I’m amazed by the way they react- they’re so flustered and on edge. I think we have become immune to the feeling now, which is a good thing, and we’re all so scared of the level above us: actors with agents, agents with casting people, casting with directors and directors with producers- that there is little clarity between each of us. I think this new way of working would help us all know what is going on and clear away the smokescreen around all departments as to what they do and how long they really need to do it. “
Read the letter below and comment, RT or email Stephen directly with feedback.
“An open letter to Spotlight UK Casting and Equity on behalf of actors and performers.
My name is Stephen Fletcher.
I’m an actor. I graduated from The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) in 2002, and like many actors, despite the many setbacks and difficulties, I’m still plugging away.
I want to suggest some ideas that might, in a small way, make this ever-changing, and at times, cold and cutthroat business more kind and humane to performers, add stability to the decisions we make in the rest of our lives, and create a timeframe for both employer and employee to work within.
My main issue with the industry is the ‘not knowing’.
To not know if you have been submitted for casting by your agent, or why you haven’t been called in for something after a submission, are things that we all have to accept. It’s part of the game. But the thing that has the most negative effect and is the most difficult to deal with for me (and those around me) is not knowing if you’ve actually got the job you worked so hard for in the first place.
All actors have far too many examples where we have waited for news or feedback following a casting. In the hope of the role still being ours, we often put out lives on hold, cancel big family occasions, postpone holidays, move weddings, cancel shifts, lose jobs, only to find out that, quite often, the potential role was, in fact, cast soon after the interview, was never going to be ours to begin with, or we hear nothing back at all.
The rejection in this business we all have to deal with, and there is no secret in this for any performer, but the limbo into which you are placed from leaving the audition, to the time when you hear (or quite often don’t) about your success or failure can last an unfair amount of time and applies unnecessary stress, anxiety and pressure. I refer gently to recent articles in The Stage and others about mental health and wellbeing in the industry, and the anonymous Soapbox article about the post-audition radio silence (https://www.thestage.co.uk/…/soapbox-post-audition-radio-s…/).
This is something I think Spotlight and Equity could help fix and facilitate in a very practical way.
I have spoken about this with a number of friends over the years and they all agree that this is often the worst part of the job. It seems the very least a production team could do is to notify you on the outcome of an audition.
I am in no way appealing for a long email explaining that my eating of a Malteser wasn’t quite what a casting director was looking for, or a paragraph on why my height was a barrier to me being cast in the Borrowers. Actors get it. We are tough and resilient people. We have to be. All I want to know is if we can draw a line under that job, move onto the next, and get on with our life.
One suggestion I have seen on recent exchanges on social media is to offer casting directors the facility to click a button saying “no” you were unsuccessful. I would like to develop that idea further with a “role under offer” or “role is now cast” option, as well as the blunt but clear response of “no”.
Even easier than this, you only need to notify the successful recall applicants’ agents as to their success, which could in turn trigger an automated response to the remaining performers’ agents telling them that their client was unsuccessful- much easier than saying no to an awful lot of people.
Yes it might be time-consuming for someone, yes it would mean a bit of work of extra work for a casting director or assistant, but just as it is an actor’s job to put the work into getting a particular job, so too should it be a company and production’s duty to complete the task of notifying all applicants as to their success or failure. Is this not what happens in every other industry- why not ours?
Is this something spotlight could look into and build in to their casting software? Is this something agents would benefit from? Is it a rubbish idea? It would encourage actors to leave their agents alone, at the very least, and not pester for feedback or news when an automated response gave them the answer they wanted without having to ask the question.
I know there are many different aspects to casting specific roles, and I know some processes take longer than others, but what I’m proposing is a framework in which everyone from the actor to the producer is aware of their place in that. A producer in a recent TV job said that he put a breakdown out giving a deadline for the casting to be signed off within two days. The response from his team was “why so fast?”. He said that it focused the project and meant that it wasn’t such a long and drawn out process and gave clarity to both his team and the people he was auditioning. It also, I assume, gave the casting director the casting vote, and allowed people to do the job they are employed to do, without having to defer to so many other departments. Also, not such a bad idea.
This might prevent the ridiculous scenario of sitting in your house or at your temp desk, two weeks after a casting, imagining what the outcome is, asking yourself “will I be able to do that shift in work”, “what if there are recalls?”, “we won’t be able to go away”, “maybe they’ve got another round of casting”, only to look up at the TV and see the very scene you auditioned for being played by that fella off whatever. Or not.
In short, I believe this would be another valuable asset for Spotlight, and I would be happy to pay my subscription knowing I would have some control over the one thing I should have control over- my life outside of the performing arts.
Thank you for your time. I hope this is something which sparks a bit of interest and debate from all sides of the industry,
If you agree or disagree with this letter, please leave a comment below and feel free to share it with anyone who you think would be interested. It would be good to make a positive change in some small way.
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org”
What is your thoughts?