January Jones is joining the debate over self-tape audition practices in Hollywood.
The “Mad Men” alum took to her Instagram Stories to call out fees to audition and the issue of sending in self-tapes as opposed to in-person readings. “Note to Hollywood: It’s time for casting directors to come back into the office like everyone else. To audition actors in person,” Jones wrote on Instagram (via Variety). “And if anyone asks for a FEE to audition please know that this is criminal and PATHETIC.”
She continued, “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.’ Please do better.”
Virtual auditions have been on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, certain casting offices charge to review self-tape auditions. Actresses Ever Carradine (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Merrin Dungey (“Big Little Lies”), Claire Coffee (“Grimm”), and Sprague Grayden (“Hightown”) took to Twitter to call out the “bullshit” predatorial practice.
“Five Days at Memorial” actor Michael Gaston wrote, “If you’re an actor paying a casting office to help you self-tape an audition, you are not self-taping your audition…you’re being preyed upon.”
SAG-AFTRA executive VP Ben Whitehair responded that strictly in-person casting will most likely not happen in the future, but the union is dedicated to squashing actors having to pay to self-tape.
“There is absolutely a population of performers who say there should be no self-tapes whatsoever, that we should demand that we go fully back in person,” Whitehair told Deadline. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. There are market forces shaping a very different reality in today’s economy. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no way to shape and control this. In fact, that’s the purpose of a union. We exist to help shape that future, and we mustn’t let productions push the cost of casting onto the backs of actors.”
SAG-AFTRA issued a statement in response to the debate.
“Casting offices charging actors for the creation and production of audition tapes is taking our industry in the wrong direction,” the statement read. “It is an optical and ethical disaster. Actors are already faced with undue financial pressures in their pursuit of work. Casting offices running production and audition services runs counter to the principles of fairness and equity in our industry and the practice should be discouraged.”
The statement continued, “In addition, an evolution of the practice that involved direct charging for self-tapes by the same hiring entity would be illegal. We know that most of the casting community love and support actors, and we must find a better way to move forward with the shared goal of safe, fair, and reasonable audition practices. As a union, we will continue to work to find ways to alleviate unfair practices and mitigate financial burdens for actors, including the new limitations on self-tapes in our commercial contract, a new 5-page requirement limit in our low budget contracts, our work establishing the CA Talent Scam Prevention Act, and our championing the federal Performing Artists Tax Parity Act.”
The SAG membership rules list paying fees to audition as a violation of Rule 11, citing that “to give casting anything of value, as it could be seen as bribing employees and their representatives for jobs.”