As much as like what I do, there are and there will always be times when you come up against people who really piss you off one way or the other. This is life as we know Jim, right across the board of human existence. What I want to discuss is one experience that occurred online.
I checked my emails tonight and found there was a message sent to me via Casting Call Pro, an Actor’s Website we have here in UK. I think they have a presence in other territories. Anyway, I checked this message out and found it was an invitation to audition for a role. The correspondence is as follows:-
“Thanks for applying to our recent breakdown for a TV pilot project on casting call pro. Thank you for your patience. We had an overwhelming amount of applicants and have now drawn up a shortlist.
We would like to invite you to an audition to see if you would be suitable for a role. The audition will be filmed and then we will review all the tapes and let you know within a week the result.
For the audition we would like you to prepare a side we have written. It’s only going to be a short monologue on one piece of A4 paper. This will be a very quick audition. We just want to film your speech once and have a very brief chat. This should last no more than 5minutes.
Can you please reply back to confirm you attendance. Before you confirm your attendance please keep this in mind. This is a low budget project and as stated in the breakdown this is self funded, so there is no fee at this current time for this project. You will be required to work in a team. At this current time if given the role: you are only being offered food on shoot days, copies of your scenes. Promotional exposure on our websites and other marketing material and expenses on shoot days only. If for any reason this is a problem for you please let us know so we can offer your audition space to someone else.
The auditions will be held at:
The Rag Factory.
16 Heneage Street
London E1 5LJ, United Kingdom
020 7183 3048 (venue phone number).
AUDITION DATE: 11TH MARCH
AUDITION TIME: 17:00
Contact Phone number : 07816235170
Shoe String Filming”
I was a more than a little surprised because as interesting as the project was, I stopped applying for unpaid jobs on Casting Call Pro or anywhere else is not because I have anything against unpaid work, more rather the lack of effort those people advertising such a project fail to put into selling the project or themselves in the process. Rather, they expect one to be grateful such opportunities. The trouble with such thinking is that is a false economy and a major flaw in their thinking of the fatal kind. Let me explain.
When someone makes an investment in any kind of endeavour, especially of the monetary time, one is looking for a return on that effort. Even with the best of intentions, researching the market place, the target audience and the right investment along with a clearly thought out strategy, the project could a success or failure. Such is business and investment. With the low budget/no budget film projects where nothing is invested in monetary terms where personnel is concerned, there is no great desire to make anything a success, push the movie, get it out to festivals, make a return on the investment namely because no major investment was made in the first place. So there is no impetus to go there and make a success of the project. I have worked on these kind productions in the past and reading the above, could see there was no sales pitch, no seeming passion or belief in the project, especially when it mentioned if cast, one would be fed only on shooting days. I did a similar project where I went over to Ipswich and Norwich for filming only to be told on the Friday I was working that I would have find my own food. Pretty difficult as I was living on a caravan site, had no transport and no money to boot because I spent what little money I had paying the train fare to get to Ipswich in the first place. On my last day I could get no one to drive me back to the train station. If it was not for my good friend and colleague ForbesKB, who was driving back to London that evening, I would have been stuck in the wilderness of East Anglia. How bleak that long weekend was. It totally took the shine off what was up to that point an interesting time. It took me more than two years to get a copy of the finished project, only to find it was of no use to me in marketing terms because I was hardly in any of the scenes. This is the world of Film. A lot of actors end up on the cutting room floor but they are paid for their efforts. I was not!!! After that I only did those unpaid projects I wanted to do where the directors actually sold themselves. I seldom work for nothing these days, only where the work is interesting enough.
Against the above background and experience of working for nothing on film projects, I felt I had to respond and put my case and position because I felt someone, either this man or the agent responsible was taking the proverbial here hence my reply:-
Thank you for your email concerning your project. I have been busy over the past month with preparation and performance of a play that had a six night run last week. Given this I was not aware of my submission (made via one of my agents,) for your project, which I found very interesting. I was also a little surprised when I initially read that this was a no-pay job because I never submit myself for unpaid work, as I have found via experience (and to my everlasting cost,)that when a actor commits themselves to a non-paying job, in doing so they forego any kind of respect in the eyes of those producing the project because those same people think (wrongly,) that one is desperate and is prepared to put up with any kind of bad behaviour and disrespect because I should be grateful to be a part of their project. That is never the best way to get me interested in any project that is non-paying or any project for that matter. I have worked hard, sacrificed more than enough and continue to do so in order to have a career in this business. I know all about gratefulness thank you very much.
It doesn’t impress me in the slightest when I am informed that, ‘if given the role: you are only being offered food on shoot days’. Alexander, I am not sure if you have looked at my details on Casting Call Pro or have even googled my name online because if you had you would soon realise that the only hunger I suffer from is not for food or being fed (as I am fed and watered on a regular basis and always have a nosebag handy,) but rather a hunger for success. I dare you to Google my name and investigate who you are dealing with.
A wonderful British Film Director Val Guest once remarked: ‘If you don’t have money, use your head’. If an ambitious film maker wants to make a film but has no money to pay anyone, they normally have to sell their idea, their ambition, their passion and total belief not just in their project, but in themselves also. Those are the ways any film maker (penniless or otherwise,) will ever remotely entice me to do an unpaid job in film or television because past experience and your approach has failed to remotely entice me to take up your offer to audition. Why would I? If the best you can do is to tell me you cannot pay but feed me on shoot days, am I going to make any kind of effort? A no-brainer really. I would never rule out totally doing an unpaid job but the arrogance that comes from those producing such projects I find more than a little irritating.
I have rehearsals in the evening but nothing you have said has impressed me enough to go out of my way and take up your offer of audition. There is no incentive. I don’t audition for nothing.
Daniel Jude Gennis
I am still a little stunned that people still have the arrogance to behave in such a manner. I have no idea whether this man is not paying everyone or paying a few key people and no one else. Everyone has to sell themselves, their skills, and abilities as people. This goes when anybody applies for employment. Alexandre expects me to audition for his project, yet give me no incentive to even do so because he has not sold his idea, his project or who he is as a film director/producer. None of this matters if he is offering a job that was actually a paying gig but he was offering me nothing but an invitation for a film role based on nothing. Even the Mad Hatter offered Alice and company ‘Jam Tomorrow’. There was not even the leftover jam on the knife used.
I think is time for people such as the above and a few others to wake up, smell the coffee and realise that if they are serious about making films and even more serious about having a career making films, they need to realise that any film that ever went anywhere was properly financed, properly put together, properly produced, cast and directed. Offering to pay some people over others or not pay people at all just doesn’t work. And if one has to make such a situation work, one has to sell the idea to those very same people, stand up and be counted instead putting across the notion one should be grateful to audition let alone be cast in a production where they will only feed you on shooting days. If this is the future of the British Film Industry then it is thankful that the UK BAFTA and US Academy Awards (the Oscars,) have reminded us that there is a British Film Industry where the likes of Alexandre and his ilk have on place. One has to invest more than time and goodwill in order to achieve success. It works no other way.