SAG-AFTRA is working on what will be the first truly comprehensive picture of the employment landscape for women and minority actors and hopes to release it within a year. SAG used to release the reports annually, then in 2004 it started issuing them every other year. After 2009, it stopped releasing the reports altogether. The problem was that AFTRA never released comprehensive casting reports on actors employed under its jurisdiction – which included daytime soaps and some primetime and basic cable shows, and new pilots – so the employment picture SAG presented was never really complete. And in the years leading up to their 2012 merger, AFTRA launched a concerted campaign to sign more pilots and cable shows to its contract by offering more favorable terms than SAG’s – a move that sparked a bitter feud between the two unions.
As AFTRA’s share of the TV jurisdiction ballooned, the missing piece of SAG’s employment picture began to grow larger and larger. By the time they agreed to set aside their differences and merge, AFTRA was representing about half of the actors employed in TV, and nearly all of the actors working on new pilots. In one of the little-noticed consequences of its feud with AFTRA, SAG stopped issuing its casting reports altogether rather than presenting ones that had become increasingly incomplete. But now they’re on the same team, and Adam Moore, SAG-AFTRA’s national director of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity, said he hopes the union’s next casting report will be released to the public “within the next 12 months. That’s my hope. That’s my plan.” He also said that the next report will fill in the data for the last five missing years.
Once the casting reports start flowing again, they will still be somewhat flawed by the fact employers are not allowed by law to ask a worker’s age, race, ethnicity or gender. For the purposes of the reports, Moore said, those determinations usually are made by a second unit director or a production assistant who has to fill out a form based on their personal observations. An unpaid production assistant shouldn’t have much trouble with the gender of an actor, but in many cases, determining the age, race and ethnicity is just guess work. “Hey, it’s not a perfect system,” Moore conceded.