There is a sense of cautious optimism in the TV casting circles this evening that the stalemate over hiring outside casting directors for pilots might come to an end tomorrow. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the TV studios, has called a meeting with representatives of the casting directors for midday tomorrow. At the heart of the problem is casting directors’ request to get “adequate staffing” or that studios pay for an assistant in addition to the casting director and casting associate on every pilot, something that studios have been balking at. Since this is not an union issue and it is not covered by the casting directors’ basic agreement with the studios, there is nothing to negotiate at the meeting tomorrow, a casting director source stressed. “We are going to listen to what they have to say and are hoping to come to some type of understanding of each other’s needs,” the source said. Casting directors have said that hiring an assistant has now become necessary on every pilot, not just in some cases as the studios have contended.
There has been little movement on both sides since my last story on the issue on Saturday. Michael Patrick King’s NBC/WBTV drama pilot closed a deal with a casting director that includes an assistant, while ABC Studios released the first pilot breakdown that identified it as being cast internally, Shonda Rhimes’ untitled fixer drama. (ABC Studios was the first TV studio to opt to start casting pilots internally in light of the ongoing standoff with casting directors.) The news in my Saturday story that La Padura & Hart Casting has become the first casting agency to sign for a pilot without an extra assistant provision created quiet a stir in the comments’ section, including some pointed remarks toward the agency. In response to that, one of La Padura/Hart principals, Jason La Padura, explained the duo’s position in a comment. Here is what he wrote:
I have been a casting director for nearly 28 years. I have always had a full time, year-round assistant (sometimes more than one) to assist me in my work for all that time. Being in a partnership, there are two of us to divide the work. We work with an associate paid by the production company and whose salary we augment. This is the way I have been running my company for nearly 3 decades. We were asked to be a part of a job action and refuse any pilot contract that did not include a second assistant. Initially, after speaking with a colleague about this, I agreed. On further reflection, I did not feel this was right. I feel I am amply compensated and I know how to properly staff the office to get the job done with maximum efficiency. I did not feel I was entitled to a second assistant. I already have a hard working and trust-worthy staff, all of long employ. My partner and I called the colleague who had contacted me to inform her that we were not going to make contractual demands that we did not feel necessary for us and that phone call was returned by a different casting director. In a long phone call, where there was no agreement between us, we went our separate ways and were told, essentially, that there were no hard feelings, this wasn’t personal, we should do what we felt we had to do. We entered into a contract with 20th TV after hearing that another casting director had closed a deal without the 2nd assistant demand at another studio. I now read a somewhat distorted version of the events and see some vitriol in the comments. It is difficult to swallow. We have always been a hard working company that enjoys the art of casting and loves and supports actors. I am sorry other casting directors are angry at us for a perceived “betrayal” but so be it. We are all on our own path. I was told, when we became a part of Local 399 that there would be no interference with our individual needs and requests in contract negotiations yet here, 5 years later, there is one. Honestly, we just want to be left alone to do our job the best we can.