Casting directors who came to celebrate their own at the 38th annual Artios Awards on Thursday had a message for actors who worry that making a self-tape means sending one’s work into the abyss: They do take the time to see your at-home audition.
Casting Society President Destiny Lilly told Deadline that she recognizes that some actors probably think those self-tapes that were made during the pandemic ended up in some massive, unopened pile of manila folders. And that couldn’t be anything further from the truth, she said.
“Actors are the lifeblood of what we do. We couldn’t do what we do without actors,” Lilly said before tonight’s awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton. “Of course I listen to the actors when they want to say something and of course what they are saying is valid. I miss the connection of being in the room with people. I miss that feeling of being with everyone else and having an actor come in, and you think ‘that’s the person!’ During the pandemic, it wasn’t possible for us to do that. Now as industry we are slowly crawling out of that, all of us are reassessing how we can approach casting, how to make it safe and as equitable as possible, and to make sure the actors are able to do their best work.”
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“We watch your tapes,” Lilly continued. “The most important thing to know is that actors solve a problem for casting. We are trying to find people. We are looking for you. We are going through the tapes. One of the things about having tapes come in is that it allows us to maybe watch a few more than we would if we just had 10 people in the room. We can also ask people who are coming from other parts of the country or the world. Our goal is to see how we can make this process work for everyone.”
When asked if production value matters when shooting a self-tape, Lilly said, “as long as we can see and hear you clearly, I think you are great.”
Casting director Darly Eisenberg — who together with Ally Beans, is up for an Artios Award for casting the micro-budget comedy The Cathedral — doesn’t believe “any actor should have to pay to audition.”
“We try very strongly to remind actors they should never pay to audition and access to our auditions should have no financial barriers,” Eisenberg tells Deadline. “Whenever we ask for a self-tape, we include a cover letter that says we get this is difficult, this is awkward. Don’t worry about production value. Don’t worry if you are holding your baby in your lap or your roommate walks in the background. That’s not what we are looking for. We just want to make sure we can hear you and see you. This is just a step in the process and trying to recreate what we would do in a prescreen. We just remind actors, this is not meant to be perfect. We always say perfect is the enemy of the good when it comes to self tapes.”
Casting Society Board Member Steven Tyler O’Connor understands that actors miss in-person auditions, but no one has the luxury of offices anymore because of the pandemic. Most casting directors, like O’Connor, work from home.
“Until we can come back and have studios and office space to audition actors, what am I supposed to do, have actors come over and audition in my backyard?” he said. “We do want to be back in the room. I love actors. I love seeing them in the room. I’m dying to get back in the room as much as they are. But we have certain constraints on our end.”
But he also thinks that being in the room doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always better for an actor. “I think this notion that being in person is an advantage … I don’t think it’s true. If the role is yours, the role is yours. It’s going to translate over tape,” O’Connor said.
Casting Society Board Member Wendy Kurtzman worries that the current controversy over self-tapes is unnecessarily splitting the community into factions. “It’s not going to be constructive to let people sit squarely on one side and squarely on the other,” she said. “We are in this together. You think we are the gatekeepers. Don’t forget, we answer to producer and directors. We have a chain of command.”
“The most important thing for me is to calm [the situation],” Kurtzman continued. “Actors are frustrated, they want to be seen. And by the way, we want to see them. We love being in the room with them. We all need to sit down and hear what is frustrating actors and see what casting can do to help alleviate that. But don’t forget we are in the middle of the seesaw. You’ve got the actors on one end and the producers, networks and studios on the other end. We are in the middle. We are trying to shepherd people to get them hired. That’s our job. We want them, we need them, we love them. We are all in this together. I don’t know how all of a sudden this became an us against them.”
When host Yvette Nicole Brown opened the show, she called everyone in the room “heroes.”
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