UPDATED: Several actresses like Ever Carradine (The Handmaid’s Tale), Merrin Dungey (Big Little Lies) and Sprague Grayden (Hightown) turned to Twitter this week to express frustration over the pandemic-era trend of (costly) tape auditions and whether in-person tryouts are truly a thing of the past.
Carradine began her social media rant by noting how an ad popped up on her Instagram account for a “respected casting director’s office offering self tape opportunities for a fee. If we can go to casting and tape, can’t we just go to casting and actually read without paying $50 an audition?”
When someone asked if actors now have to pay for an audition, Carradine replied, “No, but you have to pay a facility to tape and read with you. In the before covid times, this was a last resort and most auditions happened in person in the room with casting, producers and the director. Self tape was like one out of 20 auditions. Now it’s 20 outta 20.”
She went on to say, “I’m not faulting them for offering their space or helping actors tape. Not at all. It’s more about getting in the room again.”
Carradine’s tweets were shared by Dungey, who replied, “This is some real bullsh– right here. It’s bad enough we can’t go in, and to get a great tape you have to use a service because you need a reader/lighting/editing. We are paying to get jobs now. With no notes. No communication. Lengthy sides. It’s not ideal.”
To which Carradine replied, “We are also paying for the jobs we don’t get.”
Lisa Ann Walter (Abbott Elementary) suggested that Dungey run for a union position, while actress Grayden weighed in on the trend by saying “self taping has given my family and I the room to move to a city that is much healthier for us. I think of the young/ unknown actor who desperately wants a chance to show said casting office what they can do. Who protects them?”
One such place now offering self-tape rooms is Betty Mae Casting, which touts “lightstorm LED daylights with beauty dishes and a calming setting” for $30 for 15 minutes or $45 for 30 minutes. There is also an additional $10 fee for camera/editing and a $10 fee for a reader.
The agency, founded by casting director Mary Vernieu (Glass Onion, Knives Out), opened the spaces on March 1 after briefly experimenting with the rooms before the pandemic.
“Given auditions are mostly requested via self-tape these days, we are happy to offer our space and equipment for actors to make their tape the best it can be,” a spokesperson tells Deadline. “To be crystal clear, we are only offering the same service as any other taping facility. We are not asking actors to pay for a space to come in and audition with us for our projects. Actors who book this service will not be seen by any Betty Mae casting directors or associates, nor will they be allowed to use this service to tape for any Betty Mae projects. Anyone booking a room is required to send sides ahead of time before their appointment is confirmed.”
In her tweets, Carradine acknowledges that self-tape rooms are not the problem; it’s how the audition process has forever changed because of the pandemic. One high-level executive producer tells Deadline that taped auditions “save so much time” and are here to stay but “I know not all actors love it, which is a bummer.” Adds the Betty Mae spokesperson, “We don’t know where it will go. Often times it’s up to the studio/network/producers and their health & safety guidelines. We hope we can all be together again soon!”
“My issue is about getting IN the room,” Carradine tweeted. “I miss reading in person and am drowning in self tapes. I am not disparaging anyone for charging to rent their space so actors can self tape. I pay a facility down the street to tape all the time.”
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