Producers of Surviving the Cartel hope to raise more than $130,000 in an audition contest for 33 roles on the yet-to-be-produced streaming TV series. The producers at 1265 Films call their online contest “hybrid casting” but insist that it’s not an illegal “pay to play” scheme because actors who hope to be voted onto the series – at $3.50 a vote – cannot vote for themselves, though their friends and family members can, as many as 50 times each.
On Monday, SAG-AFTRA, which had expressed concern about the show’s casting model, issued a “Do Not Work Notice,” telling members that they cannot work on the show. The company says the series, a survival story told from three different perspectives, will shoot this summer and air on its own pay-per-view platform.
According to the terms and conditions of the online audition contest, after actors submit their audition videos, their supporters can vote for them, with the first actor to receive 1,150 votes for each of the 33 roles winning a role as a guest star or day player on the show. At $3.50 a vote, that comes to $4,025 per role. And with 33 roles being auctioned off, that comes to $132,825. The final tally could be even higher because money spent on votes for actors who fail to receive the qualifying 1,150 votes will not be refunded.
According to the rules of the contest, “The winner contestant picked by our voters will be compensated as follows: $350 per day for union performers and $250 per day for nonunion performers. Travel, hotel and meal expenses will be provided.” But since running afoul of SAG-AFTRA, the producers say that they won’t be hiring any of the union’s members.
According to the rules:
“Voter(s) vote for their favorite contestant by purchasing the number of votes of their choice. Contestants who are the first to reach the minimum of 1,150 votes will win role. Only one role is allowed by contestant. The monetary portion of the vote is $3.50 per vote to help, but not limited to, maintaining the platform, promoting and showcasing actors’ skills.
“Vote will be stopped for the contestant who first reached the minimum vote of 1,150 votes. Voters have a limit of 50 votes per contestants and contestants CANNOT vote for themselves. Votes for other contestants in competition for the same role who have not reached the minimum vote first to win the role cannot be transferable to the next contestants, reallocate, fractioned or refunded.
“The purchase of vote beyond 1,150 minimum votes for a contestant DOES NOT enhance chance of winning. ONLY contestants reaching first the minimum votes of 1150 will win the role. All online votes may be submitted using a valid credit card…Only valid, authorized credit card transactions will be considered as a legitimate vote…All authorized credit card transactions are non-cancellable and non-refundable. If your credit card is declined for any reason, no vote will be submitted on your behalf.”
Read the full terms and conditions here.
SAG-AFTRA, in its “Do Not Work Notice,” noted that it had “previously sent out a casting notice to its members in good faith with the understanding that production would be moving forward with the signatory process. After SAG-AFTRA sent out the casting notice to its members, SAG-AFTRA became aware of the details of production’s intended casting model. After SAG-AFTRA expressed concerns about this model, production advised that it would proceed as a non-union production. SAG-AFTRA made every effort to work with production on the issue to get this project covered under our contracts.”
Ely Bams, the show’s creator and principal behind 1265 Films, told Deadline that after SAG-AFTRA learned about the show’s “hybrid casting,” he got a call from a union rep who told him that “if we don’t shut down the ‘hybrid casting’ process, they would not allow Surviving the Cartel to be shot under a SAG agreement.” And when the union issued its “Do Not Work Notice” on Monday, he said that “we called and asked the SAG actors who were already attached to the project to leave the project.”
Bams insisted that this is not an illegal pay-to-play scheme because actors are not paying for jobs on the show, even though their friends and family members might be.
“As you are now aware, the film industry establishment is not welcoming of this new hybrid casting and is actively running a campaign to portray us as a ‘pay to play’ scam,” he said. “As clearly stated in our terms and conditions, contestants cannot vote for themselves. Our audience strongly stands by us and finds value in impacting and witnessing the making of movie stars. We believe that unknown actors and upcoming actors should be given a chance to showcase their talent to the people that matter the most: the audience.”
He added: “Hybrid casting is a process that involves casting lead, and supporting actors traditionally, while offering the opportunity to unknown and unseen actors to be picked by the audience – the general public – for day-player and guest star roles. It’s designed to give an opportunity to unknown and upcoming actors to get a role and be part of the making. This fit the slogan of our streaming platform 1265+ (coming in early 2022) – ‘Don’t just watch shows, be a part of their making.’
“To support this process we have created 1265 Cast and Crew, the first hybrid cast selection and voting base tech platform that allows actors to easily jump-start their careers by winning guest star and day player roles in TV shows, and films produced by 1265 Films. Our hybrid cast concept and the platform are ‘patent’ pending. The platform is simply a casting tool for guest star and day-player roles to audition for a chance to win a role through an online audition contest.
“Our mission is to empower great actors, unseen talents who have been forgotten by the Hollywood system, ignored by casting directors, agents, or managers, and who have been unfairly cut by the casting politics that goes most of the time behind the curtain. This platform makes it easier for actors to jump-start their careers – while offering to the audience the fun experience of noticing the birth of future movie stars.”
Despite those who “attacked the monetary portion of the vote,” he said that the “this platform will remain alive because voters agreed that the monetary portion of their vote is used, but not limited to, maintain, promote, create traffic and visibility for the unknown actors’ work offering them the exposure needed to jump-start their career. Filmmaking – acting – is a very tough industry. For actors there is a Catch-22 in the business: you can’t get work without a good reel, and you can’t get a good reel without getting good work.”