I sometimes wonder why I bother. At all. Following is a transcript of communication around an advert recently posted on Gumtree seeking actors and actresses for a variety of work.
6 June 2013 Posted:Â United Kingdom > Edinburgh > Old Town > Jobs > Part-time, Evening & Weekend
Actor / Actresses required for Theatre Work / Short Films (15 – 50 YEARS OLD)
WE HAVE VARIOUS CONNECTIONS THROUGH VARIOUS CONTACTS AND HAVE A LIST OF SHORTÂ FILMS / DOCUMENTARIES / PLAYS / THEATRE WORK WHO ARE CURRENTLY LOOKING FORÂ APPLICANTS FOR PARTS!
ALL REQUIRE ACTORS AND ACTRESSES FOR VARIOUS ROLES. SOME PARTS ARE PAID BUTÂ THESE WONT BE AROUND FOR LONG (AS YOU ARE PROBABLY WELL AWARE). PAID PARTS VARYÂ FROM Â£5-10 PER DAY TO COVER TRAVEL COSTS AND LUNCH BREAKS – AND A FEW WHO WILLÂ PAY UP TO Â£400 (FORTNIGHTLY) IF YOU HAVE ENOUGH EXPERIENCE AND ARE RIGHT FOR THEÂ ROLE.
MOST OF THE ROLES ARE VERY SMALL SO EXPERIENCE IS NOT NECESSARY – BUT IS ANÂ OBVIOUS ADVANTAGE!!!
AGES REQUIRED VARY FROM 15-16 (MALE AND FEMALE) TO 45-50 (MALE AND FEMALE) BUT ANYÂ AGE GROUP CAN APPLY. PLEASE NOTE, IF YOU ARE BELOW THE AGE OF 16 WE WOULDÂ ENCOURAGE YOU TO TURN UP TO ANY AUDITIONS ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT OR A CLOSE
LOCATIONS ARE: EDINBURGH, GLASGOW, ROSYTH, DUNFERMLINE, INVERNESS SO, DEPENDINGÂ ON WHICH PART YOU APPLY FOR, TRAVELLING WILL BE REQUIRED.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION PLEASE FORWARD YOUR FULL PROFILE (HEAD SHOTSÂ INCLUDED PLEASE), CONTACT DETAILS, AND ALL RELEVANT EXPERIENCE AND WE WILL BE INÂ TOUCH SHORTLY.
HOPEFULLY THIS SUMMER WILL BE A GOOD ONE!!! :-)
An actor flagged the advert on an acting and filmmaking forum. The actor was concerned that the poster had not identifiedÂ them self/not provided a company name, and wanted to ask fellow actors what their thoughts were on whether it was genuine and worth contacting. Responses were curious but worried. Several people noted they had cautiously emailed enquiries about more information.
I decided I would email on behalf of the actors that I represent who may well be interested in some roles:
6 June 2013 – replied:
Your Gumtree ad has been brought to my attention. I am an actors’ agent, and I’m curious about your ad describing various kinds of work for performers in short films, theatre etc. I also actively advocate employment rights against the exploitation of performing artists, and since your ad was quite vague about you (it only describes “We have…[etc]” but does not appear to identify yourselves in any way – I wanted to enquire in what capacity you operate? Are you a company? A casting agency? Are you up-to-date with the National Minimum Wage issue with performing artists for professional work? Are these in fact amateur projects? You have indicated that there are positions for 15-16 year-olds and that they should bring an adult with them, but you have not indicated if the work will have appropriately disclosed team members associated with it, or whether any production teams will be ensuring that Child Entertainment Licenses will be properly obtained (http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/1139/entertainment_licences/1285/child_entertainment_licences). As part of the industry here in Scotland I should be very interested to know more so I can advise performing artists accordingly as to the suitability of the work you are advertising.
Hope to hear from you soon.
The Masques Agency
I was astonished to receive a rather bolshy reply:
7 June 2013 – received:
We’re just some a couple trying to help out. We know a lot of people (friends) who run shows and we asked if there was anything we could do to help out. They just said be on the lookout for anyone who wants to try for shows or films – so we thought we’d at least try since we have our summer free and we love getting involved in these kinds of things.
Unfortunately, we didnt think that far ahead and didnt anticipate anything we were doing being too much of a problem. Now that you have brought it to our attention, ifÂ anyoneÂ contacts us regarding our Gumtree advertisement we will ignore their email, or reply telling them we are not interested in anything they have to offer, and they should contact the correct company for any possible parts. I trust this is what you are trying to achieve so fair enough, message received and understood.
The only thing I would recommend in regards to your message is perhaps to consider the way you word things. You do come across as quite stuck up and, even though your only trying to help, and we are also only trying to help out as well, its difficult not to read your message without picking it up as someone who is high and mighty and knows better than everyone else. Obviously the concept of two people just trying to have fun, help a few people over summer is ridiculous and far fetched to you, but why not try to live your life in a positive manner and actually be nice to people? Your message could have been worded so differently and would not have come across as so aggressive. If you have put in a bit of effort! I realise you’re just trying to guide us and help out, and that’s fair enough, but we’re not stupid and we do take responsibility for our own actions. We’re not criminals, and we’re nice, honest people to know. You know my thoughts. I always try to be honest with people and I dont have any regrets. Please don’t contact again.
Against my better judgement (being that this clearly was not worth my time), and after having just spent some time reading an abundance of awful stories about dodgy casting auditions by dubious advertisers – I thought I would try to explain that I was simply trying to ascertain who they were in light of what actors are facing these days:Â
Dear [still anonymous]
Oh good grief. I simply enquired about the level of professionalism from what you offered as it was not clear at all.
Your posting is publicly viewable by the actors I represent, and it is my job to look after their interests and safeguard their endeavours in the industry.
In any case, it appears you have decided not proceed, and indeed ignore/tell people who take the time to email you that you are not interested in what they have to offer, which I think will be especially disheartening for them. Which is a shame.
The industry is littered with inappropriate and unprofessional casting calls, here are just some:Â http://castingcallwoe.tumblr.com/
and there are many advantages taken from those simply looking to perform â€“ a worst case scenario is here:Â http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/sex-offender-set-up-fake-tv-audition-to-lure-teenager-29326903.html
So two people just trying to have fun over the summer is not ridiculous to me at all. But as a professional working in the industry, and along with wonderful and hardworking organisations like Equity, we look after the careers, rights, safety and interests of the artists we represent.
An impressive rant-style response was then sent back to me and to all and everyone who had apparently contacted them enquiring about the work, or just wanted to find out more information:Â
Due to all the pathetic haters out there who complained about our ad we have had to withdraw it from Gumtree. Apparently, saying we will cover travel costs and give people (Â£5-10 per day to cover everything) is ILLEGAL and we can be fined Â£5000 or go to prison for just saying we would do that. Even if it is out of kindness. Since this does not meet minimum wage requirements, the Government (not the people emailing us!!!) have decided WE are the criminals and WE should be fined or go to prison. The people emailing us, (one person called Belinda from some pathetic equity company and another bitch called Pamela from a theatre company??) they just wanted to prove how clever they were so they reported it to the police and the government. Honestly!!!! All we’re actually trying to do is help out here and this is what we get? Our ad was reported to the police and various other authorities and we were basically branded criminals or ”would be” paedophiles just for posting an ad on Gumtree!!! The people who reported our ad are total scum, and they’re the kind of people that don’t deserve anyones time and who need to get a life. We’re sending the same email out to everyone who queried our ad.
Apologies for not being able to forward any info but we have decided Gumtree is not an option we wish to pursue so will not be contacting anyone who contacted us. Next time we want to help out, we’ll be staying well clear of Gumtree and all the pathetic haters who want to destroy what could be a fantastic opportunity to unite people with common interests! We will continue on with our various projects and short films and in future will advertise correctly for positions or will simply offer the roles to people we know rather than give other people a chance.
So they’ve completely missed any of the points I made and have just decided to take the whole thing entirely personally (which is ironic since not I nor anybody else has any idea who they are). I was originally intending on sharing whatever initial response received back on the forum where the actor had raised it (removing any personal names). But decided not to at their initial response as they were clearly just a couple trying to ‘have some fun over the summer’. However, since they have lowered their tone to basic insults like ‘bitch’ and ‘scum’ (which is obviously very rude and irresponsible since they don’t know for sure the age of the persons they might be sending the email to), I have decided to post the full transcipt here. Still no idea who they are, which made it all the easier to post here without worry of identification. Here was my final reply:
Oh my God.
I can’t believe you have just called me scum for doing my job. I haven’t insulted you once. I have simply brought your awareness of the current issues facing the industry you have advertised in to your attention in a formal, honest, professional and respectful manner. And you have not even done me the courtesy of identifying yourself.
For your information, and if you had bothered to check from the name and organisation name I had first and foremost provided you with, I am an Actors’ agent and it is my job to look after the interests, safety, and rights of performing artists.
I actually cannot believe, however ‘helpful’ you were hoping to be, that it has been indeed yourselves who have reacted aggressively to an industry that is working very hard to achieve sustainability. And you, in your lack of understanding have resorted to call us ‘haters’ in a fashion that I can only say is reminiscent of the unprofessional reaction of say…Amy’s Baking Company (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy’s_Baking_Company_(Kitchen_Nightmares)).
The fact that you have continually not identified yourself has actually made it all the easier for me to decide to post and blog your highly insulting (and anonymous) response to my enquiries publicly on industry-relevant forums, so that the practitioners in the industry can be warned of the ill-educated and ill-qualified persons who are purporting to offer viable opportunities to them. I was not going to. There was a whole discussion thread about your advert on an acting forum online, but I decided from your initial response that it was not in the best interest to share your response since you were inexperienced and just trying to honestly help. However, since you have decided to completely misrepresent my enquiry (and let me remind you that I opened with acknowledging that you had insulted me and others but that I had not thus far, but would now like to take the opportunity to call you idiots), that I will be sharing all of your anonymous communication in these forums. Which is a shame. Because I genuinely think you had good intentions, but have managed to handle yourselves quite badly indeed.
Shame we’ll never know who you are. But then Edinburgh has only two degrees of separation between everyone, so I don’t expect it will be long before the industry finds out. I’m delighted to hear that you intend to be advertising in a legal and respectful way in the future. That’s wonderful. And all that this industry really asks.
…and yes, their final rant at me.
And back to the original stance point that is somewhat apparent from your email below. You are obviously stuck up and believe yourself to be above anyone else trying to get by without your help!
Imagine that, people actually getting by without the help of a Ms Knowitalls like you? I hope never to meet you in real life as I firmly believe you’re the kind of person I would hate to be around. Its people like you who cause problems for everyone else. You can talk all you want about what you think is right, and what should be happening but, for once in your life, just leave people alone and stop being such a bully. We all take responsibility and its just a sign of how messed up the world is that everyone feels the need to step in and tell other people off for not doing things the way they should, moreover, the way society wants them to do it. Thankfully, I’m an intelligent enough person to realise what people are like. You are definitely a narcassistical nightmare. I’m happy not to know you more than this and Im happy this is our only correspondence. No need to reply. I wont read any response you send. From this moment on if I see your name in the inbox, the email will automatically be deleted. Lets just move on and act like adults. The only reason the decision was made to stay anonymous was the amount of backlash we got from such a simple post. Lesson learnt. We wont be doing that again!
Er…cheers for that guys. Horrified that they might’ve caught me on a cow-day at any point, I read back my writing.
…Nope, I still stand by everything I said. Yes it was written in a formal capacity, but then…I was…um…writing in a formal capacity? So if they’re reading that as stuck-up and aggressive, then they must be very angry with say – Scottish Power, Virgin Media, City of Edinburgh Council, or anyone who doesn’t write in an informal or even sweary and insulting way I’m guessing?
And what is the point here? What the hell have I learned from this particular conversation? It’s just another example of the huge grey in the art and industry, amateur and professional. You can have amateur and professional in both the art and in the industry. And some folks seem to be afraid of the word ‘amateur’ when there really is no need. If it is amateur, then say so – its honest, open, will avoid any disappointment later, and is nothing to be ashamed of. Amateur is a needed level before professional.
But to get to a professional level, people will have worked extremely hard and will have invested so much to afford that status. Issues like this conversation are raised when things are advertised on jobs boards and are unknowingly not quite posted right, not quite explaining exactly what it is. Performers of ALL levels are so hopeful when a job catches their eye. Could it be a really good one? Can I really shine in this? Will it lead to bigger and better things? There’s a lot of emotion there, which rallies worry and caution alongside it.
What a great shame that this particular conversation resulted in name-calling when both parties intentions were actually helpful and good.