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Spotlight apologises for ‘totally unacceptable’ casting call for child actor in Milka commercial

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Spotlight has apologised for allowing a “totally unacceptable” casting call to appear on its platform, which was seeking a child actor for a Milka commercial.

In its original wording, the casting breakdown for a nine to 11-year-old girl said the performer must be “beautiful and angelic” and “she must not have reached puberty”. The breakdown also stated “no red hair” and “no overweight children”.

The brief, posted on Spotlight by casting director Beth Charkham on behalf of the chocolate brand, was amended twice following widespread criticism on social media, before it was later removed.

Milka has said it would have “never approved the use of such a notice” and that it was “urgently reviewing the situation with Spotlight”.

Actor and producer Helen Raw shared the casting breakdown on Twitter, branding it “appalling” and “more than a bit creepy”.

“It perpetuates the whole issue that women in particular are there to look nice or be a certain way, and ‘if you don’t look like this, you can’t sell our product,” she told The Stage.

Raw added: “There needs to be regulation in the industry and people need to be held accountable for what they put out on casting sites.

“At the moment, there isn’t. The casting sites need to become proactive in checking casting calls before they go live instead of relying on actors to report them.”

A spokesman for Equity described both the tone and content of the casting call as “disturbing”.

Matt Hood, assistant general secretary at the union, said: “We understand the anger our members expressed on social media and welcome Spotlight’s apology and eventual removal of the breakdown.

“We have been in dialogue with Spotlight over the weekend and look forward to their proposals for improving the vetting of casting breakdowns posted on their service.

“While an extreme example, it is indicative of the wider issues around the lack of respect for creative workers in the entertainment industry. Casting requests too often contain inappropriate language and attitudes that would not be seen in job adverts for any other industry.”

A statement from Spotlight posted on Twitter “[apologises] unreservedly” for the casting breakdown.

It added: “On Thursday one of the casting directors who uses Spotlight’s platform published a casting call on our platform that absolutely did not meet our high standards, but nevertheless slipped through the net.

“When our attention was drawn to this, we were slow to take action and even the steps we initially took fell far short of what is expected of us by Spotlight members, casting directors and our own team.”

A further comment from a Spotlight spokeswoman said: “Although the casting call, which we agree was totally unacceptable, was published on Spotlight, we can reassure our members and the industry that the processes we have in place mean that no children can directly receive any casting call.

“All casting calls for children are distributed only to agents, all of whom are pre-vetted to agreed industry standards by us.

“The original content of the casting call in question, as with all others Spotlight receives, is a matter for the casting director, their client and/or any advertising agency involved, and we had no involvement whatsoever in writing the original casting call or the covering message.”

A spokesman from Milka said: “We take our advertising responsibility very seriously and this is not representative of the brief we shared with the casting agency and does not meet our high standards.

“We would never approve the use of such a notice, and are urgently reviewing the situation with Spotlight UK to understand how and why it has happened.”

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