Spotlight’s joining criteria has been branded “hypocritical” and “discriminatory” by agents and performers, who claim it is preventing swathes of actors over the age of 25 from signing up.
They are now calling on the casting site to overhaul its eligibility criteria, warning that many late starters to the industry are being “thwarted” before they have even been given a chance.
Currently, performers aged 25 or over looking to join are required to have graduated with a minimum of a year’s professional training from a full-time accredited drama school or university course, or have four or more professional credits in featured, named speaking roles. These must be in full-length film, television or theatre productions. Commercials, idents, short films and extras work is not included within this.
Performers under the age of 25 are able to join if they are represented by a Spotlight-registered agent.
Spotlight has argued that the criteria is needed to maintain professional standards, but agents and performers claim the joining rules deny opportunities for many people who come into the industry later in life, or who do not go down the drama school route.
Susie Blundell, from agency Goldmans Management, said: “Performers coming back into the industry or joining it later in life are thwarted at the first hurdle, as without being on Spotlight there is no way they can access the kind of roles being asked for.”
She said the criteria made it tougher for many black performers who may not have had drama training but grew up singing in churches.
“We understand Spotlight’s desire to be professional, as it’s supposed to be the premium casting network. But as agents, we know what we are looking for in talent, and we are saying: ‘We think they are good enough but you are saying no’,” she said.
Stacey Pomeroy, a 28-year-old performer, said she did not go to drama school and does not have the credits required to sign up to Spotlight.
She labelled it “discriminatory” and added: “It seems to me that, below the age of 25, the criteria is less stringent, but once you hit 25 they’re expecting you to have brushed shoulders with [Martin] Scorsese or something.”
Meanwhile, agent Josh Boyd-Rochford, from JBR Creative Management, said Spotlight had a “monopoly” that no one challenged.
He described the joining criteria as a “relic of the past” and added: “It really does need a complete overhaul.”
He said the casting site held the “industry to ransom” and was not helping to nurture new talent.
“No one gave them this power. They’ve just been around for such a long time. To say you can’t be an actor unless you have four professional credits, you can’t be an actor unless you have been to an accredited drama school, is ridiculous,” he said.
Boyd-Rochford added he also felt it was unfair that successful, high-earning actors paid the same £158 fee annually as performers not earning as much.
Campaigner Helen Raw, who created the British Actors Network, told The Stage her biggest “bugbear” was the hypocrisy of the criteria.
“I know people with hundreds of commercials under their belts and award-winning short films who are not eligible. However, once on the site, despite having all these other credits, a lot of the jobs are for commercials and short films,” she said.
She added: “My question to them is: if those jobs are not good enough to join the site, why do they offer those jobs in the first place?”
Responding, a spokeswoman for Spotlight said it had to “adhere to strict entry requirements to ensure all performers are of a professional standard”, and that the casting site accepts both “training and professional credits”.
“Spotlight performers are some of the best in the world and we work hard to ensure casting directors can find these performers,” she said.
She added: “For performers who do not meet our entry requirements, we always invite them to re-apply once they have more training or experience. In such a competitive industry we do understand how hard it is, which is why we look at each application individually and help wherever we can.”