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Paul Clayton: Should Spotlight advertise theatre jobs that don’t pay Equity minimum?

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We are often told that actors like to be in the spotlight. Rather more pressing for us though, is that we have to be in Spotlight. An entry in the casting directory is a Kitemark of your existence and credibility as a professional actor.

Spotlight proclaims on its website that it is the “home of casting” and with 85% of work in the UK cast through the company, it’s not an idle boast. For many years in the UK, Spotlight has had a monopoly. Now there are competitors, but the bulk of work is carried by the original big beast.

And yet not all subscribers can see it. As an actor with representation, any suitable casting briefs from Spotlight will be sent directly to your agent. Casting directors submitting work on the service can choose to whom they distribute the information. They can select to send a brief to all agents, or to specific agents, or they can just select to send the information to one agent. They can also choose to release the information to actors who don’t have representation.

Given that actors can be remarkably optimistic in what they put themselves up for, few casting directors send their briefs out to everybody. They don’t want to be inundated. Increasingly, performers without an agent receiving emails from Spotlight will largely be seeing work marked as low pay. Spotlight calls these jobs “opportunities”.

It fully recognises that not all actors would want to apply for this work, yet it does carry these jobs for actors who are prepared to accept less than the minimum. Subscribers to Spotlight say they like to see these opportunities, and users can filter those out if they don’t want to see them. Spotlight used to say that all work carried on its casting service had to meet the minimum wage standard. Now it has to mirror the industry standard rate, but not the Equity minimum.

Could Spotlight be doing more? As the main casting directory for our profession, should it really be showing work that is below union rates? Some of those jobs offer appallingly poor pay. But the desire to work means there are always actors who will apply.

As long as employers can find actors who accept these fees, they will continue to advertise lower and lower rates. Should Spotlight act as a barrier to people who are prepared to bust the Equity minimum? It would undoubtedly mean the site carrying far fewer jobs, and it would mean that actors without agents would see fewer opportunities.

When jobs are advertised at what might be very low wages, you can hit the report button. Some employers, who have been known to offer actors no fee at all, have been reported when advertising on Spotlight.

It leads the way in casting, making it easier for people to find actors. Perhaps the next step is making sure that actors see jobs that offer a union minimum?

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