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Katie Arnstein: The industry must take a stand against unacceptable casting breakdowns

Casting calls for auditions need to be worded carefully. Photo: Shutterstock
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Words are important, powerful and, if used carelessly, can create one of the most ridiculous casting calls in modern memory. As a female actor, I am no stranger to outrageous casting calls or “breakdowns” as they’re known (I assume because of what they also cause).

The recent breakdown a casting director put on Spotlight for a Milka advert is one such horrifying example. The sporadic use of capital letters and mild insults is a warm welcome to what follows: a despicable and offensive list of qualities that the lucky nine to 11-year-old girl (or 12 if she looks young enough) must possess in order to sell airport chocolate.

If I had to pick just a few of these sickening “must-haves” to highlight the nonsensical nature of this breakdown it would be these: Must have very good teeth and skin; it mentions she must be beautiful three times; she must NOT have reached puberty (I am using the breakdown’s capitals); no overweight children; no red hair; if she is 12, she must be very small and still childlike.

Allow me to use the casting directors own style here to express my thoughts on this last one. If the actor is 12, she will be childlike – BECAUSE SHE IS A CHILD.

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

This casting could have been funny if it weren’t real. But since it was, we have a duty to take a very serious stand against it. The daily, inescapable pressures that children – particularly girls – are put under not just through castings but through the results of them, in films, television and adverts are devastating.

These casting calls shouldn’t be hidden behind industry walls. I do not want to be a part of an industry that promotes the ideas in this casting and I will do everything in my limited power to stand against it. The abuses meted out to young female actors is partly what my show is about.

Milka said it wouldn’t have approved such a notice and Spotlight apologised, saying: “We got it wrong, and we’re really sorry.” But it should take more responsibility for this mistake. I ask it to put measures in place to manage the castings that appear on its website so this doesn’t happen again.

I don’t want a 12-year-old to feel she is not viewed as a child. I don’t think it’s right that girls with red hair are told they are not wanted. I don’t want a child to see their weight as a problem they need to solve in order to be accepted. Simply put, I don’t think that we should add to the pressures children face in order to sell chocolate bars.

It’s time to speak up against this casting and all those like it because words are important and should be used wisely.

Sexy Lamp runs at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, until August 26

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