How wonderful that Equity president Maureen Beattie is chasing employers and casting directors to give actors a ‘no’ when they don’t get the job they have auditioned for. It’s common courtesy.
I’m not sure I want an inbox full of rejection emails and I have no problem auditioning and forgetting about it, but I realise that for many not getting a response is a problem and should stop. For me, I don’t want a yes or no. I want a when.
My agent calls. It is a new six-part series for the BBC, shooting from October until mid-December: 10 weeks. Someone has suggested me for the demanding role of “burly man at bus stop”. My agent is pretty sure that “burly man” will not be required for the full 10 weeks filming. In fact, there is a very good chance that it will only take a day or two.
It works out and they offer me “burly man”. It will look good on my CV next to “angry man in motorway services” which I’ve just completed for ITV. The problem now is when will my scenes film? I’m not going to be sitting on my arse for the next 10 weeks. I have other work – voice-overs, training and indeed a few days filming something else.
My agent is conscientious and organised. She informs the film company of my non availability and we wait. There is a need to lock down the schedule. This all now hangs on the availability of the bus stop.
Good locations are in high demand – some of them work more than actors. Given that demand, it might be best to check the location first. Actors tend to be two a penny: ring up and you’ll always find somebody available. So, why not check out the bus stop first, then cast “burly man”?
Recently I was up for a feature film. I loved the script and the director and I was keen to do it. My agent gave my availability and, four weeks later, we received an offer.
‘We don’t have long periods of time reclining on a chaise longue practising for when we are needed.’
Despite my agent’s transparency and the incredible hard work of the casting director, the offer was for just six days, two days on which I had other immovable jobs. With great regret I had to say no. However, it was all made slightly easier when I saw the fee, which wouldn’t have paid for a night out at the Old Vic.
As actors, we have to live. We have to do other jobs to pay the bills. We don’t have long periods of time reclining on a chaise longue practising for when we are needed. We have to get out there and work. We are well aware that this might limit our availability, but it does allow us to feed ourselves and not spend every waking day being grateful for a £25-a-night fringe gig.
Equity wants a ‘no’. Casting directors would like to give one, but are hampered by other people who may not have got their act together. Perhaps it’s time to work that spreadsheet book the locations and then go out and find the actors. I always prefer a yes, I don’t really want a no, but what I want most of all is a when.
Paul Clayton is an actor, director and author. Read more of his columns at the thestage.co.uk/author/paul-clayton/