Tuesday, October 26, 2010
How to avoid the "casting couch"
One would have to be incredibly naive to believe that the “casting couch” does not exist in Hollywood (or more correctly -- East Hollywood). Gwyneth Paltrow, in a recent edition of ELLE magazine (I never miss an issue) said that early in her career, despite her parents’ stature in the industry, she was propositioned during a casting session. She quickly bolted but said she could see how someone who didn't know better might worry that, “'My career will be ruined if I don't give this guy a blow job!'"
These tend to be non union situations. As a producer and director I’ve been involved in many casting sessions for pilots and TV series. In every one there’s a casting director, a committee of producers, the director, and sometimes network or studio executives. Within that group there is almost always one woman, usually more. The actors have agents and managers. Everything is handled on a professional basis. Actresses can take comfort in knowing they were rejected not because they refused to give oral sex but because they were too tall, too short, too ethnic, not pretty enough, too pretty, too old, too skinny, too pale, too dark, not funny, not likable, not related.
And young actresses, if a TV producer propositions you on the side and promises you a part on that big NBC show he says he runs, here’s a news flash: He CAN’T. All network casting has to be approved by the network. It’s gotten so ridiculous with the networks these days that even one and two-line parts now have to be approved by the network. So the best you’re going to do is sleeping with a producer to become an extra. And won’t you feel stupid when the extra right next to you got there by bidding $25 at her school’s silent auction?
Projects that resort to the casting couch are probably not projects that you would want to be in anyway. Trust me -- YOU DO NOT HAVE TO COMPROMISE YOURSELF TO GET INTO THE BUSINESS. And chances are if you do you still won't get in, or you will but realize it wasn't worth it.
But how do you know going in to a casting situation that it's shady? Good question. Rarely is "must sleep with me" on the breakdown sheets. So here are some warning signs. Yes, they are facetious but also true.
You may find yourself in a casting couch situation…
… when the casting session is held in an apartment in Pacoima.
… when there’s no script.
… when the producer’s first question is “Will you sign this document verifying you’re 18?”
… when the project is the MOTHER TERESA STORY and you’re told nudity is involved.
… when you Google the producer and it takes you to SmokingGun.com.
… when he’d prefer not dealing with your agent because he’s an artist not a businessman.
… when there’s no one else in the room.
… when you learned about the casting session from a handwritten note on the bulletin board at Safeway.
… when there are bars on the windows of his office.
… when he has seven video cameras in his office and one is built into the floor.
... when he wears an ankle monitor.
… when you’re the only one there to audition.
… when you recognize him from BIG BROTHER.
… when the script is CHINATOWN by Robert Towneger.
… when it’s a student film but the director is 60.
… when you feel the least bit suspicious for ANY REASON.
I hope you never find yourself in one of these situations. Best of luck. And I look forward to seeing you one day in a real casting session, where you have a drive-on to the lot and everything!