Entertainment union Equity has published a manifesto for casting, which seeks to make casting processes “clearer, fairer, less stressful and more inclusive for everyone”.
The document was created in response to various concerns raised by the union’s members at its Annual Representative Conference over the past three years.
The manifesto focuses particularly on increasing diversity and encourages casting directors to look outside London for performers.
A number of high-profile performers have backed the manifesto, including Julie Walters, who said: “We need there to be opportunities for performers living all over Britain. Any production should make a concerted effort to audition local performers.”
Maxine Peake added that “moving to London shouldn’t have to be a prerequisite for a successful performer”.
Women, black, South Asian, East Asian and minority ethnic artists are often disadvantaged by the casting process, the document claims, as are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, D/deaf and disabled, and older artists.
It also adds that “social class remains a barrier”.
Actor Mat Fraser commented: “D/deaf and disabled actors have to fight so hard to make it in this industry, and it’s ridiculous that they should be expected to struggle just to be seen. Equity’s demand for accessible spaces is essential.”
Equity’s vision for a fairer casting process:
Industry should audition a more diverse range of people
Audition venues should accessible to all
More auditions should be held outside London
Performers should be told promptly if an audition is unsuccessful
Statements on diversity should be provided by major casting organisations and talent agencies
The manifesto breaks down its recommendations into several stages, from casting preparation – setting out the information to be included in casting breakdowns, encouraging them to be presented “in the most inclusive way possible” - to things that should be considered before, during and after an audition.
While the union already has agreements in place with ‘engagers’ – those involved in casting performers – the manifesto explains its vision for improving the process.
Issues such as accessibility to buildings where auditions are taking place, demands for nudity at auditions, and informing people promptly if their audition was unsuccessful are discussed in the document.
Also included are statements on diversity from Spotlight, the Casting Directors’ Guild, the Personal Managers’ Association and the Co-Operative Personal Management Association.
Actor Tanya Moodie said “casting of disabled and ethnically diverse actors needn't be a political statement, but rather something that happens as a matter of course".
Recent developments in casting, such as self-taping, are addressed, with the manifesto asking casting directors to acknowledge receipt of self-taped auditions, and not to distribute taped auditions without the consent of the performer.
Equity said it would use the manifesto “to seek the changes that will ensure the continued success of our creative industries”.