“NEXT!” “DON’T CALL US, WE’LL CALL YOU!” —Have you been told things like this before? If so, you have probably spent some time in the entertainment industry. A multi-billion-dollar industry that provides content, enjoyment, information, and entertainment to citizens of the world. An industry that seems to be ever-changing on the outside, while remaining archaic at its core.
For decades, artists and performers have struggled with the reality that the process of auditioning is a brutal endeavor. It is nerve-wracking, it is stressful, it is many times upsetting, and no matter how much someone prepares, it is near impossible to anticipate how the audition will go or what the casting team is looking for. Artists spend their lives working on their craft, preparing material, expanding their repertoire, and maintaining their physique and fitness in order to stand out from the crowd and stay competitive. For each audition an actor or singer or dancer attends, that individual can spend days learning lines, rehearsing songs, perfecting choreography, and researching the character. The amount of work it takes for a performer to prepare for a 30-second audition is the job! The job of an artist is to get the next job! That is the career. It is a career that is built around “what if?” It is a career that is driven by passion. It is an identity. It is an unpaid, underappreciated, and unforgiving line of work and creatives devote their lives to it. Why? Because, although auditioning is grueling and taxing and time-consuming, when the stars align and the time is right, booking the job is the best feeling in the world. It makes it all worthwhile and it makes the pain of struggle and rejection go away… until it’s time to look for the next gig. And around and around it goes.
It is common knowledge amongst auditioning artists that rejection is not only the norm, but also expected! Entertainers are taught very early on that being kept in the dark about a project is the industry standard and anything else, such as a callback or a booking, or a ‘hello’ from a casting director, is icing on the cake. Artists typically try and look forward, and never back, after an audition to protect their psyche. That is much easier said than done. But thinking/obsessing about every detail of an audition and what the performer could have done differently or should have done better will drive a person mad. Therefore, it is encouraged for artists to leave their memories behind with each audition they attend. This has been the coping mechanism for artists since the dawn of time… and it is still this way today.
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A working dancer in NYC, for example, might audition for three to five different projects daily, going from one audition to the next to the next. The job of an artist like this is to audition! That is the primary job. Landing the job is the paid vacation that will allow for the next round of auditions for the next opportunity. It is very rare to join a production that allows a performer to stay year after year. Those spots are coveted, and they do not come around often. It is this kind of uncertainty, this kind of grind that wears performers down. Pounding the pavement, preparing material for the audition, giving every bit of oneself in the audition room, only to walk out with no semblance of how it went, what they thought, how you might improve for next time, or if you are even being considered. Nothing. Just … NEXT!
A Fortune 500 company, a family-owned business, or a government job has standards of treatment for employees, colleagues, patrons, and clients. Universities and corporate entities have policies in place to raise awareness about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Training is offered to employees and management regarding how to treat others in the workplace; how to avoid conflict; how to respect people’s time, and how best to work together. DISC assessments, HR reviews, plans, and goals for employee development, mental health & wellness, and basic training about harassment and discrimination are all things that are addressed in a “normal” working environment. So, why don’t these things exist in the casting space?
The quick answer would be that there isn’t enough time! Casting directors are tasked with expeditiously finding the right talent for each project, and sometimes that requires searching through hundreds and hundreds of candidates within a matter of days. This is a unique obstacle that most businesses do not face from day to day. In essence, it is a much more intense, grandiose, and fast-paced version of hiring employees. However, instead of evaluating typing speed or proficiency in software, the candidate is being assessed for their talent, their look, their flexibility, their vocal range. This, in and of itself, is already nearing the line that mainstream businesses would consider discriminatory, hence the dilemma.
How can casting directors improve the methods and systems used at a casting call to provide a more positive experience? Is there a way to improve communication? Can talent be given more direction? Can casting directors provide more feedback? Is there some way that these artists can leave an audition with at least some information that would help them grow as an artist? A simple yes or no is basic common courtesy in the real world. Whether a candidate receives a prepopulated email, a general notification, or a personalized call, applicants all over the world typically receive a “we regret to inform you” decision if they were not selected for a position they had applied for. Why can’t the entertainment industry offer the same courtesy?
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Imagine, if you will, an audition experience whereby the talent can showcase their abilities to the casting panel and then receive a notification that thanks them for coming in. Or perhaps a brief message at the end of the day letting the artist know where they stand in the process. Are they being considered? Have they been called back? Is it a yes? Is it a no? If it is a no, what could that artist do to improve for next time? If it is a maybe, will the talent be kept on file for future projects? These basic niceties would change the industry for both casting and talent in more ways than one. If talent knew the outcomes of their auditions, they would be able to schedule their doctors’ appointments, attend the wedding that is coming up, plan trips, etc. They wouldn’t have to wait by the phone in the hopes of receiving a callback if a callback is never coming! There would be opportunities for talent to identify areas that need improvement and work on those things for the next audition. The growth the industry would see from the talent pool, if they were made aware of what they could work on to improve, would be ten-fold. This would enhance the talent pool for casting, and it would raise the bar industry-wide.
There is no reason why the casting process needs to be so traumatic. With a platform like JamarGig, casting can be fun, insightful, fast, and courteous. The process can be transparent, communicative, and helpful for talent. The more information someone has, the less anxiety they will have. These ideals should be extremely important to talent and casting alike as they would help to improve the overall casting experience. Implementing a tool, like JamarGig, that will aid in casting logistics, crowd control, audition management, assessment, workflow, and a comprehensive talent database, will not only save casting companies an enormous amount of time and money but will also set a new standard for how the industry views and treats creatives of all kinds. This standard of socially responsible casting will lead the industry to greater heights and will yield better experiences and outcomes for the casting professional.
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