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casting couch

Empowerment. Say no to the Casting Couch

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The telegraph talked about it, I’ve been interviewed about it, it has happened to me, my friends, and others.

It’s this mix of casting couch meets inappropriate auditions (meets challenges to personal safety). It’s the serious side of the business we don’t warn new actors about enough.

The good news, as the Telegraph highlighted, is that people are speaking about it. It is wonderful to know that there are active actors out there making sure this stuff is more widely known about and highlighting the nonsense that goes on in the industry. Miss L, has it covered, tweeting and writing Casting Call Woe. The Telegraph also mentions Laura Bates, who tweets for Everyday Sexism, pulling focus on today’s awful and sexist challenges, e.g. derogatory Valentines Day comments made on the street.

I had a personal experience in an audition room many years ago which was really awful. Nothing happened to me but I had a sense in that room that the audition wasn’t right and I called Equity the very next day. Unbeknownst to me the actual gentleman whose audition I attended – and did a partly nude audition for – ended up being taken into custody to face charges for assaulting a young actor during those sessions, as well as doing various other unlawful acts over the course of a number of years. When I was contacted and told about the incident, the police assured me that he would be dealt with.

Casting Couch no

But this is the challenge we still face today as female actors. I am not a staunch feminist and I don’t subscribe to male bashing, but I also don’t tolerate any behaviour that is derogatory to women, or any behaviour that leads to women not being treated as equals.

An actor some years ago walked into an audition room in Soho, was offered water, and woke up the next morning naked after being sexually assaulted.

A few months back the fabulous Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan spoke about female circumcision still taking place illegally in the UK. I wanted to be sick. When will this unnecessary suffering end.

I remember a casting that a fellow actor emailed me once that included this summary. I would hate to see the female’s casting notice for this job:

Stanely is a hipster slacker. Wrinkled t-shirt, expensive shoes. Walk around Sunset Junction and you’ll see him in spades. Stanley doesn’t spend any time at the gym, so I’m looking for actors who have real bodies – no sixpacks, no overly defined muscles. *SEXUAL SITUATIONS/NUDITY: There is full frontal nudity required of this character. He’s going to be in a sexual situation where he’s fully naked with a woman who’s fully naked.Both of them will cover themselves/each other in coco butter. She’ll be either fondling her vagina herself or having him do it. She’ll probably be fondling his penis as well. He will be giving her oral sex. This is a highly improvised movie so the particulars could easily change during the shoot.

Or this one:

[ BETH ] Female – Supporting –
19 year old female college student. Very pretty, Christian girl. She acts and dresses very conservative. She is engaged to Phil. We find out later that she was known as Back Door Beth because she is an anal sex fiend plus it maintains her “technical” virginity. Nudity is required for this role.

So how do we help make a difference?
We say no.
We don’t suffer fools.
We don’t tolerate the casting couch nonsense of days gone by.

If we want equality it starts with you saying no. The job IS NOT WORTH IT. No amount of success is worth giving away your self respect as a woman.

Your most powerful asset is your mind.

Casting Couch

A role is not worth doing if you aren’t comfortable or it requires you putting yourself in a position where you could be open to danger, sexual or otherwise. Being empowered is powerful, that’s why it contains the word power. You own the right to be safe, and you own the right to not be taken advantage of, in an audition or on set.

As I mentioned in my blog a few years ago about security, there are a number of simple ways to stay safe while out there auditioning. This is particularly important for new actors starting out, who from time to time may want to go for unpaid roles to help boost their CV and may find themselves in odd surroundings that are far removed from the usual central London casting locations. You can always take measures to ensure your safety comes first.

And it doesn’t have to stop at women.  I’ve had male friends say they had to say no to stupid scripts with unnecessarily gratuitous sex scenes. I’ve heard stories from young men about famous people prospecting them for gratification. And not that long ago my male friend actually said no because he didn’t believe the paid part was worth it because of the sexual undertones in the film.

You choose. You own your rights as an actor to be safe. And you owe it to other actors out there to choose wisely so we see less and less of these nonsense castings. And if in doubt, always defer to your agent. That’s why you pay them a percentage of your income…to help you make the right decisions.

Be a B.A.B.E.. Stay safe. Stay truthful.

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You can add your name to this petition to help stop illegal FGM in the UK: Change.org FGM

Photo credit: donnamarijne / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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