Union concerned about illegal casting ads on the web

Actor's Equity says a rise in online casting ads with no pay may be in breach of Federal Industrial Law.

Actor to be involved in a new segment for the ABC program The First Tuesday Book Club- with Jennifer Byrne….as this is an ABC production it is unfortunately unpaid but actors will be credited and thanked and the show is National, so they will have exposure Nationwide.

20 cool-cats wanted to watch Guy Sebastian perform for a music video…. roughly 9 hours…. no pay.

Talent needed for promotional shoot to represent cinemas and associated brands such as Gold Class, Vmax, Chicks at the Flicks, Babes in Arms and Seniors Club ….everyone gets 2 movie tickets and lunch.

DOP required for major Foxtel show…. no pay

African male & female, Caucasian male & female, European & Brazilian & Greece Male & Female wanted for Korean TV ads …. $25 – $120.

Actor’s Equity is concerned about a rise in online casting ads offering professional work with little or no remuneration.

Just as general employment ads have gravitated from print newspapers to online, so too have some casting opportunities, operated by a number of online sites such as Star Now and Dare2Audition.

While they do host ads for unpaid or deferred payment in student films there have been ads for established broadcasters claiming jobs are unpaid. This puts them in breach of Federal Industrial Law.

Sue McCreadie, director of Actors Equity. told TV Tonight, “If they’re asking people to work unpaid they’re obviously not going to be people who are highly established in the industry. But there could be new entrants who are misled.”

Equity has raised concerns with broadcasters, including the ABC, that some ads are in breach of industry standards.

ABC told TV Tonight, some errors had occurred due to new staff members and withdrawn the ads.

“We need to educate people. Sometimes it’s mainstream productions that don’t realise that’s not the way to go,” McCreadie said.

“We go back to them and say this isn’t acceptable. It’s not even legal in fact.”

Some advertisements have claimed to be projects for SBS and Foxtel, but were actually new projects that filmmakers hoped to pitch to broadcasters.

Michael Gregg, Chief Executive of Star Now, said with over 58,000 ads worlwide it was impossible to moderate each ad before publication.

“StarNow publishes listings provided to it and is not able to check the authenticity of every claim.  We rely on our global community, such as you, to alert us where any listing is not accurate and we take immediate action to validate or disable the listing if the claim cannot be validated,” he said.

“As you would be aware, unfortunately all payment rates are between the contracting parties and StarNow is not a party to any payment terms and conditions so, much like a newspaper running a job vacancy advert, we are not able to police actual payment terms.”

But some members have proposed additional fields and check boxes to alert potential advertisers that they may be in breach of Federal Laws by not offering minimum Award.

Sue McCreadie says websites could also be a party to illegal ads.

“They may be unaware themselves of the obligations. So we’re trying to contact some of those site owners because they’re potentially liable for it as well,” she said.

“You just can’t employ people without paying them. Most people are covered by an agreement that’s better than the Award but zero money really isn’t acceptable.”

Equity called upon established broadcasters and producers to take note.

“They need to educate all the new people who come on board in their production areas and make sure they’re fully appraised of their legal obligations. Even though we’re going back and getting people to fix them, we’d really like them to stop happening in the first place.”

10 Responses

  1. Dare 2 Audition now has the following on our post casting (that must be filled in to post).

    Payment Status

    Unpaid (student, short films, non commercial)
    Paid – MEAA Rates
    Deferred Payment (as per MEAA)
    Profit Share (Live Shows)

    However, now students and short film makers will not pay the actors anything and before we encouraged some payment. Will put my thinking cap on to get around this…

    We do not list 1st and 2nd year films in our jobs section, only final year student films, the 1st-2nd year are posted in Events->auditions which is for community theatre and 1/2nd year films only and is free to access and is non professional only.

    Helen Edwards

  2. I am the administrator of Dare2Audition, a small and exclusive Australian owned and operated service for aspiring actors and performers. It’s a job based on love of the industry, definitely not for financial gain. We often work unpaid ourselves, just like the actors do.

    There are many businesses and areas of the industry that take advantage of actors, but we are definitely not one of them.
    As part of our commitment to the industry we sponsor over $3000 in workshops, headshots and showreel productions each year and provide free advertising for independent films and theatre productions.

    There are hundreds of sites that list solely unpaid work, with paid work not available for the performers at all. Some of these are owned by production companies, agents and casting directors and we do not condone them at all.

    D2A does not knowingly list professional productions if they are not paying the actors correctly and find it offensive that we are put in the same basket as others that do. Our castings are clearly listed as paid, unpaid, deferred, profit share, so performers are not mislead.

    We are a service for aspiring actors so some of our work is unpaid short films for festivals or live shows on profit share basis. Aspiring actors need a starting point, and that is what we provide.

    I put it to you that the complaints about Starnow and Dare2Audition have stemmed from industry professionals who are out of work who see paid professional work listed on D2A and Starnow that they are not privy to. It is the paid jobs they are really upset about because the industry is so quiet, not the unpaid ones.

    To ensure content producers are aware of their obligations D2A will expand the clause to our “post casting” page, informing directors that they must abide by MEAA payment standards, which we already have listed on the site and will link to. We already encourage payment when they are listing a production casting.

    In 2009 D2A and others tried to get industry professionals together for a film, TV & theatre industry forum “How to keep Aussie Talent in Australia” after a number of respected A-list Aussie actors were openly calling for change. Performers shouldn’t need to leave out shores to find work. They leave for the UK & USA with difficult and expensive visa applications. This forum was designed to get directors, casting directors, producers, government bodies, professional actors and most importantly film schools together and work on creating a sustainable industry in Australia. Not one film school replied or showed any interest. To correct our problem of actors not being paid you need to start at the bottom, with the film schools and this is where MEAA needs to put some energy as well as the Tax system providing incentives and pressure on TV Stations to finance more than news and reality TV shows .

    If any job on D2A is not following industry standards then please contact us via the site to inform so we can remove the listing and inform the content producer that they are not following Australian fair work standards.

    Helen Edwards
    Dare 2 Audition

  3. Over the past year, I have reported approximately 300 jobs to both MEAA (Equity Australia) and the Department of Fair Trading (along with the authorities in other States and Federal bodies) to have these jobs either investigated or removed. Over the past 3 months I have seen (approximately) a three-fold increase in these jobs especially from places like the ABC/SBS and commercial Music Videos (along with Corporate work). It is getting to the point where these websites (having been advised of the patently illegal activity taking place) should now be held accountable for any notices taking advantage of actors/performers/models who may not know better. Adding a category of Student Production, and/or a Category of Paid Production, and/or adding another tier of people to vett such notices before publication would be the correct road to proceed down. Excuses such as “We cannot watch all notices on our site”, merely tries to abrogate the responsibility for notices posted on their site. The more complaints levied at the sites (and the correct authorities [starting with MEAA Equity Enquiries) as well as public exposure of cheap unlawful labour will assist in bringing these practices to heel. However it may also be that strict legislation of such sites may also unfortunately need to be investigated to bring the site-owners into line.

  4. And here’s another unpaid extras gig I came across today for SBS:

    Hey guys!
    I’m doing a shoot for SBS and we need a few extras – preferably Asians please. There’s no pay but there are some delicious scones and hot brekkies and lunch is smelling pretty damn good right now. Shoot me a message if you are interested
    They’re shooting this week – no experience is necessary
    If you’re keen on dress ups and wanna see what a real screen shoot is like, then come and support this shoot
    Please help me spread the message out
    If you are keen, please contact Anne on [deleted].

  5. Starnow perpetuates the notion that actors can be had for free by simply having the option of ‘No Pay’ in their casting registration form.

    Think about it. You’re casting for a show, you get to the payment bit, and ‘No Pay’ is an option! Brilliant! You can get actors for Free!!!

    In my opinion, this ought to be changed to:-

    Deferred (Subject to MEAA rules)
    Unpaid (Non-commercial work only. i.e. Student films, shorts)

    Then, if the person casting selects ‘Unpaid’, a pop-up box should appear saying “You have selected Unpaid. Please be aware you could be breaking Federal Industrial Law by asking someone to work at no pay, especially if this job means you or your organisation is making money from it. Do you wish to continue?”

    It would end all this crap in a flash.

    1. Ian: Good point, and I have suggested similar to StarNow. Payment is the responsibility of the advertiser but there are ways the publisher can assist as you note. There should be a happy medium between non-commercial work for student films and legit work advertised for paid actors (including better education for production sector). I hope my raising this sees everybody lift their game.

  6. A well-balanced article, David. It makes a very clear point, without making any unfounded accusations on either side.

    It is evident that established networks/casting departments aren’t training up their new employees in the way of the legalities of the industry. That would be the tactful view of the situation – however, the it’s also open for the reader to form the view ‘bulls###! They’re trying to pull one on us’, especially when they’re a repeat offender.

    As an actor (and anyone in the entertainment industry will know), it’s tough enough balancing the survival job, volunteering for roles in endless unpaid student films or no-budget independent productions, without being given the shaft by established and often well-funded organisations.

    Many rely upon these kind of casting websites for work opportunities to get a foot in the door in this tight industry. Let’s keep it fair.

  7. One thing I would like changed is that actors are expected to work for free at film schools. Students need to learn everything about the film industry and that should include paying cast and crew. A payment up front is far better than the oft quoted promise :”A DVD will be provided for your show reel”, which is rarely delivered. It keeps them honest and also teaches them to fully value all the people they have helping them put a film together.

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