The pandemic has accelerated labor inequality in many sectors. However, the new industry standard of self-taped auditions has given new power to actors.
Pre-pandemic, actors showed up in person to audition. Now, actors can tape themselves and send it directly to casting directors. This increases accessibility to audition opportunities. According to one actor who spoke with anonymity,
“The reason a lot of actors are in food service is because you can call off on a shift or you can say I’m coming in later. You can do whatever you need because you have an audition at like 4pm. Casting directors keep nine to five jobs, so if you have to be there in person and you don’t live next to the casting office, now you’re taking two hours out of your day every time you have an audition. So, the self-tape is better, I think, for everybody.”
However, some costs still exist. One actor mentioned that they were motivated to have a side hustle in order to pay for upgraded audition equipment to use in their home. With self-tapes, actors become directors in a sense. Before, casting directors would control lighting and blocking. Now, actors make those decisions themselves for their audition tapes. The process of job searching has been turned into a creation in itself. The same actor recounted the experience of recording the same three lines many times to ensure perfection.
“I had three lines—”You ain’t even heard of a crime scene,” “These bodies ain’t even cold,” “I gotta go,”—that’s it. It took me 80 takes to get it to the point where I was like, “Yeah, that’s good.” And I was going absolutely nuts, but because it’s a self-tape you want it to be perfect.”
This new model could potentially make agents obsolete. With more control for actors, agents’ role as gatekeeper of auditions may decrease. He recounted his agent’s role after learning he booked a part:
I told my agent, and she’s like, “Yeah, I didn’t submit you for it because I knew you were going to book it. This production is going to be a bunch of bullshit, but now that you’ve been offered a job, you kind of need to take it for the sake of the relationship with the casting director and the relationship with whoever.”
While agents may still be able to serve as advisors, they may no longer be the guards of casting they once were.