Actors Should Have Been Paid To Audition For The Last Nine Decades

Howard Sherman posted a link to a New Yorker article about some intrepid film actors who stumbled upon an overlooked section of the The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) contract that guarantees payment for auditioning even if you didn’t get cast.

Bodin’s most startling discovery was that SAG’s very first contract, from 1937, guaranteed pay for players who were called to do “tests” for films they weren’t used in. Ten years later, the word “Auditions” was added in a subheading, along with the line, “If the player is not given employment in the picture, the player shall receive one-half (1/2) day’s pay.” Except for “player,” which now reads “performer,” the line has gone unchanged, if largely unheeded, in Schedule A 15(B) of SAG-AFTRA’s standard contract.

The discovery and distribution of this information made a lot of people, including union leadership, a little nervous. The union pointed out there were specific conditions that needed to be met like a statement that you had to memorize your lines before the audition. Actors started seeing audition notices that explicitly said you didn’t have to memorize your lines in preparation for an audition.

While paying auditionees would raise the costs to produce films a great deal, especially for independent films, and might lead to studios auditioning smaller numbers of actors, the article notes that technology has shifted more costs on actors over the years. For example, the shift from in-person to recorded auditions means actors have to buy more equipment and make more arrangements themselves.

On top of that, actors now have to provide resources that have traditionally fallen on casting offices, including equipment, space, and people to read with. Variety recently estimated that outsourcing scene partners to auditioners has saved producers some two hundred and fifty million dollars annually. “It creates a whole culture where all of us have to have a clutch of collaborators who are willing to be our readers,” Ochoa said; think of all the boyfriends, roommates, and UPS guys dragged into audition scenes.


Now an actor has to pay for subscriptions to multiple online casting platforms, and even more for each reel, clip, or color photo uploaded to every site. Digital made everything faster, but it made it so fast that people expect an Oscar-winning performance in twenty-four hours.”

Learning about audition pay has buoyed an “Auditions Are Work” movement among union members.  The article notes that the Writer’s Guild is currently on strike and the SAG-AFTRA contract is coming up for renewal with indications of tough negotiations ahead.  I had recently heard that the Directors Guild of America (DGA) contract expires in mid-June so we may see a significant revamping of the way recorded programming is created by the end of the summer.

Maintaining Relationships Has Been Key To Recovery Of Arts Orgs Post-Shutdown

TRG Arts recently released some data showing that not all segments of performing arts have recovered from pandemic shutdowns at the same rate. Comparing four factors from 2019 to 2022:  Tickets, Ticket Revenue, Gifts, and Gift Revenue, they report that Performing Arts Centers have fared best in these categories. Ballet had done as well in terms of tickets and gifts, but had seen ticket revenue and donor revenue increase.  Theater fared worse with classical music doing slight better and showing signs of improvement.  The data is drawn from US, Canada and UK arts organizations.

TRG credits performing arts centers’ relative flexibility with their ability to start recovery in attendance and revenue earlier than other areas. Overall, they say the lessons to draw from this data is the importance of maintaining relationships with audiences and having aggressive retention practices.

Maintaining relationships with customers and donors, keeping their connections with the arts engaged and active—appears to be a key factor in driving organizational recovery from the pandemic. There were many creative ways this happened during the 2020-2022 period, from digital distribution to small ensemble performances to Zoom donor and ticket buyer gatherings to use of outdoor venues until going inside was permitted or felt safer.


Plan aggressively for customer retention. As your organization re-builds, do NOT think short-term, but instead make every dollar spent on acquisition go further by investing in customer relationship building and retention. We don’t have time or money to waste now…every campaign must include follow-up, invitations for our customers to join us again, and more.


Add to this reality the fact that by 2040 community demographics will be wildly more diverse than today. The result? Arts organizations will need to become expert at asking and listening, rather than assuming and telling. The art of the conversation with our customers—we’re going to need to get much better at it.

The Folks Who Saved Our Stages Are Fighting For A Better Ticketing Experience

It appears the folks that spearheaded the Save Our Stages effort during Covid which became the Shuttled Venue Operators Grant program are turning their energies toward tackling all the problematic event ticketing issues we have been hearing about recently, (but suffering for decades).

The National Independent Venue Association has been joined by 18 other national and regional organizations in the Fix The Tix coalition.  The announcement of the coalition popped up last week. They haven’t listed and specific measures for which they are advocating, but the website says:

….this coalition represents stakeholders who take on all the risk to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences and bring joy, employment, and economic impact to communities across America.

We are coming together to protect fans from price gouging and deceptive and predatory ticketing practices.

Efforts To Reduce Burn Out Are Better With Company

There is a fairly extensive article on the Time magazine site about using creative practice to address burnout.  The piece by Jamie Ducharme was titled “I Tried to Cure My Work Burnout. Here’s What Happened.” As readers know, I dislike the prescriptive use of the arts as a cure for physical/mental/social ills so I feared the worse.

Ducharme’s article covers the efforts of the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine’s Colorado Resiliency Arts Lab (CORAL) to do research on relieving people’s burnout. At this time they are generally focusing on healthcare workers in their research.

I was happy to see that the researchers didn’t see themselves as curing burnout as much as building resilience in participants.

But the data suggest one leads to the other: for almost 150 health care providers who joined the study from September 2020 to July 2021, the approach led to small but significant decreases in anxiety, depression, and burnout, according to a 2022 study published in the American Journal of Medicine. If the framework proves effective for people in a wider swath of health care jobs, Moss says CORAL’s approach could feasibly be adopted by burned-out workers in any industry.

What I really appreciated was the finding that it was the social activity, rather than the creative practice alone that lead to the reduction of burnout. This bolsters messaging arts and cultural organizations use regarding sharing experiences with others in a face to face environment. To some extent, the research supports providing more interactive experiences versus passively watching a show or viewing visual art without comment or discussion.

But when I asked Moss and his team if the CORAL curriculum could be distilled into something I, or any individual, could do on my own, I was met with a resounding no. The program’s magic, its facilitators said, is in bringing people together to feel the solidarity and community so often lacking in modern life. People can draw or dance or write or sing on their own, but it likely won’t have the same transformative effect without a human connection.

That’s what Dr. Colin West, who researches physician well-being at the Mayo Clinic, found in 2021, when he published a study on what happened when physicians met up for group discussions over meals. Their burnout symptoms improved, but it wasn’t necessarily the food that made the difference—it was support. “We have so many shared experiences and so many stressors that are in common, and yet physicians will often feel like, Well, I can’t talk to anybody about this,” West says. Bringing people together to share their experiences can help.