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Casting directors weigh in on cast and self-tape controversy at Artios Awards: ‘We watch your tapes’


The directors who came to celebrate themselves at the 38th Annual Artios Awards on Thursday had a message for actors who worry that making a self-tape means sending one’s work off a cliff: Do Take the time to see the test at home.

Acting association president Destiny Lilly told Deadline that she’s aware that some actors might think those self-tapes made during the pandemic ended up in some huge unopened Manila binder. She said this could not be further from the truth.

“Actors are the lifeblood of what we do. We can’t do what we do without actors,” Lilly said before the awards ceremony tonight at the Beverly Hilton. “Of course I listen to actors when they want to say something and of course what they say is true. I miss the connection of being in the room with people. I miss that feeling of being with everyone else and having an actor come along, and you think, “This is the one!” During a pandemic, we just couldn’t have done that. Now as an industry we’re slowly creeping out of that, we’re all re-evaluating how we can approach casting, how to make it as safe and fair as possible, and to make sure that the actors can do their best work.”

“We’re watching your tapes,” Lilly continued. “The most important thing to know is that actors solve casting problems. We’re trying to find people. We’re looking for you. We’re going through the tapes. One of the things about getting the tapes is that it allows us to watch more than if we had 10 people in the room. Our goal.” It is figuring out how we can make this process work for everyone.”

Acting Society board member Stephen Tyler O’Connor understands actors miss out on in-person auditions, but no one has the luxury of offices anymore because of the pandemic. Most directors, like O’Connor, work from home.

“Until we can go back and have studios and office space for the auditioning actors, what am I supposed to do, do the actors come and audition in my backyard?” He said. “We want to get back in the room. I love the actors. I love seeing them in the room. I’m dying to get back in the room as much as they are. But we do have some limitations on our side.”

But he also believes that this existence in the room Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always better for the actor. “I think this notion that being in person is an advantage… I don’t think it’s true. If the role is yours, then the role is yours. It will translate on tape,” O’Connor said.

Acting Society board member Wendy Kurtzman worries that the current controversy over self-tapes is unnecessarily factionalizing society. “It wouldn’t be constructive to let people sit so openly on one side and so openly on the other,” she said. “And we’re in this together. You think we’re the gatekeepers. Don’t forget, we answer to the producers and directors. We have the chain of command.”

“The most important thing for me is calm [the situation]Kurtzman said. The actors are frustrated and want to be seen. And by the way, we want to see them. We love being in the room with them. We all need to sit back and listen to what’s frustrating the cast and see what the cast can do to help mitigate that. But don’t forget that we are in the middle of the seesaw. You have the actors on one side and the producers, networks and studios on the other. We’re in the middle. We are trying to sponsor people to hire them. This is our business. We want them, we need them, we love them. We’re all in this together. I don’t know how this suddenly became us against them.”

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.