UPDATED: Pay-for-Play Auditions

pay for playLast year, the new Bitter Lemons policy of “pay-for-play,” paying the publication to get them to send a reviewer, created a national debate on the practice – and near-universal condemnation.  (Bitter Lemons is again promoting a pay-for-play review system for the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival.)

Now, the Hollywood Reporter reveals that a pay-for-play mentality is taking over Hollywood casting sessions.

The arguments for this happening in the production houses are similar to those given by Bitter Lemons about print publications.  As institutional infrastructure disintegrates, due to either the bottom-line-outsourcing mentality of corporate accountants or the digital revolution where anyone can make a product, there is no longer overhead in the system to support these below-the-line functions.

This line from the Hollywood Reporter article shows a peculiar point of view:

And forget casting directors schlepping to 99-seat theaters to check out plays, another once-common, now nearly extinct form of assessment.

As if the purpose of an intimate theater production was an audition.

Pay-for-play ultimately assumes the only meaningful metric for valuation is financial.  Whenever it is offered as a solution, there is often a helplessness associated with it:  “What else can we do?”

But something is being lost as the cultural and business infrastructure supporting the arts changes and everyone becomes a small-time “entrepreneur.”  With pay-for-play, there is perhaps more and more opportunity for people to get involved in making their art.  However, there may be less and less an opportunity to become a full-time artist.

Updated April 4, 2016:  Following his quotes in the Hollywood Reporter article, Scott David has been let go as casting director for Criminal Minds.

About Tracey Paleo

Tracey Paleo is Associate Editor at FootLights Magazine. She's also the Founder and Chief Editor of the arts and culture site, Gia On The Move, where she often reviews live performance events.

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