Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Film School Rant

"I'm looking for some actors for a short film" said Very Very Foreign Student Director from a Film School. "Can I tell you what I need?"

I knew that he would want to dictate the entire cast list to me, very slowly, in a very foreign accent. But what should usually happen with any television or film project is that whoever is casting the project would email a casting breakdown.

"Could you email me a list of the characters that you are casting?" I asked.

"Ohhh - - - well I could do," he said reluctantly. "Do you have an email address?"

I waited whilst he looked for something to write with, and then whilst he searched for a piece of paper. It took a long, long time. Then I dictated my email address, and then corrected it about seventeen times. The name Daphne was - and still is, I think - a total mystery to him.

Then I asked the question to which I already knew the answer.

"So what are you going to pay the actors?"


The very idea seemed to astonish him.

"Is there a fee involved? Or is there just expenses?" I asked politely.

"Oh, no, I'm not paying any of the actors," he said in tones of rather disgruntled amazement. I could tell that the thought had never entered his head.

"What about expenses, then?" I asked sweetly.

"Errr - - - "

"This is an agency for professional actors. I'm surprised that you don't seem to have thought that they might need any money for their work. Send me the breakdown anyway. Actors sometimes will work on student films if the script is good. But I'm just pointing out that when they do, they are doing you a big favour, and you should at least pay expenses, feed them, and treat them with respect."

He never did send me the breakdown. He's probably still bogged down somewhere in one of the fs in Daffannee. But I suspect that, when he graduates and becomes a real grown-up film director, he'll be expecting to get paid.

I feel a letter coming on to send to the Film School to point out that when their students ring up looking for actors, it would be a good idea if they have at least thought to have pen and paper handy, so as to sound at least a tiny bit professional.

More importantly, I think that the Film School should be emphasising to its students that any actors who are prepared to work on their films - which are occasionally good, but usually bad, with lousy scripts and terrible sound quality - should be treated very well.

I don't think that the Film School should be training its directors that you can get actors for free. If they can't afford to pay, fair enough - - but they should say so, up front, and be very, very polite when they ring up asking for what is, after all, a really big favour.


Anonymous Ruth said...

nothing surprising but...

Well done for handling it with politeness and I think an email to the Film School involved is a very good idea.

6:08 pm  
Anonymous Jane said...

In the Film School's defence, (I worked with them for a while) their staff are generally professional and experienced and DO train their students to ask politely, to behave professionally, to form good relationships with people who may help and to allocate some of their budget to making sure the actors/volunteers are well looked after and aren't out of pocket, but..... it simply won't get through to the 22-year-old beret-wearing 'artist' who's certain that (s)he's the next Tim Burton, that this next film will catapult him (her) to fame and glory and that all involved should be frankly grateful for the experience. They'll learn. And I think you've come across a pretty speedy way to help them learn!

11:51 pm  
Anonymous jay said...

Good grief .. I just assumed they would be getting fellow students to act in their movies, since there are probably (?) budding actors in the same school as directors. Silly me. But of course the thing to do would be to ring up a professional agency and assume they would get them free, gratis and grateful. *rolls eyes*

Actually, I was pleased when you said 'he', because I am now friends with a lovely young Italian lady who is at film school in London. I can't imagine her behaving like that, but I don't know her very well, after all.

12:34 am  
Blogger Daphne said...

Ruth - - exactly!
Jane - I loved your comment, thank you! It's true not all students are like that - but we get lots of similar calls every year, sighhh.
Jay - your friend may well have more awareness than many!

7:56 pm  

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