Surviving the Cartel Under Fire for Casting Malpractice: Opinion

Last week, SAG issued an official "Do Not Work" notice to members for the television series Surviving the Cartel, which plans to focus on three different perspectives of cartel members and their lives during and since involvement. When the actor's union issues a "Do Not Work" notice to their members, it's a sign that the production in question has not met the minimum SAG standards in order to become a signatory. These rules cover health and safety protocol, budget and wages, working conditions, and extend to the casting process, which is where SAG found an issue with Surviving the Cartel.

Surviving the Cartel Series Under Fire for Casting Malpractice
Do Not Work notice for Surviving the Cartel

Surviving the Cartel is participating in what they call "hybrid casting", which means the principal and supporting roles are cast traditionally, through a casting director and auditions, however the production company, 1265 Films, is holding a pay-to-play voting contest for the 33 remaining guest star and co-star roles. These roles are all single day or episode tertiary characters who are not integral to the plot, like a barista, valet, or single episode character. The casting process is asking actors wanting a shot at these roles to send in an audition, then have friends and family vote for them at $3.50/vote in order to get a part. The first actors to receive 1,150 votes will get parts – anything over that amount does not matter, and actors with less than those votes will not be eligible for a role.

To give context to exactly how damaging this is, co-star and guest star roles are a stepping stone for actors just starting out; Brad Pitt guest-starred as that week's teenage criminal on a 1988 episode of 21 Jump Street in the first year of his career. While these roles can often lead to better roles, they generally serve to support actors just trying to pay the rent. Often, scenes with co-stars, "day players" or actors with "under 5" lines of dialogue are cut down or cut out of the final edit altogether. To ask any actor to monetize the support of their friends and family (as actors cannot pay to vote for themselves, because that would be illegal) for a possible chance at a job that could be used on their reel for a chance at other jobs is despicable, even by Hollywood standards.

It's taking advantage and making money off of people desperate to live their dreams and break into the insular casting hierarchy in Hollywood. Between headshots, reels, self-tape equipment, casting site subscriptions, unscrupulous agents, or acquaintances asking for "quid pro quo" kickbacks, the industry is hard enough to get into without having to worry about trying to get your friends and family to pay for your dreams, quite literally.

SAG-AFTRA: Most L.A. Prods Won't Resume Until Mid-January If Not Later (Image: Shutterstock.com)
(Image: Shutterstock.com)

Surviving the Cartel (nor any other production that engages in such practices) should not survive this egregious cash-grab scheme at the expense of working actors trying to get their careers off the ground. Hollywood is perilous enough without entities like 1265 Films introducing new ways to take advantage of struggling actors and their support networks.

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About Eden Arnold

Having spent far too much time in front of the television growing up, Eden has lots of opinions about television (as well as movies and everything else). She puts this to good use along with her journalism degree and writing experience with by-lines over the years in many print publications, books, and online media outlets. You can find her on Twitter at @Edenhasopinions
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