Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Economics of Acting

Not the acts that candidates put on to feign corporate enthusiasm that I noted earlier, this is about the real thing.

It's almost a recession, it is getting harder for many people to find work in many industries. But my Dad keeps getting calls from his agent; why? Obviously he is a great actor, his legendary religious work proves that, but there may be broader economic reasons too. According to professional screenwriter John August:

Casting people are having a hard time finding actors of a certain age, especially minorities, for episodic parts. These are the "day players" — roles in which an actor might have a scene or two in a given episode, never to return.

Day players aren’t extras. There is actual acting required. Casting directors will bring in a few candidates to read for the part, and the producers/director will pick. A good day player can really elevate a scene. A bad day player is a disaster.

If you’re trying to cast a day player in their 20s (say, a car wash attendant), it’s easy. You’ve got thousands of people to choose from. Even if you need a specific characteristic — say, Russian-speaking — you’re going to have great candidates.

But according to the screenwriter, there is a huge shortage of older ethnic folks who can perform on cue. He suggests some reasons in the article, clearly being only a day player is unlikely to satisfy a lifetime's aspiration for the ambitious migrant, additionally perhaps the career choice of "actor" was not an acceptable one for many ethnic groups, perhaps some older first-generation immigrants simply cannot speak English clearly enough while those who are more eloquent and integrated and educated already feel financially secure.

My family is full of exceptions.

No comments: