Telsey + Company Casting Director Rachel Hoffman (Come From Away, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) shares a passionate plea for insurance coverage for her and her colleagues as part of the Fairness for Casting movement.
"The most memorable day I’ve had in awhile occurred a few weeks ago. It was long, crazy, hectic, wonderful, exciting, fulfilling day of auditions with a colleague with whom I’ve worked for many years. We were casting replacements, searching for new talent, and updating files for a show with which I’ve been involved since its inception."
"We’d had a few weeks of auditions leading up to this day, which wasn’t a final callback, but a day where we spent time working further with dancers and actors we'd screened to get them ready to be seen by the ‘final decision-makers.’ My colleague and I have been doing this together for a number of years – we have a shorthand and a trust, which extends to our entire team. It’s creative, it’s collaborative, it’s artistic."
"While casting this particular project has its challenges, finding new people or revisiting actors who have been seen in the past and watching their growth, and feeling that they now seem more ‘ready’ for this show – it is THRILLING. That is true for ANY show I cast. I think I speak for many Casting Directors when I say that these days/moments are one of our FAVORITE things about what we do. And this day was full of those moments."
"After straightening up the studio before leaving, I took a moment to sit down and breathe. Though late for a dinner with friends, I was feeling exhausted and completely energized at the same time, excited by what we had seen and accomplished. I took a few minutes to clear my head, and scrolled through text messages, emails, and articles I’d missed in the 9am – 6pm marathon day I’d just completed."
"And with one article, my joy was replaced with a sense of defeat and rejection."
The Broadway League (the trade association for the Broadway Theatre Industry) had come back to the Casting Directors with a statement about how they view us. How they view ME. How they value my contribution and my work; and the contribution and work of my brothers and sisters. Casting Directors who I know have all had that same moment of exhilaration I’d been having seconds earlier.
“'You are not an employee of our productions.'”
“'You are like lawyers, accountants, and advertising agencies.'”
"You see, in late 2016, Teamsters Local 817 went to the League on behalf of Casting Directors to ask for a contract that would include a contribution toward health care and pension. For ONE Casting Director on each Broadway show. (You read that correctly: the producers that employ us do not afford Casting Directors on Broadway shows health insurance.)"
"The answer was NO.
"The reason the League gave? Because we “typically work on more than one show at a time.”
"You know whom else works on more than one show at a time? Directors. Choreographers. Actors. Writers. Lighting Designers. Set Designers. Costume Designers. Sound Designers. Music Directors. Orchestrators. General Managers. And Producers."
"Because in our industry, we HAVE to. All of us. We never know what’s going to happen with a project. None of us can afford to work on just ONE show in the hopes that it becomes a Hamilton or The Lion King or The Book of Mormon. In our industry, we always have to be looking towards the next possible job."
"But what stung the most for me was the implication that my contribution is comparable to that of their lawyers and accountants. Lawyers and accountants are also essential to Broadway shows, and require an entirely different skill – not to mention a degree – that isn’t in the realm of what I am qualified to do."
"And what I’d just accomplished on that day was not something that the show’s lawyer or accountant would have been able or qualified to do. Nor is it something that any member of the League will necessarily ever see first hand. I’ve always believed that my artistic contribution to the creative process is something my producers have trusted and valued, even if they don’t see what happens in the days, weeks, months, and years leading up to the casting of an actor."
"When they made the statement they did, it made me wonder. And it made me feel defeated. And it made me sad."
"What my community is asking for is FAIRNESS."
"What can YOU do to help?"
"Go to fairnessforcasting.com and follow the instructions."