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Female Audition - Clothing Optional

5 August 2014 Charlie Kenber

“Just so you know you aren’t being exploited, the director gets naked in all his films so you won’t be alone.”

Eighteen months ago anonymous actress Miss L (or Professionally Resting as she’s also known) started a blog on tumblr. The site, Casting Call Woe, quickly caught people’s attention across the arts for its collection of ridiculous, hilarious, and downright disturbing casting calls. A shocking majority of the largely female parts reposted on the blog call for nudity, and many more reveal the gross imbalance between the roles advertised for male and female actors.

So where did it all begin for Miss L? “I’d been tweeting about castings for about a year before I started the tumblr,” she explains. “I suddenly realised just how many I had and thought I really should put these somewhere. It’s only when you see them all in one space that you think ‘oh my god’. They suddenly look more horrific when you’ve got pages of these ridiculous requests.”

How bad can they actually be though? Well, as it turns out, pretty bad. One of Miss L’s personal favourites (if that’s the right phrase) is from April: “the actress would need an ‘easy access’ skirt with leggings underneath so that the skirt could be lifted up and it would look convincingly like she was ‘being taken from behind’” the call states, continuing, “consent to have fake vomit thrown on her.” Another post outlines that “the actress must consent to have a condom filled with condensed milk thrown at her.”

Certainly not all the calls are this bad, and some are more weird than worrying: “one of the first I tweeted about I later found out was for ‘Under the Skin’, the Scarlett Johansson film,” Miss L says. “It just made me laugh because they wanted an alien to burst out of her head, and it was so ridiculous!”

However, the calls do correlate with her own experiences of the industry. “There are some really bad ones. It’s quite dire,” she says. “You realise just how horrific they are, and there’s such a lack of policing. They’re not really regulated. There is a genuinely problem with what is being asked of actors, particularly women.”

This sexual imbalance is most prominent in the blog, and it’s sometimes incredible that those advertising don’t seem to spot their own double standards: “the male roles are all lead and females are secondary,” proclaims one, whilst another states, “Male - fully clothed. Female - dressed in thong, semi-naked at times, has to do casting in underwear.”

It’s in these calls that exploitation seems rife, with one even acknowledging the problem in the least reassuring way possible: “just so you know you aren’t being exploited, the director gets naked in all his films so you won’t be alone.” Another advertises for an “actress with no shame to humiliate herself by having (simulated) sex with a fat guy.”

The list goes on and on, as Miss L’s blog is testament to. What this highlights however is not only the disparity in the ‘types’ of actors requested, but also the gender imbalance in the size and diversity of roles. “There will be mornings where I’ll read through ten casting calls and four or five will be looking for a woman to be naked, playing a prostitute or something along those lines,” Miss L explains. “It’s ridiculous, you want to play good roles.”

This disparity continues to the number of parts on offer: “you’ll see things where there’s four male roles and one female role, and you think well if I don’t fit that one female role then that’s it, that’s that job crossed off, I can’t apply. You just constantly feel like you’re ruling yourself out of work, and that can be really hard.”

The calls perhaps reach their most ridiculous when it comes to money. Two in particular catch the eye: “the story is about a struggling actress who keeps being taken advantage of. No pay.” and “set in the slave trade era. No pay.”

Miss L agrees that the lack of funds is a real problem. “I don’t take unpaid work now, because I can’t afford to,” she says. “I would never have a problem with someone doing unpaid work, particularly when you’re starting out, but if actors keep accepting unpaid work, then the problem never goes away.”

“Worryingly I’m seeing more jobs that don’t even pay expenses, which technically means you have to pay yourself to work. There’s just not enough money in the industry and too many actors!”

So what’s the answer? For Miss L, mainstream productions have to lead by example for attitude changes to follow elsewhere. “I think there’s a greater awareness now and that’s brilliant. I think it’s being talked about a lot more. I think the treatment of women and ethnic minorities has a real focus too – people are realising that something has to change. It’s about feeding that through and it needs to start on mainstream TV and film. Then it will hopefully trickle down.”

“Smaller projects are taking their inspiration from TV programmes and films, and if TV has a lot of naked women and white leading men, then that’s what a lot of other people are going to make, because they see that as being successful on TV and cinema screens.”

The problem perhaps is also one of awareness amongst the acting community, and especially those considering such a career. When Miss L started out for example, she had no idea what it would be like. “I graduated eight years ago now so I hope drama schools have changed in their teaching, but we were really given no indication. You know it’s not going to be the easiest, but there’s no real preparation for quite how difficult it will be, or the jobs that you’ll end up going up for.”

Check out the Casting Call Woe blog here, or follow Miss L on twitter: @ProResting

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