Curious Labor Practices on ‘Portlandia’ Raise Eyebrows: Tweets, Casting Directors and SAG-AFTRA Collide


Ever notice how many unimportant and/or uninteresting messages people post on social networks?  To get to the good stuff you often have to wade through the same inspirational quotes (which are often misattributed), pictures of meals, and broadcasts of political views that probably don’t coincide with your own.  Another form of social network clog is the braggers, who often post about all the wonderful things happening in their lives.  One of the worst forms of that is when a person posts about how excited he or she is to interview for a job, which is never a good idea since if you don’t get that job you’ll still have many people ask you “did you get that job?” for several weeks following. 

In other words… sometimes it’s better to play your cards close to your vest.

This seems like something that Simon Max Hill, who refers to himself as the “least professional casting director in the NW region,” is fighting against.  Any actors who auditioned for the first two seasons of the IFC series Portlandia received the following e-mail from Hill:

I have a special message for you: Tell nobody that you are auditioning, called back or booked for Portlandia.

Do not tweet it. Do not post it on Facebook. Do not imply to someone that you might be ‘auditioning for a secret project’ or anything.  Just stay quiet …

If you tell your mom and she tweets about your callback, you will not be called back. If you brag to your kid about it and your kid goes in a chat room and talks about how you were booked as the ninja assassin in episode 201B, you will be fired and since you signed an NDA before you went on set, probably sued.

If I spot you broadcasting your audition, blabbing about your callbacks or bragging about your bookings, nobody with your agency will be called in for roles in Portlandia.

You read that right: you will take everyone else at your agency down with you if you can’t keep this secret.

Hill has since stopped sending out the e-mail, explaining that it didn’t clearly indicate his actual intentions.  He points out, “I was trying to use humor to get everyone’s attention. I wrote an extreme email and tried to temper it with humor. But none of it reflects actual behaviors.  That’s one of the reasons we stopped sending that language out. We would never blacklist anyone. It’s wrong. It would be professionally stupid.”  Still, it’s probably best if actors take Hill’s advice and don’t broadcast “I’m auditioning for _____!” all over the internet.

Then again, there are somethings that people shouldn’t keep quiet about.

Actor Terry Ward, who has appeared in several made for TV movies over his thirty year career, has a different complaint about Portlandia: this summer Ward received a small part in an episode and was classified as an “Under 5 Performer” (i.e. he would speak less than five lines).  However, because of the improvisation on the show Ward ended up delivering more than twice that many lines and subsequently requested that his classification be upgraded, which would raise his pay to $746 from $352.

However, Kevin Sullivan, an associate producer, refused, saying that Ward would only get bumped if his character ended up speaking more than five lines once the episode aired.  Of course, you should be aware that actors are paid for their performance, not for the final product.  In other words, if you appear in a role in a movie or television show and your part was cut it doesn’t mean that you won’t get paid.  You still did your job, right?  As Ward points out, “I’ve done movies that never opened. It doesn’t matter. You still get paid.”

Ward complained to SAG-AFTRA and the Portlandia producers quickly got Ward the money he was owed.  For his part, Ward hopes that other actors don’t simply ignore the money they’re owed for their work.  He says, “Most people won’t complain for fear of not being called in for another audition. It’s that old adage, you’ll never work in this town again. My wife said, ‘Leave this alone.’ I’m past leaving this alone. I’m saying what a lot of actors won’t say. By speaking up, I hope this won’t happen to anyone else.”  Considering the limited number of roles available in the northwest, Ward has every right to be considered — especially considering Hill’s initial e-mail about keeping quiet.

Nonetheless, Cholee Thompson, who owns Ryan Artists, which represents Ward, doesn’t want to put Portlandia in a bad light.  She says, “It was immediately resolved. I would be shocked if the next time I get a booking contract, that terminology is still there. I would hate for this one instance to negatively impact what Portlandia has done for this town.”

via Oregon Live

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