It’s that time again – the new year is looming and the yearly subscription fees are due.
For struggling artists, paying to keep your performing profile up to date with all the latest headshots, show-reels and calling cards, can be a huge financial worry. So which companies are really worthwhile?
Over the years, I have whittled out the organisations and casting companies who charge extortionate amounts for doing very little, and those who you simply must join in order to be seen as a serious artist.
Equity seems to be a slightly confusing one – the union costs just over £100 to join if you are earning less than £20,000, but can increase to a maximum of over £2000. In my early foray into the acting world I was told to join Equity but I decided not to as membership did not really affect any of the jobs I was working on and protection of rights was largely stipulated by my agent anyway. Back in the day when artists were regularly exploited and underpaid, being a member of Equity was a must, but this no longer seems to be the case.
The essential acting directory to be on is Spotlight, which costs an annual lump sum of £144. Casting professionals worldwide use Spotlight on a daily basis as their industry resource to cast performers and agents will always require their actors to be Spotlight members.
Other casting companies include Casting Call Pro (£156), The Page UK (eventually £60 though currently free), Casting Networks (£120), Shooting People (£40), CastWeb (£159.95), PCR (£282.97), Act On This (£49), Castnet (£338, charged weekly at £6.50) and Starnow (£71.88) – full membership for all of these is optional but you aren’t allowed to apply for certain roles without a fully paid up profile.
I have always felt that Starnow has a slightly tacky quality to it, and all of the professional jobs posted can be found on other casting websites. They also post plenty of unpaid jobs which can be good as a starting point, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself in some dingy back alley filming some dodgy music video for some unknown rapper in the middle of the night.
I have decided to stop my Casting Call Pro and Voices Pro paid membership until the new year. Added onto the Spotlight fee, this comes to a high amount although you can pay monthly instalments, which might lessen the blow. I also cancelled my Shooting People membership as I felt that it was geared more towards finding jobs for crew rather than actors and voice artists.
Industry master classes may claim to help actors improve their craft, but I’m a firm believer in ‘learning on the job’ and have gained most of my experience on-set. A few classes here and there won’t tug on the purse strings too much but I certainly wouldn’t pay out ridiculous amounts for someone to tell me how they think a part should be played.
Showreels and voice-reels can be put together on the cheap if you know what you are doing and have access to good editing programmes. Headshots are another expense. Some photographers are willing to collaborate for free and you can find some good deals. My recent headshots were taken by Leigh-on-Sea based photographer Louise Field.
It is always a good idea to try out companies and organisations to see if they work for you but don’t go overboard. Be selective and don’t be sucked into the ‘false economy’ of the showbiz world. Information is power and research is free. Good luck!