“I love LA,” said my Uber driver the other day. “Except for the traffic,” he added. “It’s like pulling teeth.” An unfortunate analogy, as I was en route to dental surgery, but no one disputes the sentiment. And for that reason, you’d think that Hollywood actors would love self-tape and Zoom auditions: no need to schlep across town now that virtually all auditions are, well, virtual.
But as much as actors appreciate the convenience (and the ability to audition from anywhere), many hate what self-tapes have wrought: pressure to shoot and edit take after take to get it right; pressure to infuse auditions with production values worthy of a featurette; pressure to hire readers to play opposing characters in a scene; pressure to engage outside services that have sprouted up like mushrooms to handle all this; and pressure to spend increasing amounts of time and money on retakes, equipment, props and services, just for the privilege of seeking employment. And for most actors, none of these expenses are tax deductible, thanks to the Trump tax revisions of 2017.
Pressure, pressure, pressure—so much so that activists on all sides of SAG-AFTRA’s notoriously fractious politics agree that something has to be done in the upcoming union contract negotiations to rein in abuses. It’s a top-five issue, say sources, right up there with the more familiar struggles over wages and residuals.