A few weeks ago, someone named WLcasting@live.com posted a Craigslist ad which was like a lot of Craigslist ads—looking for actors who will work for free, promises of "HUGE EXPOSURE," etc.:
Casting for a series of commercials to be shot next week! The series of commercials will play on the web and possibly appear on national television. The series is likely to be viewed by hundreds of thousands if not millions. Read: HUGE EXPOSURE.
Stephen Salamunovich, the president of Seattle's Complete Casting, decided to respond (and posted his response to Facebook):
I was very distressed to see this posting which appears to ask actors to work for free with the hollow benefit of "Exposure!" being dangled like a carrot that I've seen be offered way too many times. Please realize that when producers continue to offer "free" or low-paying work to actors and other crew ...personnel, the market rate is irreparably eroded and those of us who live and work here can no longer afford to do business and that includes the actors. Any production market is its own ecosystem and needs all the elements to remain strong in order for that market to continue to be able to attract productions that actually EMPLOY production personnel and talent. If the market erodes to the point where the only work available is free and low-paying "bottom-feeder" work, that market's demise is soon to follow.
If you doubt me, there's a feature film being done here right now called "Grassroots" with "name" film makers (Stephen Gyllenhaal, Peggy Rajik) and they've budgeted the film at $250K!!! They did so because they believe they can get people to work on the cheap and apparently, they're right because one of my peers was willing to cast for them for free and eroded not only her own rate but mine as well by doing so. Free and low-paying work being offered for "exposure" hides the dirty, little secret that while actors may think they're winning the battle because "They got hired!!!" they're really losing the war because they won't be able to continue to afford to trade their time and effort for cheap and still be able to afford the basic cost of living.
When the good actors have moved where there actually IS work or move on to regular jobs that will actually pay them, productions won't come here because we can't supply the infrastructure they need and there certainly won't be any need for professional casting directors like myself because there won't be any actors to cast. I respectfully hope that no actors answer your ad for all our sakes, including yours, as it's not in your long-term interest either.
Stephen Salamunovich CSA President, Complete Casting, Inc.
I like Stephen's spirit, and it all sounds good on paper (in pixels?), but his dream will never come true—as long as acting seems like a prize instead of toil, some actors will work for free. The very thing that makes film wages overinflated, the thing that pays Stephen's salary, is the thing that convinces actors to work for free: the glory and the glamor of being in the movies.