The determining factors in our casting process are
- Do we like you?
- Do you look sufficiently different from the rest of the cast so that you're immediately identifiable?
- Are you photogenic?
- Can you act?
- Are you right for the part?
Yup. The acting road is a hard unpaved street uphill. And you'll notice "Do we like you?" is number one on this list. That's because life is just too short to deal with ass wagons.
Truthfully our first place to look for actors is volunteers at Manhattan Theatre Source.
We don't care if you're a member of a labor union or not. We just don't. And, as I understand it, it is illegal to discriminate against members of labor unions. Furthermore, nobody here in the Pandora Machine management is ideologically opposed to unions.
So we don't care what your "status" is as a member of any labor union. My interpretation of the law (the National Labor Relations Act) is that we cannot (and therefore do not) discriminate in casting based on anyone's belonging to a labor union or not. If you're union, if you're not union, we don't care.
Look, I can encourage you to go so-called "core status" (see below) but I'm not you. And I'm not going to tell you what to do.
We have, in the past, made pictures under SAG contracts. But most of our pictures are not shot under a SAG contract. Right now it does not make sense for use to shoot under a SAG contract. Maybe one day it will. The reason we're not signing SAG contracts right now is simply because our revenue does not justify the added expense of working under a SAG contract. It's nothing personal. In fact, I think the lowest-end SAG contract (which pays about $100/day to actors) is a pretty reasonable contract. If we could afford $100/day, we'd probably sign with SAG.
But we can't. So we don't.
So if you're a member of a union and we want to cast you, we'll ask you to be in a movie. If you're not a member of a union and we want to cast you, we'll ask you to be in the movie. The choice is yours.
Now, I ain't looked at the SAG contract in a while, and I'm no expert. But SAG has a rule called "rule one" which means that if you're a member you'll only work for an employer who has signed a SAG contract. And there are some cases where I believe it's simply not enforceable (for instance, if you are the producer as well as an actor). But I don't know. And, I don't really care. I'm not an actor and I'm not a member of SAG, and I didn't sign a producer's contract with SAG.
Furthermore, as an employer, we technically and legally have no interest in the internal rules of any labor organization. That means it's not our business if when you've joined a union you promised them that you'd never work a non-union job. That's between you and the union. Specifically it's not between the employer and the Union.
Now, if we were to do a picture having signed a SAG contract, the contract might make us make you pay dues to the Union. But you don't have to join the Union.
Remember that thing where you can't be forced to join any labor organization, but you can be forced to pay dues? That's possible by an interpretation of labor law in the United States which involves "core status" in a labor union. "Core Status" is where you effectively "resign" from the Union yet continue to pay "core" dues.
And although you're not a member of the Union but you pay the "core" dues, you are able to work on Union and non-Union productions as you like. The Union can't say boo to you. In other words, "Rule One" does not apply to you if you're "core status".
The disadvantages of being Core is that you can't vote in SAG elections, you can't vote in the SAG Awards, etc. But you pay a tiny bit less in dues.
But I ain't no lawyer so don't take legal advice from me. Do whatever you want.
Right to Work
We haven't shot any pictures in any so-called "Right to Work" states. But if we did, this would be the difference: if we signed a SAG contract, you wouldn't have to join or pay core dues to the Union. But this is largely a moot point for us (and you) because we work primarily out of the greater New York City area, which is no way no how "right to work".
The elephant in the room in the world of casting is race. Of course, the job of "actor" is one of very few that allows for discrimination based on race and sex overtly.
Most of our pictures do not have the concept of "race" in their world. We have aliens, androids, humans, and all that sort of thing. But we never really have, say, a "black alien". By extension we don't really have humans of a particular race. They're humans.
But that doesn't mean that what we call "race" doesn't become a factor in casting — although not a factor in any intuitive sense.
Since we often make ensemble pictures it's vitally important that each character is immediately identifiable to the audience. That means you can't cast two dark-haired white guys in the same picture. If you do, one of them better have a beard. Hell is where you're making a war movie and all your characters have helmets. Then you really gotta start putting eye patches and really distinct character traits on everyone.
But the other way to deal with it is to simply make sure all your actors look different. Try to get a broad range of facial features. Inadvertently this makes your casting director cast an ethnically diverse group of actors.
Overtly, however, we do not cast based on race. We're interested in the best person for the role, not the best (insert ethnic group here) person for the role. Yes, we do have roles which are specifically for men and specifically for women. And we'll even change up scripts so that we'll split the cast 50/50 men and women. But even if we cast people based on them looking different than other people in the cast, we aren't actually casting based on race.
That being said, there are a lot of legitimate complaints out there in the "real world" (which we don't consider the Pandora Machine to be part of) about how difficult it is for members of various ethnic groups to get work. That, on top of how hard it is to get work in the first place. And possibly even worse than that is how stereotyped each ethnic group is. And when they're done stereotyping you, they then go to the opposite stereotype.
Now, I'll go out there and say that over the years this has gotten much better. And I feel it keeps getting better. Especially, ironically, with things like television shows which are aimed primarily at North Americans. I'm not saying everything is hunky-dory by any means. As of this writing (May 2011) we don't have a lot of Asian male sex symbols in film and TV. But eventually we will.