Friday, April 19, 2024

Thoughts on being an old lady actor

I met an interesting guy at a filming today.  He does tech and stand-up.  Our conversation reminded me of some (wry humor) observations I've made over the years of doing acting.  I thought maybe it's time I resuscitated this blog.  I might even finish up the draft posts that have been languishing for 8 years and more.  Meanwhile here are my observations:

1. Actors are a dime a dozen.  Old lady actors are a dozen a dime.  

I first said that back when I wanted to do theater.  Then I started to do film, or what passes for it in San Francisco -  web ads, student films, spec shorts, occasionally a TV episode or an actual feature film - and discovered that it was just as true for film.  There aren't many film roles for old lady actors, which has made a lot of them (us) give up, but even with low numbers in supply the demand is a small number close to zero.  Result: We're still a dozen a dime.   

2. Theater auditions:  If there's a part for a woman over in her 60s or more, 73 women audition of whom at least 46 would be fine.   If there's a part for a 20-something tall good-looking male, nobody auditions and the director starts making phone calls.

I've been saying that when I started doing theater again in 2008.  It's still true.  Theater companies post an audition notice and then another and another and another.  All of them are looking for a young male.  Only the first one is looking for anyone else.  And the show has more than two characters.

3. Web ads: Does the advertised company hire people who look like the people in their ads?  Nah.

Ads these days for banks and large corporations try to hire from all ethnicities but limited to young Hollywood-looking people, maybe with an aging white-haired beauty and an overweight peppy young woman just to show they aren't unredeemable.  But look at the people who make half the total payroll at the company (which is far less than half the people on the payroll, as you'll realize if you think about it).  What do they look like?  Not the ad. 

Nowadays in the Bay Area, there seem to be many film opportunities for tech company web ads.  If the filming is done at the company, the actors get to see that the workforce is pretty much entirely under 35 and the vast majority is male.  But interestingly, young Asian males are hired more for tech jobs than  acting jobs.  Curious, eh?

 Anyway, it's nice that the companies want to look like they are EEO employers, even if it's not true.  Lip service may be the first step... These films may even include an old lady and a few young ladies as well as the usual tech bro types.  But guess what:  just about every time the person who is central to the ad is a young white male.  Not older.  Not female.  Occasionally it's someone non-white but still male and young.  And tall.  Heroes can't be short.  Heroines can't be short, either.  Short people may be in the last demographic to be silent about discrimination.  

4.  On film sets the actors are called "the Talent."  That's to make us feel good so we forget that we're paid less than the kid who makes the coffee.  

Well, at least they're not using avatars based on the people they hired a few years ago.  Yet.  See, it's cleaner to pay coders to make the avatars walk and talk than to pay actors.  Less paperwork.  Sure it may cost a lot more - those coders don't come cheap - but, well, nobody cares about how diverse the coders are.

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