I had a very nice conversation with the head of an Orange County theatre company yesterday. I had only called to inquire about tickets and he recognized my name. I guess he is starting to get actors at his auditions who learned about them through my bulletin board. That gives me a great feeling; to know that I’ve helped just a little in the process of talent coming together with opportunity. As I say on the bulletin board page, it can only do good for Orange County theatre.
He offered his opinion that, as regional theater communities start to build Facebook networks and pages, and web pages like my own (which the Google algorithm has really run with on behalf of those actors, bless that algorithm) provide free information to artists, it will break some of the power of expensive middlemen like some of the casting publications which shall remain nameless but which any actor or producer knows well.
It’s blindingly obvious why. The listing service charges the producer – and community theater producers are almost always broke. And the listing service charges the hopeful actor – and hopeful actors are almost always broke. The balance has always been in the tradeoff between the opportunities which can be discovered via free information (formerly not many) vs. the opportunities available for those with the money to invest.
Recently I’ve read a fair bit of commentary about an unintended class barrier forming in many of the arts; where the building of necessary early contacts and work experiences often depends on working unpaid internships in an expensive city like L.A. Unless you have extensive savings or wealthy parents, you’re crippled from day one. This has some resonance with me – as having local family was of big help when I landed my internship in the movie business, and has been of big help many times since. I also had good credit, which I needed to rely on when that internship took its sweet time about turning into a job.
It is true that this stuff costs money, and to a certain extent I’m alright with that. One day I’ll publish a long-simmering blog entry about how a professional mindset requires treating your professionala ambition in the arts the way entrepreneurs do in other fields – that is, with the understanding that investment is required to develop and promote your “product”.
But if money can be saved, the opportunistic and hard-working who before might have been blocked out by their lack of resources will dive right into the money-saving opportunity, and their success will inspire others to inevitably follow. That’s capitalism in action and it’s pretty cool when it works like that; except for the employees of those nameless publications that for so long have been able to milk both sides from an unassialable position of necessity.
There is value in their quality control, and the legitimacy they confer simply by asking professionalism of the people who list casting opportunities. Goodness knows I don’t think Craigslist (aka Craig’s Bad Grammar Exploitapalooza) is the ideal replacement model. But if actors can find a satisfying amount of opportunities without them, and producers can find a satisfying amount of talent without them, things are going to get interesting awfully quickly.
I guess I’m proud to be part of the disruption. On that subject, I can highly recommend this e-book I read recently, David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital, an extremely practical argument for and guide to the world of self-published books. As the manuscript of this novel cruises closer to completion (topped 70,000 words yesterday!), and I polish up the final pieces for my intended short story collection, the skills and encouragement available in the book will, I believe, serve me well. And they come from the same place – breaking down the barriers of entry, so even broke slobs like me can put something out there and seek an audience with it.