STEPHEN FLETCHER

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An open letter to Spotlight UK Casting and Equity on behalf of actors and performers.

Posted by Stephen Fletcher on September 8, 2016 at 10:15 PM

 

An open letter to Spotlight UK Casting and Equity on behalf of actors and performers.

Dear Spotlight and Equity,

My name is Stephen Fletcher.


I'm an actor. I graduated from The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) in 2002, and like many actors, despite the many setbacks and difficulties, I'm still plugging away.


I want to suggest some ideas that might, in a small way, make this ever-changing, and at times, cold and cutthroat business more kind and humane to performers, add stability to the decisions we make in the rest of our lives, and create a timeframe for both employer and employee to work within.


My main issue with the industry is the 'not knowing'.


To not know if you have been submitted for casting by your agent, or why you haven't been called in for something after a submission, are things that we all have to accept. It's part of the game. But the thing that has the most negative effect and is the most difficult to deal with for me (and those around me) is not knowing if you've actually got the job you worked so hard for in the first place.


All actors have far too many examples where we have waited for news or feedback following a casting. In the hope of the role still being ours, we often put out lives on hold, cancel big family occasions, postpone holidays, move weddings, cancel shifts, lose jobs, only to find out that, quite often, the potential role was, in fact, cast soon after the interview, was never going to be ours to begin with, or we hear nothing back at all.


The rejection in this business we all have to deal with, and there is no secret in this for any performer, but the limbo into which you are placed from leaving the audition, to the time when you hear (or quite often don't) about your success or failure can last an unfair amount of time and applies unnecessary stress, anxiety and pressure. I refer gently to recent articles in The Stage and others about mental health and wellbeing in the industry, and the anonymous Soapbox article about the post-audition radio silence (https://www.thestage.co.uk/opinion/2016/soapbox-post-audition-radio-silence-is-professionally-disrespectful/).


This is something I think Spotlight and Equity could help fix and facilitate in a very practical way.


I have spoken about this with a number of friends over the years and they all agree that this is often the worst part of the job. It seems the very least a production team could do is to notify you on the outcome of an audition.


I am in no way appealing for a long email explaining that my eating of a Malteser wasn't quite what a casting director was looking for, or a paragraph on why my height was a barrier to me being cast in the Borrowers. Actors get it. We are tough and resilient people. We have to be. All I want to know is if we can draw a line under that job, move onto the next, and get on with our life.


One suggestion I have seen on recent exchanges on social media is to offer casting directors the facility to click a button saying "no" you were unsuccessful. I would like to develop that idea further with a "role under offer" or "role is now cast" option, as well as the blunt but clear response of "no".


Even easier than this, you only need to notify the successful recall applicants' agents as to their success, which could in turn trigger an automated response to the remaining performers' agents telling them that their client was unsuccessful- much easier than saying no to an awful lot of people.


Yes it might be time-consuming for someone, yes it would mean a bit of work of extra work for a casting director or assistant, but just as it is an actor's job to put the work into getting a particular job, so too should it be a company and production's duty to complete the task of notifying all applicants as to their success or failure. Is this not what happens in every other industry- why not ours?


Is this something spotlight could look into and build in to their casting software? Is this something agents would benefit from? Is it a rubbish idea? It would encourage actors to leave their agents alone, at the very least, and not pester for feedback or news when an automated response gave them the answer they wanted without having to ask the question.


I know there are many different aspects to casting specific roles, and I know some processes take longer than others, but what I'm proposing is a framework in which everyone from the actor to the producer is aware of their place in that. A producer in a recent TV job said that he put a breakdown out giving a deadline for the casting to be signed off within two days. The response from his team was "why so fast?". He said that it focused the project and meant that it wasn't such a long and drawn out process and gave clarity to both his team and the people he was auditioning. It also, I assume, gave the casting director the casting vote, and allowed people to do the job they are employed to do, without having to defer to so many other departments. Also, not such a bad idea.


This might prevent the ridiculous scenario of sitting in your house or at your temp desk, two weeks after a casting, imagining what the outcome is, asking yourself "will I be able to do that shift in work", "what if there are recalls?", "we won't be able to go away", "maybe they've got another round of casting", only to look up at the TV and see the very scene you auditioned for being played by that fella off whatever. Or not.


In short, I believe this would be another valuable asset for Spotlight, and I would be happy to pay my subscription knowing I would have some control over the one thing I should have control over- my life outside of the performing arts.


Thank you for your time. I hope this is something which sparks a bit of interest and debate from all sides of the industry,

Best wishes,

Stephen @SteFletcher1

If you agree or disagree with this letter, please send a message and feel free to share it with anyone who you think would be interested. It would be good to make a positive change in some small way.

email - [email protected]


ONE WEEK TO GO

Posted by Stephen Fletcher on July 2, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Evening all.

One week before rehearsals start for my next project with Life In Theatre Productions.

This time it's a musical with the amazingly talented and gorgeous Helen Carter (@HelenMaryLpool). It'[s called The Last 5 Years, by Jason Robert Brown. It's a two-hander, about two people falling in and out of love over 5 years together. I love the show- it's great to have the chance to actually do it.

We have two weeks to get the show up and running, before embarking on 11 performanaces at the Liverpool Actor's Studio.

Tickets are available here- http://www.theliverpoolactorsstudio.com/upcomingshows/the-last-5-years/

Hoping it will be as successful as A Life In The Theatre was with Andrew Schofield. Fingers crossed!

Hope some of you can make it along.

Update soon.

Stephen

@SteFletcher1

 

At the coal face......

Posted by Stephen Fletcher on May 30, 2012 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Oh the glamour!

After a 5.30 start, I headed from one northern city to another. Not unsual. This time to audition for a northern soap opera. No names here- I'm a professional. It remains to be seen what I'm a professional of. But I'm a professional nontheless.

I'm still waiting on this one, so we shall see what happens.

I was given the breakdown of the character- "Jeff with a J, and a businessman, and there would be 'pages on the day'- (script to collect, to you and me!). Hardly Chekovian in it's depth, but good enough for me. I gots me some bills t'pay!

At least I didn't have to cram any lines before the audition. I just had to make sure I looked like a businessman called Jeff. Easy.

Now, anyone who follows my career as closely as, say, me and my Mum, will notice that I have already played a character called "Jeff with a J, who was a businessman", and (drumroll please) in one episode of the same northen-based soap opera as this one! Mistake? The same character? A spin off, perhaps? They've brought me back! Another cruel joke in this already difficult industry? OR something leading towards a proper storyline, a backstory, a future, a regular salary? This is a big one. Clear the mantel! I smell an award! etc etc blah blah blah.

Believe me, this is how actors think!

I arrive in this particular northern city, for this particular northern soap, very early for my 10.30 casting. A quick over-priced sarnie in Pret, and a stroll in the sun, to collect my 'pages' from the desk.

I got to the doors, seeing the familiar ITV logos a-go-go all over the place, the pictures of famous and employed 'hims' and 'hers' off the tele, and the space-age security gates, opened by a special lanyard around everyone's necks. It's swanky in TV, folks. Lanyards!

Other actors waited on the couches to the left, reading from the same script as each other, and twittering away to themselves in character. Most audition waiting rooms look like swanky insane asylums.

I had clocked the lads waiting to be seen, and managed to work out my chances against them in the space of a few seconds- "they look young (I look old); he's in shorts (unprofessional); he's like a model (I should leave)- etc. It's the same story each time.

I got to the security desk and gave the usual small talk to the usual unimpressed security guard- "Stephen Fletcher, here to meet so-and-so, for the part of Jeff with a J, 10.30".

He leafed through the pages of actors- I counted the faces on the page- "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 actors", I thought. Good chances.

"You're not on the list"-  he grunted.

"sorry?"

"You're not on the list" Pause. Gulp. Blink.

By now my face is flushing, partly from the half hour walk from the station in the sun- with a blazer on!- and because these younger, more virile, less bitter, coiffed actors are listening in. Panic is etched across my face.

"I'll....just....make...a quick call"

Out in the sun, I called my agent.

"Leave it with me!"

Back and forth- eventually the answer. The wrong day. It was tomorrow. Great. My fault, agent fault, casting fault?

Whatever- It's the wrong day, I've been up since 5.30, I'm in suit, I'm called Jeff with a J, and all of them in there are talking about how they're glad they're not me.

I strolled in, pretending everything was ok- a little nod to the security man, and a sit down, thinking "I am not coming back tomorrow/I'm not waking up at 5.30"

The 12 year-olds who waited alongside me, talking to themselves, glanced up from their script, looking on, pitifully, relieved that they hadn't made the same mistake, and relieved also (I'd like to think) that the amazingly handsome/leading man in front of them, profusely sweating, isn't up for the same role as them.

They were probably wating for the part of Paul with a P, or Gary with a Z.

Anyway- once they had cast this role- I was seen- eventually- and had a nice chat with the casting director. "Thanks for coming in..." etc- and a lovely chat- (no baloney, she was great).

Back to the excitement- my future role as a regular. A regular! Sweet Lord- a regular! My key to fame and fortune- or a shoe-in to getting on Dancing On Ice, at the very least.

So you've been on (insert name her) before, haven't you Stephen? What was the role?"

"erm......well, funnily enough, I don't know if you know- but it was Jeff with a J- a businessman"

"really? ..........Oh."

"Is it...............(sparkling eyes), is it the same role?"

"no."

The ice skates were back in the box, the invite to appear on Celebrity Masterchef was ripped up, and a few noughts were crossed off the Panto paycheck.

"Oh right. I see"

"This is a completely different character."

"called Jeff? who is a businessman?"

"yep"

"for more than one episode?"

"not...that...I can see. No."

So, on that bombshell, I gave my best version of a 'completely new Jeff with a J businessman for one episode acting ', which was remarkably like the Jeff from three years ago, and wandered back to the station.

Now the fun bit starts- the waiting.

Here we go. Fingers crossed.

More to come.

Stephen

Twitter- http://twitter.com/#!/SteFletcher1

 

 

 

Here we go

Posted by Stephen Fletcher on May 23, 2012 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Hello and welcome!

This is me- Stephen Fltcher- saying a quick hello from my shiny new site.

I hope you all like it. It's a bit sparce at the minute, but I'll be adding to it as I go along- don't worry.

Here I hope to spread the word on what's going on with my own work, and the work I will be producing in the months and years ahead through Life In Theatre Productions.

Because of all those people who came to see A Life In the Theatre at The Actor's Studio in March, it gave me enough of a taste to want to create and produce work myself. With that continued support, Life In Theatre Productions (an homage to the first play I produced) could be the beginning of something quite exciting.

Update soon.

Stephen


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