Sunday 21 August 2011

FAIL: The Glee Project

There was an ad for the Glee Project on the telly just now. For those of you who don't know the show, it's another American Idol spin-off of sorts. The show serves as an extended 'audition' for a 'role' on the FOX show Glee. After a pre-selection process the top 12 contestants go through a series of tests and challenges, and are eliminated one by one until one of them wins the Project and the coveted role on Glee.

Now, at first glance this show isn't much different from formats like American Idol but far from just annoying me and boring me to tears, I feel like the Glee Project is outright unethical - from an actor's perspective at least. 

The kids on the Glee Project vie for a role that is unspecified in size and type. We don't know whether the role is recurring and making them a proper part of the Glee cast or whether it is just a one episode guest starring role or even less than that. Most likely they're going to be a blip on the screen. After all pre-show 'casting' for season two of the Project is already in the pipeline.

Any other TV show and all other roles on Glee go through proper casting processes, specified by union rules. These casting processes certainly do NOT involve humiliating actors in public and on (inter)national television. Unlike the Glee Project, which in the episode just advertised on NZ TV for instance has the contestants 'facing their biggest secrets' by standing around in public, stripped down to shorts and a white tank top with big signs strapped to their fronts and backs, reading things like 'Fake' and 'Gay'.

What the fuck does that have to do with 'casting' or a fair shot at a job? This show certainly doesn't 'serve as an audition'. On the contrary, it is nothing more than actors' exploitation and worst of all exploitation of child/teen actors. As if actors needed any more exploitation than there already is by the way the market functions anyway! 

The only way TV shows, films and commercials get made is that producers and creatives can choose from an enormous pool of actors of all ages and types that they can - with the exception of A-List stars - regard and treat as interchangeable and lets face it disposable. The only reason producing anything for the small and big screen is possible, is because actors agree to be available but unemployed as actors 95% of the time. The only protection we have from this system completing screwing with us is that professional productions adhere to proper casting processes that give us a fair chance at the jobs our agents put us forward for, without public denigration and humiliation adding to the constant rejection we constantly have to deal with in this crazy job of ours.

Along comes Oxygen and rips this one safety net to shreds, using and abusing the hopes and dreams and aspirations of 11 teenage actors. Actors who never had a chance of getting that most likely pittance of a role because the network would have decided before the Glee Project even started what they were looking for for the next season of Glee. It makes an absolute farce of what should have been a proper, non-humiliating open casting process, where young actors would have been treated correctly, fairly and with respect.

If this is a sign of the times, hold on to your sides and your sanity dear fellow actors because casting is not only going to get harder but also uglier and more exploitative. Lets hope that a format like the Glee Project can only be conceived within the confines of a musical show like Glee. 

I am fully prepared to put on a song and dance for a job on TV or in film but I do reserve my right to be treated fairly, respectfully and work hard for these jobs within the proper casting processes. It's all I've got.

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