The REAL Snooze Fest of Australian TV

Recently, we got a text from a mentor of ours, linking to this article from the Sydney Morning Herald by Nathanael Cooper.

If you don’t have time to read it, the gist is – Australia’s screen industry is suffering from a lack of diverse talent, which stems from ‘snooze fest’ casting directors, who are too comfortable in their roles to take a risk on fresh faces.

Firstly, we want to say a huge thank you to Cooper for bringing this issue into the limelight and allowing a platform for discussion, because it is a topic that we feel really passionately about.

But we’d be lying if we didn’t admit we were really disappointed to be included in a group of Casting Directors whose work is considered a ‘snooze fest’.

When we launched Chicken and Chips Casting, we did so off the back of a frustration we had with seeing the same faces on Australian TV. It’s been boring for a really long time.

Whilst we’re sure Cooper is aware of the many layers involved in the casting process, we want to give a bit of behind-the-scenes insight for people who read the article and aren’t aware of the entertainment landscape like he is.

The way we see it, there are three main issues that are contributing to the ‘snooze fest’ of Australian casting; money, tired old relationships and the broader entertainment ecosystem including Networks and Production Companies.

Money

It’s no secret that Networks are struggling in light of streaming services coming to the party and bringing a more exciting era of content to our screens. Advertisers are also ditching traditional media in favour of cheaper digital alternatives. Which means, our long form Dramas (which have high production costs) like Love Child are being ditched after only a few seasons in favour of cheaper international reality franchises like Take Me Out and All Together Now. To us, this is the real snooze fest.

This means that when a great show is in development, in order to sell it producers are pressured into finding an actor with an existing profile to offer out the roles. That pressure is then pushed down the pipeline to us.

Pre-Existing Relationships

TV has always been a tough nut for new casting kids on the block to crack. We believe that’s because production companies have pre-existing relationships with Casting Directors pushing 20 years plus, and when you get comfortable, why change anything?

So with the same Casting Directors engaged for projects every day, it’s no wonder that the same talent are being circulated and those names are being offered roles across multiple networks. It’s extremely difficult for a new Casting Director to come on the scene and convince traditional TV production companies to use them.

This is really disappointing, largely because casting is not interesting anymore. Audiences are way more savvy in a climate that is rich with digital shows that are constantly pushing the boundaries.

Casting Directors are only one cog within a lot of moving parts

Contrary to popular belief, Casting Directors aren’t solely responsible for the decision making when it comes to casting a show.

We are a small component in the hierarchy of a TV production.

Sure, we make the decision on who makes the cut to come into the Audition Room and we are credited for Casting but a lot of the time, producers and directors throw names out that have established profiles for us to explore in our search. Sometimes, we know this is just to tick a box and not necessarily because they are the best actor for the role. Other times, projects come to us with cast having already been offered a role.

So, what’s next?

While these things are challenging, we are really excited about creating some change in the industry. The SMH article has given life to an issue that has been on people’s minds for a long time.

We agree with Nathanael that there is a huge problem in the industry, and everyone from Casting Directors to the networks, and production companies are complicit. But to every actor out there trying to break through, please know we’re working to get you through the door.

We could riff at least 10 fresh faces that could be the next Asher Keddie, and we’re trying to work with the networks and TV producers on bringing these talented actors to our screens.

The news, thankfully, is much more positive on digital platforms.

Having worked on a lot of the new 10 x 10 formats (and variations of these), we are finding much more freedom from online production teams and an openness to launching new actors’ careers as they share the same frustrations as us.

As some of the first Casting Directors to navigate casting for digital platforms, we ALWAYS push to see people in the room, regardless of whether producers have actors in mind or not.

We see everyone from emerging actors and actors who aren’t necessarily ‘super trained’, to those that have been chipping away for a long time and deserve for their work to be seen.

After all, this is why we got into Casting in the first place - we want to discover people and launch their careers. We are known amongst actors and actors’ agents as the Casting Directors who push boundaries.

We are an actor driven Casting Office. There is no ego in our audition room. And we LOVE that we’ve created this space.

So yes – there is a diversity problem on our screens. But it excites us to see that there is still an appetite for something new and different in our industry, because it means the gap in market for us still exists.

We promise to continue to work our butts off with the networks and producers to bring you fresh faces at every opportunity.