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The 2022 Industry Forum presented by Spotlight’s Success Team, was a series of sessions and panels that took place at One Moorgate Place in early October. Our Forum events provide a chance for agents and casting directors from the UK and beyond to come together to learn and discuss best practices and trends within the Industry.

This year we provided training to raise awareness around the representation and casting of neurodivergent performers and for deaf awareness, whilst our roundtables provided a platform for discussing and debating topics with peers and colleagues. The day’s sessions covered numerous topics including:

We’ve written up highlights and key takeaways from several of the sessions for those of you who missed the event, or wished they could have attended more sessions, which you can read below.

Automation of the Industry: Losing the Art of Conversation

Speakers: Kirk Whelan-Foran (United Artists), Helen Clarkson (Curtis Brown), Anna Dawson (SPH Casting), Ian Manborde (Equity), Priscilla John (Casting Pictures) and Sam Jones (Sam Jones Casting).

Summary: Our industry is renowned for being a ‘people business’ with relationships central to how we work, but as technology advances and producers look to mitigate risk by using algorithms and social media statistics to measure potential success, we asked what needed to be done to futureproof the role of the agent and casting director. Additionally, how can the welfare and well-being of actors and performers be respected in ensuring effective communication of being cast, or not? With new functionalities such as the Yes/No tool, and the ever-increasing number of self-tapes, are we in danger of losing the art of conversation? And if so, what commitments do we need to make to one another to ensure our assistants and associates can build the relationships of tomorrow?

Key Takeaways

Email V phone calls

  • Discussion across the board seems to have gone. During the pandemic, emails have replaced phone calls and things have become more automated. People have “become facilitators” and “where’s the skill in that?”
  • Loss of human interaction is extremely difficult, particularly when you intensify any part of the economy through the use of new technologies.
  • In a phone call between an agent and a casting director or casting assistant, multiple people could be discussed i.e. If one actor wasn’t available, another could be suggested during a phone conversation. Now it’s multiple emails.
  • Frustration that emails are replacing phone calls is felt by both casting directors and agents. Lots of people thought they were the only ones who felt this so it’s “refreshing to hear that people actually want to pick up the phone.”
  • Assistants are not calling clients but emailing them. Phone calls don’t happen as much so relationships aren’t formed. Those who started working during the pandemic don’t know any different and it’s up to agents to train assistants to pick up the phone.
  • Would like to see a pledge that offers should always be on the phone.
  • We need to consciously make the effort to change things and reconnect. we just need to pick up the phone more and get back to what we were doing and lead by example.

Challenges for the acting workforce

  • Average Equity member is likely to receive universal credit. The disaster of the economy and potential changes to universal credit means actors are under immense financial pressure so rely more and more on work outside of the industry.
  • Post-pandemic, a lot of people left the industry, particularly crew and technical staff. An enormous problem is coming if the proposed universal credit changes happen, people will be forced into more stable work. It’ll be even harder for [actor/performer] workers to receive benefits and we will see more people leave the industry as it’s too unstable.

#YesNo Tool

  • Equity: “Individuals are leading intense lives, they need a yes or a no after an audition.”
  • Every casting director will say there’s no easy way to let everybody know what’s happening with projects. Anna worked with Tagmin to create the #YesNo tool. With one click casting directors can let actors know the status of a role. Anyone who has the link can find out what’s happening. It is not to replace feedback.
  • Anna says that you don’t need to use Tagmin to use the link and that even though the tool says it’s for agents and actors, it’s mainly for actors.
  • A suggestion is that the tool should only be used for first-round auditions.
  • The problem with technology is that it can be mishandled and at the click of a button a project can be ‘done’ but it raises an issue for giving valuable feedback. The positives and opportunities are there with the tool but “we need to use it in the right way.”
  • Equity will be launching a campaign early next year for the use of the #YesNo tool. “It’s not just about mental health but in the current economic climate, it’s immoral to force people into poverty, to have them wait to find out whether they’ve got a job while they don’t take on other work.”
  • If you have any feedback on the tool, email Anna or Tagmin directly or find out more about the #YesNo tool

Positives and challenges with self-tapes

  • It’s more accessible to a vast number of people. Moving out of London or the cities should not stop performers from having the opportunity to audition and that’s where self-tapes are really handy.
  • Actors are juggling multiple jobs so whilst they want to be in the room or ‘here’ they might not be able to because of other work commitments. Technology is something that helps with access.
  • The rise of self-taping has presented more opportunities for theatre actors to work in screen. Instead of seeing 30 people in the room, 100 people could be seen on tape. A real positive side on the impact for actors.
  • Agent and Assistant jobs have completely changed and are very admin-heavy, especially with tapes. Assistants often spend the majority of their morning editing and sending tapes whereas 10 years ago it would’ve been speaking to actors, checking Spotlight etc.
  • Actors can feel they’re sending self-tapes into the abyss. They could be sending 10 self-tapes a week and hear nothing and that’s a struggle for them. With in-person at least they get some sort of “good job” or instant gratification from a casting director at the end of a meeting. That human interaction is a tangible thing.

Directors self-taping

  • Questions about where the directors are in the new self-tape process. “What’s happened to getting around a table with them and going through the script and talking about each character to get their definition and vision.”
  • Increasing pressure on casting directors as directors and producers keep asking for more tapes but don’t give feedback for the ones they’ve seen. What about the mental health of those performers not hearing back? “It’s important for the director to take responsibility and it’s our responsibility as casting directors to have that conversation.“
  • A discussion is happening on this topic between the CDG, the PMA and Rebecca Blonde who has come up with a standard that if actors are having to tape, the directors should also be on tape to speak about each part and their vision. The tape should go out with the breakdown so actors are having some sort of interaction.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Tackling Tropes and Typecasting: Disability

Speakers: Natalie Amber (actor) Sam Tatlow (ITV), Niki Winterson (Wintersons) and Melissa Johns (actor and Triple C co-founder).

Summary: Whether it’s fighting against patronising storylines or ending visible difference discrimination, the disabled community have shown time and time again that they will leave no stone unturned when it comes to exposing inequality. In this session, we looked at harmful tropes and language, the dangers of being unaware of typecasting and looked at the practical ways we can make the industry more accessible to help avoid these issues in the first place.

Key Takeaways

We’ve moved beyond casting non-disabled actors in disabled roles, we know that absolutely should not happen. But how we can break down the barriers quicker by casting disabled actors in all the roles?

  • Great work happening with broadcasters, but there’s still a long way to go. Some production companies are doing a brilliant job and doing everything they can to be as inclusive as possible. They’ve learned, they’ve developed where they’ve got things wrong, and they’ve gone back and found out how to do things better next time. Casualty is cited as a production where Natalie felt on an equal level with everybody.
  • Producers, writers, and casting directors are much more aware that there is a lack of representation and that more needs to be done but there’s a gap between understanding and knowledge to ensure that they are authentically representing lived experiences of disabled characters.
  • 19% of the population are disabled but we are lacking in disabled people being included i.e. disabled writers being included in the writer’s room, disabled casting directors etc.
  • People are coming into the industry specifically because they want to be heard and seen. “Disabled people aren’t worse at acting than anyone else.”
  • Performers are still scared of speaking out for fear that they’ll lose their job or won’t be put forward for roles. There needs to be an openness and willingness to learn because none of us – even the deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent community – know each other’s access requirements.
  • Starting to see better representation and storylines are a little bit better and we’re beginning to move away from stereotypes but the community still doesn’t feel empowered. It’s everybody’s responsibility to empower somebody to be able to do their job.
  • Now that we are moving forward, how are we going to offer all of our disabled actors the opportunity to arrive in the rehearsal room or on set not as an educator, but simply as an actor on a comparable contract to the actor who is non-disabled? That means, for example, that they’re not worried about how they get out of the building if there is a fire because no one has pointed out the accessible fire escape.

Authentic Portrayal

  • When a writer writes a character, they think about that character’s loves, hates, personality traits and ambitions. Quite often when it comes to a disabled character, their disabled storyline will take the place of personality traits, wants, loves, hates and ambitions. There’s representation and then there’s truthful representation. What can we do that actually just make this a fully rounded character just like all the others in the room?
  • Portrayal is about understanding authentic portrayal, and knowing who to go to speak to to get that. Encourage writers to write the character they want, then leave the casting directors and agents to work together to find the right people.
  • The best work happens when we are authentically portraying the stories and ensuring that we are doing that in the right way. When there are questions about the authenticity of a portrayal, let’s collaborate and ensure we are listening to the actor’s concerns. Take on board what they’re saying, but also explain to them what is your perspective [as a producer].
  •  The richness of representation means that we create better work and it will be received better.

Parity of Employment Contracts

  • The law has changed and in the industry, we’re seeing a response to having to put disabled actors on screen. People need disabled actors. But can you offer parity of employment contract to those people?
  • A parity of employment contract means that a person is free to be the best actor they can be, equivalent to a non-disabled performer, so they can deliver a high-quality performance.
  • Once you’ve employed a disabled actor and that employment offer has gone out, been accepted and is being negotiated, during that negotiation, you’re going to be asked for things that you wouldn’t be asked for if you were dealing with a non-disabled actor’s agent having a conversation about a non-disabled actor. “Those conversations are going to be a right, and we agents should be insisting on them to create that parity of access.”

Access Riders

  • Access riders or access statements are a way for us [disabled actors] to champion our own access and get people on board with the terminology we use.
  • Encourage everyone to fill out an access rider. Don’t wait for somebody to say that they are deaf, disabled, and/or neurodivergent, get everyone to fill it out because access isn’t just attached to somebody with a disability. Anybody can have an access requirement.
  • At the moment access riders only stand on goodwill so what happens on set when an actor needs something to allow them to do their job (e.g. wear their mic pack on a certain side so they can easily access it if they have limb difference)? Agents may not feel empowered to have that conversation but that is where it is useful to make access requirements contractual.
  • Making access requirements contractual means everybody knows where they stand, knows what the right language is and what should and shouldn’t be spoken about and in what way.
  • Once it’s contractual, producers start thinking about putting some education in place for the crew and that means the actor is not going on set having to be the educator themselves.
  • “We don’t suddenly want to bring a load of law into this, we want to be able to educate people wider than that. We want people to want to make their theatres and their sets accessible and inclusive, but we also need to ensure it happens, which is where the contractual side comes into it.”
  • There’s concern amongst some in the disabled community that if they have different access requirements they will not get a job. It was suggested actors don’t talk about their access requirements until they get a job to avoid discrimination or thinking they didn’t get a part because they had different access needs.


  • The idea of levelling is that if there’s a role for a character who doesn’t have, for example, the use of their lower legs and you can’t find the actor you want for the part, what about having a look at an actor who maybe has cerebral palsy? Or arthritis? Or someone who uses a wheelchair occasionally? That actor is going to have at least a similar lived experience and is going to be able to take on that character in a much more authentic way
  • When you get a non-disabled actor to play that role, they’ll take on a character based on what they’ve seen on screen and “that is that disabled people need help or are a charity case” etc. The non-disabled actor will take on the character in that way as that’s what our industry has shown them previously on screen.

Next steps

  • Encourage people that when a script comes in they are able to look down the character list and identify all of the roles that could be played by deaf, disabled and/or neurodivergent actors. At ITV, Sam engages teams to support them when they’re meeting disabled actors and when a non-disabled character becomes a disabled character.
  • “We [agents] have got to have those awkward conversations. We’ve got to stand up and insist on having them, and the casting directors and the producers have got to go, ‘Oh, I know what you’re doing, you’re trying to find parity for your client.’”
  • Tell your production companies that they don’t need to know the answers, they just need to go to the places that do know that. There are organisations like TripleC that exist to help answer those questions and if they don’t know the answer, chances are they’ll no someone who does.
  • “Tell producers to come to TripleC or organisations like us when they’re crewing up because they have the lived experience, not only in access but in creative access and that there is a difference. If you get creatives with that disability, the access solution you come up with will be completely different.”
  • Triple C want casting directors to tell them what they need to make their job easier. If it’s not your lived experience and you don’t feel confident fighting for it or talking about it, “talk to us so we can make sure that we are united in communication between agent, casting director, and actor.”
  • The bottom line is this industry will be richer with more voices and until we all start playing our parts, that’s not going to happen.

Useful Links

ITV x The Diverse Squad: Diversity in Film and TV – Where Are We Now?

Speakers: Ade Rawcliffe (ITV), Juliana Bautista (Identity Agency Group), Dawn Green (CAM), Ikki El-Amriti (Identity Agency Group), Sara Sedhev (Core MGMT) and Mildred Yuan (United Agents).

Summary: The Diverse Squad are a collective of diverse agents working together in the TV and film industry to continue ongoing conversations and efforts regarding racial diversity in the industry. In this session, they discussed the results of their questionnaire, the positive change that has begun at ITV, and the challenges diverse actors are still facing within the industry.

Key Takeaways

  • The Diverse Squad was formed after the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • They set about exploring the challenges faced by diverse actors through a questionnaire, which had over 13,000 responses. Results showed that of those asked:
    • 79% feel a role they’ve played was a stereotype
    • 64% have been a victim of stereotyping in an audition
    • 55% experience racism in the workplace
    • 71% have had make-up departments that cannot cater to their hair and skin
    • 61% feel they are unable to turn down auditions for stereotype roles
    • 66% feel unable to discuss their concerns with the director
  • ITV recognised that it hadn’t done enough to help diversity, so they launched the Diversity Recognition plan. The Diverse Squad works with ITV to hold them to account, asking ‘Who else is missing? Who else’s voices do we need around this table?’

Hair and Make-up

  • The hair and make-up departments are often causing issues for black actors. Actors are having to bring their own products or do their hair and make-up themselves because those hired to do hair and make-up don’t possess that skillset.
  • When cast in a new role, actors of colour have an instant fear of “what am I going to do with my hair?” This anxiety impacts the actor’s excitement of the job, and impacts their work/preparation.
  • It’s imperative that the agent ensures that their clients have equitable access to hair and make-up. This is like going to a place of work and removing tools from some people that are given to others. If it’s not equal, it’s discrimination.
  • In other words, some people are going to work and not being given the same tools as their peers, which is discrimination. It might help to think of it as a legal matter. “At the end of the day, if it’s not equal, it’s discrimination.”
  • Producers need to be proactive in their recruitment of hair and make-up artists: i.e. “don’t hire hair stylists who can’t deal with black and Asian hair.” In other words, “don’t hire people who haven’t got the tools for the job. If the stylist hasn’t got the skills, they need to go and learn them.”
  • There’s needs to be a PACT clause for equitable access to hair and make-up. Please support Equity in fighting for this change.


  • How do we ensure actors have everything they need on set? We need to be like ‘helicopter agents’ and ask “have you had a meaningful consultation with production?”  If not, then the agent needs to speak to the casting director and “Nag, nag, nag!”
  • Have the chat – if you have diverse clients that have been on your books for years, it’s likely they’ve experienced this. Be pre-emptive.
  • We need casting directors on our side so that producers are prepared to give these things when agents ask for them.
  • If the material isn’t right for the client (stereotypical, offensive, etc.) then don’t pass it on to them.
  • Parents are too scared to speak up to agents. They don’t want to be that person putting up a fuss and getting cast out, but don’t be shy to have those conversations – it’s all for the greater good.
  • You can contact the Diverse Squad at contactthediversesquad@gmail.com

Representation and Casting Neurodivergent Performers

What is best practice when working with neurodivergent performers and what does bad practice look like? This session was approached through the lens of lived experience and we heard from a young actor who has a diagnosis of Autism, ADHD and Anxiety (triple A) and recreated the audition experience and casting process with casting director, Paul Wooler (CDG), and agent, Adam Welsh (Divergent Talent).

Speakers: Joseph Green (Triple A co-founder and performer), Tracey Green (Joseph’s parent and Triple A founder), Paul Wooller (Cameron Mackintosh) and Adam Welsh (Divergent Talent).

Key Takeaways

Disability is not something that is ‘my’ fault. It’s something that society does to a person. Once you understand that, you understand the concept of reasonable adjustments.

  • Access is difficult. Neurodivergent people commonly have a threadbare CV because access points to the industry are very different for neurodivergent people and they don’t have conventional routes in.
  • Often actors don’t have a choice about whether they want to disclose their neurodivergence as they may need medication or certain care so being able to state their needs is essential.
  • “Neurodiverse people can occasionally come across me as looking uninterested because they’re trying to focus.”
  • As neurodivergent people, “we rarely know what we want because we spend all of our time trying to compare, get along and fit in with other people.”

Adam’s Four A’s

  • Assume everyone is disabled or neurodivergent because there are many invisible disabilities. Often with neurodivergence, you can’t see by looking. Once you assume actors are neurodivergent or disabled, you ask, “What are your access requirements?” as standard practice. Ask if they have an access statement or an access rider.
  • Ask. If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask either the person, the talent or take some consultation.
  • Act. Do something with the information you’ve got in the access rider. Make some sort of adjustment in the workplace, whether that’s for a self-tape, an audition or beyond.
  • Advocate. Work and argue to support the talent’s access requirements throughout the process. And then pass it on.


It’s important to understand neurodivergence in the audition setting but you don’t need to be an expert.

  • For actors coming to an audition, it is useful to share the following: a picture of the venue (inside, outside and the door to the audition room), what floor the audition space is on, pictures of everyone the performer is going in front of. It takes a lot of stress out of the situation for them and any parents and carers. A BBC audition was used as an example of a positive experience where all of this information was provided in advance.
  • Waiting rooms can be loud and busy and sometimes are challenging for neurodiverse performers who may prefer to keep to themselves focussed and not be distracted. If the talent’s access requirements are asked for ahead of time, this information can be shared with the casting team and allowances could be made for a breakout room or for the performer to wait outside the building or somewhere quieter as long as the audition runner (if there is one) knows where they’ll be.
  • If no breakout rooms are available, perhaps this will influence the casting team’s decisions about what venues are suitable to use for future auditions.
  • Giving feedback to actors – particularly neurodiverse actors – allows them to move on and put the audition to the back of their minds.


  • Find out what your client’s wants, needs and access requirements are and communicate them to the casting director.
  • Neurodivergent actors want a level playing field. They should be considered alongside everybody else for whatever role is put out there. Don’t put them on the back burner because they’re “just a little bit too complicated.” Fight for them.
  • Often neurodivergent people, as a part of masking or ‘fitting in’, will jump to say yes to anything so if there’s a short turnaround time for a self-tape, they won’t take time to see if they can do it in the allotted time, they’ll just say yes, and It’s helpful for agents to be aware of this and encourage a three day minimum for submission.
  • [As an agent] “I would be very strategic about disclosing [if my client is neurodiverse]. I try and look at who I’m submitting to. I work out if they’re progressive. And if I don’t think they are, I don’t mention anything.”

Casting Directors

  • Be open when you’re told an actor is neurodiverse. We want performers to be brave and confident to be able to disclose their neurodivergence and when they do tell us, “we want them to know that we’re going to respond positively.”
  • When sending material out for self-tapes, at the top of that email ask “If you have any access needs, please let us know” or “If you have any access needs, what are they? How can we help?” Unless we ask, we have no idea what the talent needs and can’t provide what they require to do the job. It may be allowing more time to submit, providing the script in a different format, if they need just words and no music etc. The talent’s needs are never going to be one size fits all, and we have to be open to that.
  • When it’s time to get in the room ask again “What are your access requirements for that?” For example, “if we’ve been told small talk is an issue, we’ll cut the chit-chat and know to do so because we asked for that information.”
  • Often we become distracted by our own need to feel comfortable socially in an audition space and we use that as a gauge for whether the person will be good but [if knowing small talk can be a challenge for neurodiverse talent] try to focus on the acting as much as possible.
  • On the day of the audition, before the talent comes in, it’s a good time to talk to the casting team about a performer’s requirements and needs. Then we as a team can go into the audition armed with the knowledge.
  • Try to be as clear as possible on what the next steps of the process are so neurodivergent actors can plan. Things do change, but there will be a certain pattern that things follow and that’s helpful to share.
  • Pass access needs information about the talent cast on to the company manager or producer. It could be information about access needs or if someone is a recent grad and it’s their first job so they need support etc. Sometimes it can be months before actors start, and there’s a huge gap of information being passed on. There should be a through-line from that first brief through to [actors] then doing the job.

‘Awkward Questions’ answered

What if the autistic actors I audition don’t quite look or come across like the character I have in mind?

Joseph: “Autistic actors are actors. Don’t be afraid to ask for changes. As long as you’re asking for recognised traits, no one’s going to take offence, as all autistic people are different in looks and presentation.”

Can autistic actors play non-autistic characters? And can non-autistic actors play autistic characters?

Joseph: “Autistic actors can definitely play non-autistic characters. In fact, if you give autistic actors a chance, you’ll likely gain some quick wins. For example, I can memorise the script with my photographic memory. I don’t experience stage nerves as, to me, I’m presenting a character and the character isn’t nervous. There should be no need for non-autistic actors to play autistic characters, as there’s a good selection of autistic actors in the field. So it’s always going to be the best practice to have authenticity.”

What if I say something wrong? I don’t want to offend

Joseph: “The general feeling amongst neurodivergent groups is we’d rather you ask questions and learn than dismiss them in fear of getting them wrong. Everyone loves a trier and it’s no different. The majority of neurodivergent people prefer differences in their terminology, i.e. autistic person, neurodivergent person. The reason for this is that the difference is not an accessory but it’s them as a person.”

Phrases that will cause offence:

  • “Well, everyone’s a bit autistic, aren’t they?” No, they’re absolutely not. That’s like saying, “Every woman is a little bit pregnant because they have ovaries.”
  • “But you don’t look disabled or autistic” Neurodivergence doesn’t have a look. It’s an invisible difference. Neurodivergence is complex and individual, making it difficult to describe. Please don’t ask for justification, but ask how you can support us.
  • “I don’t want to treat you any differently.” Acknowledging and accepting differences is real inclusive practice. Underplaying difference, and essentially ignoring it, makes us feel undervalued.

Useful links:

Conflict Resolution – Mind the Gap!

Speakers: Javan Heaney (DiameneR)

Summary: Managing conflict can be tricky and stressful but having the right tools to cope with it can help us to find better responses and choices whenever it does arise. In this session, led by a conflict resolution expert, we examined how we handle conflict and focus on helpful techniques we can use to manage it.

The session was tailored towards scenarios that casting teams and agents find themselves in, including tight deadlines, weekend working, juggling multiple projects, last-minute changes, and much more.

Key Takeaways

  • Conflict is when your ethics are challenged. Overcoming conflict should be about getting to your goal, not beating the other person.
  • The amygdala controls our reaction to what we perceive as fear and creates memories of what fear is. These reactions kick in instantly to get us out of danger quickly, but they are the worst enemy to our IQ and can make it drop by 14 points.
  • The narrative we build about ourselves is that we’re not good in those situations. We tell this to ourselves and then overcompensate or avoid those future situations as a result.
  • The brain is a predicting tool. For example, you can’t actually feel water, but you feel what your brain expects it to feel like due to being constantly told water is wet. Now imagine what our brains do when we tell the wrong stories about ourselves and create false narratives to say we’re no good at or unable to do certain things.

Reacting v Responding

  • Reacting: impulsive, comes from previous experience.
  • It takes six seconds to return to a state where you can think reasonably again.
  • Make space so you can respond, not react.
  • Pause, take a deep breath, and respond – if you are responding to a difficult question, ask for clarification or repeat what the asker has said back at them posed as a question, and then they’ll have a gap that they rush to fill.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What emotions am I feeling?
    • What do I want to communicate?
    • Am I being respectful?
    • What are the likely consequences if I do X?
    • Will my actions represent who I am?
    • These questions make us think logically.
    • Do we say yes to everything because of fear of missing out or having lost so much time to Covid and lockdown? Will this fear lead us to good decisions?
  • Currently, we frame the narrative: ‘It’s just a part of my personality. This is how I always respond.’
  • We need to reframe the new narrative: ‘It’s not me. It’s my amygdala.’
  • 80% of conflicts are sorted out by making someone feel good. If you feel uncomfortable, focus on making the other person feel understood.
  • View conflict as an opportunity to deepen relationships, not as an unavoidable ordeal.
  • The key is to manage yourself. If you can manage yourself, you can control the situation. It also stops you from taking it home with you. Just think of it as a game – you’re going to play this role and then walk away from it.
  • We can get drawn in sometimes to solving something in that moment, but that moment may not be the right one. Don’t be afraid to wait and resolve the conflict later.

Young Performers: Gender Identity, Intimacy and Duty of Care

Speakers: David Thackeray (Intimacy Coordinator), Daniel Edwards (Daniel Edwards Casting), Sarah MacDonnell (Ardent Talent), Emily Carey (Young Performer) and Verity Naughton (VJN Casting).

Summary: As TV shows like Heartstopper and Sex Education break boundaries on young characters exploring their gender identity, sexuality and intimacy, in this session we examined how production teams handle casting these intricate roles and the duty of care package needed to ensure young performers are supported throughout the entire process, from first round audition to series launch and beyond.

Key Takeaways


  • When it comes to gender identity, we can’t assume a young performer isn’t part of that community.
  • Some casting directors are unsure where and when it is appropriate to ask questions about gender identity, as it can be a very personal topic and they don’t want to be intrusive or make the performer feel uncomfortable. But “if it’s not asked, it’s not talked about.”
  • People just need to be aware and respectful of gender identity and pronouns. Some young performers have:
    • never been asked their pronouns
    • have not had those pronouns used by people when they were told
    • have not had the support of other people on set calling those who misuse the pronouns out for it.
  • Inclusive language on head sheets and call sheets, and open and inclusive communication between casting directors and agents from the start of a project, should be standard practice and is being seen more now which is very positive – e.g. pronoun options, avoiding assumptions, asking the question.


  • There has been a massive shift since 2017 in the use of Intimacy Coordinators.
  • What qualifies as an intimate scene? It doesn’t just have to be romantic or sexual intimacy; it could simply be a scene where a child innocently hugs their father. Perhaps the young actor will need guidance and support with this.
  • The earlier an intimacy coordinator is brought on set, the better. The performers will feel more comfortable going to the intimacy coordinator with any concerns or questions they may have that they might not voice otherwise.
  • Agents should feel confident to expect an Intimacy Coordinator to be standard on a project that clearly requires one.

Duty of care

  • It’s easy to forget that we are in an echo chamber in this industry. We think progression and respect are a given, but they’re not. The people in power often could not care less – their mantra can be that adult actors should just shut up and child actors should be grateful.
  • It’s hard to keep duty of care when dealing with 10,000 submissions.
  • Netflix has a duty of care package, but some of it is just ticking boxes.
  • Duty of care packages are not created by actors and people that are on set – they are created by lawyers to protect the production.
  • Once you stop shooting, the actor is left on their own. None of the packages cover post-wrap, which is when duty of care is needed most as the actor faces social media and a worldwide audience.
  • 16-18 is a grey area for young actors when it comes to safeguarding – they may no longer need to be licensed, but they are still so young and are suddenly without a chaperone for the first time, who do they turn to for support?
  • The use of a Wellbeing Facilitator is happening on some projects and can fill the gap where a chaperone was previously present.

Useful Links:
Wellbeing Facilitators
NSPCC – keeping children safe
Teen Talk – gender identity

Sign on the Dotted Line: The Misuse of NDAs

Speakers: John Barclay (Equity), John Summerfield (Waring and McKenna) and Zelda Perkins (Can’t buy My Silence).

Summary: This session examined the boundaries of confidentiality and addresses the growing use of NDAs in the casting process and its misuse in the industry. We clarified what an NDA is for, when to use it and when it is appropriate to sign.

Key Takeaways

  • Abuse and discrimination within the industry are not a trade secret.
  • An NDA can stop you from sharing your experience with therapists, the police, the media, your friends and family.
  • NDAs can be shared with professional advisors – which includes an actor’s agent, unions and lawyers.
  • We believe that anything lawyers say is true, but 95% of NDAs are not enforceable. However, the only way to test whether an NDA is enforceable is to break it, which people in a vulnerable situation are unlikely to do. They’re a power game – they rely on the fact that no one will ever challenge it because they’re scared to.
  • The original purpose of an NDA is the confidentiality around business information, or intellectual property: Patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.
  • NDAs are not enforceable to hide criminal behaviour – we need to work out what is and isn’t a criminal act.
  • Nefarious people are using NDAs more in contracts, but disguising them by calling them different things. You need to ensure you go through the stipulations of a contract to find evidence of NDAs there.
  • Some people are even issuing NDAs for the audition stage now, which is terrible. It takes away the ability for an agent to protect their clients, e.g. graphic material could be sent straight to the actor.
  • We need to have the confidence to say ‘no’, but then we don’t get the audition.
  • Challenge the term ‘it’s just standard’.
  • The only appropriate use of an NDA is to stop people from selling audition scripts. But leaks aren’t prevented by NDAs, it’s because actors are professionals and behave professionally.
  • The only ones who benefit from NDAs are lawyers for doing all this unnecessary work. “Lawyers may be faceless, but insurance people aren’t human” – they’re paranoid and pull the strings.
  • We’re starting to see a slow cultural change of lawyers saying ‘don’t use an NDA’, as it’s not a good look and highlights that there might be something they’re trying to hide.
  • Educate your clients and give them power.
  • Visit cantbuymysilence.com for more information.

Read highlights from the Industry Forum 2021 and the Industry Forum 2019.