LOS ANGELES (October 6, 2004) – While the overall trend of declining U.S. television and theatrical roles appears to be losing steam, new employment statistics released today by Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strongly indicates that actors are bearing the brunt of today’s trend toward more reality programming and runaway production.
The data, gathered from producers in accordance with SAG’s collective bargaining agreement, indicates a 1.6 percent overall decline in TV and theatrical member roles in 2003 over 2002. This drop is far more modest than in recent years (6.5% percent in 2002 and 9.3 percent in 2001) with much of the loss concentrated in lead roles for Asian and Latino male lead roles in primetime, which declined 35 percent and 31 percent respectively from 2002 to 2003.
“Although we have certainly seen some encouraging signs in this latest data, particularly for Native Americans and African-Americans, for many other performers the news is not as good,” said SAG President Melissa Gilbert. “We are particularly concerned to note the decline in lead roles for Latino and Asian male actors. It’s been clear for some time that reality television and runaway production are having an adverse impact on the number of opportunities available to working actors. Overall, this data ought to be a wake-up call to the industry. There is still significant work left to do to increase the opportunities for many groups.”
The employment data was compiled by producers working under the Guild’s television and theatrical contracts, in which employers commit to realistically portraying “the American scene.” While the data is not comprehensive, it is collected by gender, age group and ethnicity of cast performers for the purpose of spotting trends and opportunities for improvement.
Specifically, the data collected indicates that the percentage of roles awarded to Caucasian performers largely held steady at 73.5 percent from 2002 to 2003, while the percentage of roles that went to performers of color decreased from 24.2 percent to 23.5 percent. However, these overall numbers tell only part of the story:
“This is compelling evidence that what we see on television is simply not the America we live in today,” Gilbert added. “SAG and its members are deeply committed to reflecting the diversity of our country and its working actors on television and in the movies. We will remain vigilant and active on this issue, working to expand the opportunities available to women and minority performers and making sure those doing the hiring have more exposure to the incredible diversity of talent that clearly exists among the SAG membership today.”
Gilbert added, “I am disappointed that the data provided to us by producers does not include information on performers with disabilities. It is imperative that the industry recognize this important group, and I intend to be relentless in continuing to fight for their cause.”
SAG has been pressing producers to include data on performers with disabilities. This effort recently resulted in the SAG-Producers Industry Cooperative Fund commissioning a study, currently being conducted by UCLA, on the challenges facing performers with disabilities. Other recent Guild efforts to enhance casting diversity have included: holding symposiums seeking realistic solutions for greater diversity in casting, conducting special events for women and senior performers, promoting SAGIndie’s low budget diversity casting incentive and conducting talent showcases and expanding the Diversity, Special Skills and Talent Bank’s free casting service, in order to expose studios and casting directors to diverse pools of talent.