TV PERFORMERS AGAIN TAKE HIT FROM REALITY PROGRAMMING, 2004 CASTING DATA SHOWS
Despite Incremental Increase in Theatrical Production, Union Roles on Television Drop; Episodic Television Takes Sharpest Fall
LOS ANGELES (October 5, 2005) – For the second year in a row, theatrical and television employment statistics point to a continuing overall loss of roles for performers, especially in the field of primetime television, according to the latest casting data released today by Screen Actors Guild.
Incremental Gain in Theatrical Roles/Loss of Roles on Television
Actors suffered a net loss on the combined total of big and small screen roles of almost 8 percent, or 3,456 roles, in 2004 versus 2003. Of the 40,826 total roles cast, 34,431 were cast in television roles and 6,395 were cast in theatrical productions. Despite marginal growth on the theatrical side of nearly 4 percent, or 240 roles, employment in episodic television fell by 10 percent, or 3,523 roles, as reality primetime programming increased from an average of 15 to 22 hours per week in 2004. In calendar 2004, the networks (CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX) and weblets (UPN and WB) scheduled an average of 5.1 additional hours per week of non-scripted programs (reality, news magazines, sports and variety) in primetime than during calendar 2003—in practical terms, the equivalent of 10 sitcoms or five drama series in that time frame. Although the net number of lead roles remains about the same, the number of supporting roles declined by 3,338, of which 98 percent of roles were in episodic television.
Theatrical roles experienced a 4 percent bump (6,395 in 2004 from 6,155 in 2003). However, this total is a dramatic decrease from reported theatrical roles of only five years ago, when year 2000 theatrical roles totaled around 12,000.
“Our highest priority must be to create increased work opportunities for Guild members,” said SAG President Alan Rosenberg. “The statistics this year are again disturbing and the industry must begin to address this downward trend. The Guild is more than doing its part, in particular by championing state tax incentive legislation that should lead producers to create more, not less, roles for performers. The displacement of scripted series by reality programming continues to be a severe obstacle to a working actor’s ability to earn a living.”
The employment data was submitted by producers working under the Guild’s television and theatrical contracts, in which employers commit to realistically portray “the American scene.” Gender, age group and race/ethnicity of cast performers are collected for the purpose of spotting trends and opportunities for improvement. The data does not include foreign productions under the Guild’s Global Rule One.
Overall Decline in Number of Roles for Actors
The data, gathered from producers in accordance with SAG’s collective bargaining agreement, indicates a 7.8 percent overall decline, which includes a 10.2 percent decline in episodic television, a 5.0 percent decline in non-episodic television and a 3.9 percent increase in theatrical roles in 2004 over 2003. The number of role losses accelerated sharply in 2004 to the highest level in three years, but unlike 2001, where the loss was evenly distributed among theatrical productions and episodic and non-episodic television, the 2004 loss was concentrated in episodic television due to non-scripted programming displacing primetime scripted series. Although the role loss (173) in non-episodic television reversed two consecutive up years, a net increase (240) in theatrical roles reversed three consecutive years of decline.
Gender and Age Statistics
Role distribution by gender in 2004 continues the well-established patterns of the prior four years, whereby males garnered the lion’s share of roles, however, the total percentage of roles for female actors increased marginally. With regard to age, previous casting trends prevail, with a majority of roles going to actors under the age of 40.
The 2004 race/ethnicity distribution is as follows:
- Overall, Asian/Pacific Island American actors were the only race/ethnicity performer group to achieve a net employment (78) and percentage share (2.5 percent to 2.9 percent) increase last year, posting a striking gain of 21 percent in episodic television, offset somewhat by small losses in theatrical productions and non-episodic television. There were also slight increases in the percentage of roles for male and female Asian/Pacific actors who are 40 years old and over.
- African-American actors’ net role loss spiked to 1,147 in 2004, also heavily concentrated in episodic television. Small gains in theatrical and in non-episodic television were not enough to offset the decline of the group’s share of total 2004 theatrical and TV roles to13.8 percent from 15.3 percent the prior year. A slight increase in the percentage of African-American female actors in supporting roles who are 40 years old and over was the only bright spot in the report for African-American performers.
- Latino/Hispanic actors realized a net loss of 146 roles, concentrated in episodic television (emulating 2003), where they gave up 242 roles. A gain of 95 theatrical roles mitigated the group’s overall loss. Due to more substantial losses by other groups, the Latino/Hispanic overall role share actually increased by 0.1 percent in 2004 to 5.5 percent (second only to the historic high of the 6.0 percent share in 2002). Latinas who are 40 years old and over in lead roles experienced a full percentage point increase over the previous year.
- Native American actors’ net loss of 48 roles was concentrated in theatrical, with smaller losses in both episodic and non-episodic television, leaving the group’s overall share of 2004 roles at 0.2 percent vs. 0.3 percent in 2003.
- Caucasian actors posted the largest net numeric role loss (2,127 roles). Like their African American and Latino/Hispanic counterparts, their loss was concentrated in episodic television. Ironically, notwithstanding their greater overall numeric role loss (and due to the substantial African American role loss), Caucasian actors’ share of all theatrical and television 2004 combined roles increased a percentage point from the prior year’s share, to 74.5 percent. Caucasian male and female actors in lead roles who are 40 years old and over experienced increases in their share of roles, as did male actors in support roles.
The Commitment to Casting Diversity
Rosenberg added, “Screen Actors Guild has a long-standing commitment to reflect the diversity of our country, and our members, on television and in film. While the increase in roles for performers over 40 and in roles for Asian/Pacific Islanders is encouraging, overall casting trends continue to disappoint. The Guild will remain vigilant on this issue and continue to expand the opportunities available to all our members. We will continue working to ensure that those doing the hiring have more exposure to the vast diversity of talent that exists among the Guild’s membership.”
To the continued disappointment of Screen Actors Guild, data on performers with disabilities is not included in the producers’ report. However, the Guild has continued its long-standing fight to force a change in this practice. In July, the Guild held a news conference announcing key findings of a performers with disabilities study done in conjunction with UCLA’s National Arts and Disability Center, heightening awareness of this essentially ignored sector of performers.
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 to expose studios and casting directors to diverse pools of talent.