Crazy casting calls for women direct a comedy of errors online

24 Feb 2016

Because these tired stereotypes will make you want to laugh and/or turn Hollywood upside-down. Photo via Shutterstock

Tweets and blogs collating the worst of online casting calls provide the script for the tragi-comic horror that is the working life of women actors.

I have been on a perilous journey down a rabbit hole littered with decaying stereotypes and out-dated attitudes.

I have been exploring the world of casting for female actors.

Future Human

It started when Ross Putman, LA film producer and co-founder of PSH Collective, caught our eye with the Twitter account, @femscriptintros.

This account is a vehicle for Putman to tweet the descriptions of female characters as they are introduced in scripts he has been sent to peruse. Apart from changing the name to the consistent, reliable ‘Jane’, Putman asserts that he transcribes the visions of these hopeful screenwriters verbatim.

Hollywood beauty

Now, as we all know, film-world women are always attractive.

Even when they’re not.

Or trying desperately – and in vain – to hide it.

Sometimes, if they reach their decrepit 30s, the struggle of clinging to the last vestiges of this beauty shows.

Food is a handy descriptor, exaggerating the edible fantasy of these eye-candy roles.

Essentially, the descriptions of these female characters are so overblown it’s hilarious.

Industry issues on show

Here at the Silicon Republic office, we’ve become quite taken with this Twitter account. The writers’ struggle to describe women with anything more than over-the-top clichés is reminiscent of the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award from the Literary Review – another cringe-inducing collection of poorly-written extracts that I relish.

“Apologies if I quote your work,” says the account description – and, while you may think it’s those quoted that should be issuing apologies, Putman made it clear to southern California radio show Take Two that his intention is not to shame the writers, but the industry that created them.

“The point of this Twitter is not about individual writers, it’s not about shaming a single person and saying, ‘Go back and change your work.’ It’s about saying this is a systemic issue, so we should all be trying to do better, all of us that work in this business,” he said.

Putman sent his first @femscriptintros tweet on 10 February and the account already has well over 60,000 followers. Media attention and being tipped by The Black List (a resource connecting filmmakers to film material) as “essential reading” certainly helped this meteoric rise in popularity, but Putman’s tweets are also chiming harmoniously with an online conversation that has been getting louder and louder.

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Casting calls in the spotlight

Last October, award-winning actor Jennifer Lawrence chose to voice her disapproval of the gender pay gap in Hollywood via Lena Dunham’s e-zine. Months before that, Amy Schumer had a viral hit with her sketch decrying the forced early retirement of actresses deemed past their prime, titled Last F**kable Day.

Since 2013, actor Miss L has been using the blog Casting Call Woe and Twitter to anonymously post the most baffling descriptions of female characters she finds in casting notices.

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Terrible Casting does the same, but with a keener focus on race and LGBT roles. The blog’s tagline is: “Updated Daily, Unfortunately.”

Casting Ouch features a litany of “all the auditions in Hollywood [the author] won’t be going to this week”.

Casting calls from

Casting calls from

Casting calls from

The above screenshots all from posts to

Flipping the script

New York-based actor, writer and director Katrina Day also started a blog to catalogue “the hilariously bad, heinously sexist casting calls she was reading on a daily basis” and later this evolved into a web series. In 2014, Lady Parts took to YouTube to mash up sketch comedy and cultural critique, with Day writing, directing and starring.

Not only do Day and her co-stars put the fun in a fundamental lack of characterisation for female roles, they’ve also created better roles for themselves by doing so.

Meanwhile, Casting Call Woe has now branched into doing live shows, inviting an audience to laugh along with the retrograde impropriety.

A theatrical setting is apt. Earlier this year, a Seattle one-person show featured Erin Pike performing a “dramatic collage” comprising lines from only the 34 female characters from the most-produced plays of the 2014-2015 season in the US, 28 of which were written by men. The admission fee was $20 for men, $15 for women.

Waking the feminists

Just a few months ago, Ireland’s great Abbey Theatre became an international sensation for all the wrong reasons when the scrutiny of an online conversation put gender equality on its agenda for 2016. I, for one, am looking forward to hearing from Lian Bell, one of the founders of the #WakingTheFeminists movement, this summer at Inspirefest.

Because as long as we have lopsided, ignorant and outright sexist industries for female actors to work in, we need an online conversation calling it out. The Bechdel test can only come after the fact, and having misogynistic undertones baked into film, television and theatre from the nascent stages of concept and casting is not aiding progress.

“If you’re an actress trying to be in movies and you’re getting these roles and you’re getting these scripts, you start to realise … what your role in movies is: it’s to be the object of desire or the object of affection or to fit into the male’s storyline. You don’t have agency in your own storyline if this is how you’re being introduced,” said Putman in his radio interview.

“If we’re doing such a poor job at this level, how can we expect it to get any better in a finished film?”

It’s a fair question.

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“The whole acting industry summed up by one casting call…” according to

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Join us again from 30 June to 2 July 2016 for fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity. Get your Early Bird tickets now.

Main image of woman with clapper board via Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic