News Column

Production company outcast after casting prank pulled on actresses

June 26, 2013

YellowBrix

June 26--In the wake of a Los Angeles Times story exposing a casting prank pulled on a group of 30 young actresses, Breakdown Services, the parent company of Actors Access, has taken immediate steps to completely remove the project from its website. Most of the actresses who walked into what they thought to be an audition for a role in the feature film "May the Best Man Win" discovered the casting call on Actors Access.

"The whole thing is disgusting," said Gary Marsh, founder of Breakdown Services. "Certainly actors are portraying a role, but to be pranked? It's just unacceptable. And I have zero tolerance when it comes to involving our company in that deception."

The prank audition was the work of the London production company What If It Barks Films. Although "May the Best Man Win" is a real production, the casting call wasn't an audition for principal roles within the movie. It was for a film-within-a-film segment intending to reveal how far a desperate actress would go to land a role.

Some of the women who auditioned for "May The Best Man Win" were asked to perform in blackface, while others were asked to impersonate Adolf Hitler and shout Nazi propaganda. Actresses who took part in the fake audition were given $50 and asked to sign release forms.

Breakdown Services' Marsh protested the stunt, saying he would permanently ban the film's casting director, Paul Baker, from ever using Breakdown Services or Actors Access in the future.

"To spring it on an actor at the time of the audition itself does not give anybody the ability to make a considered decision," he said. "There's an attitude that actors are capable and easily led into doing anything to get a job. [Breakdown Services] stands behind the actors, to support the actors and, as much as we possibly can, protect the actors from the kind of chicanery that went on with this project."

After hearing of Breakdown Services' ban, Ray Marshall, the film's producer and co-founder of What If It Barks Films, sent an email to Marsh, stating it was "a harsh decision" and that Baker "was 'working under orders' after all."

"Mel Brooks would never have got 'The Producers' made if the mere mention of Hitler had everyone in Hollywood refusing to work with them," Marshall said. "Whether [the prank] was artistically satisfying or morally repugnant is simply a matter of opinion. But the scene did also involve a number of young Jewish children, whose parents were happy to be involved -- because it was funny."

Marsh, who called the email a "self-serving statement," completely rejected Marshall's plea for a mitigated reaction.

"He completely misses the point," said Marsh. "I'm sure that Mel Brooks gave the script to the actors so that they knew what they were getting involved in when it came to 'Springtime for Hitler.' Actors deserve respect and [What If It Barks Films] did not respect the actors and give them a choice."

Marsh explained that over the 44-year history of Breakdown Services, this is the first time he has heard of an incident like this taking place.

"We have a reputation to uphold so we're not going to let these amateurs affect our reputation," said Marsh. "And they are amateurs of the worst kind."

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(c)2013 the Los Angeles Times

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