Controversy Involving Atlanta Casting Company Spotlights Actor Pay Inequality – Deadline

A Twitter exchange between actress Bethany Anne Lind and Tara Feldstein, the latter a principal at powerful southeastern U.S. company Feldstein|Paris Casting, has ignited a heated discussion on social media, releasing years of pent-up anger and frustration among actors in the region.

Some of the rancor has been addressed at Feldstein|Paris, accusing them for not negotiating fair pay for Southeast-based talent, but many of the comments also focused on the inequality built into the current Hollywood system that allows for actors in places like Atlanta to be paid significantly less than their counterparts with similar bodies of work based in Los Angeles or New York, and to never be offered more than the bare minimum “scale” rate regardless of experience.

Following backlash, Feldstein took her Twitter feed private, but the situation, which flared up early last week, continued to escalate to a point where Feldstein|Paris principal Chase Paris stepped in Sunday and posted a lengthy response on Twitter, apologizing for Feldstein’s comments, denying accusations of unfair practices, and vowing to have a better and transparent communication with actors. He also spoke with Deadline about the controversy.

Feldstein|Paris is the leading casting firm in Atlanta, with operations throughout the Southeast region. Feldstein and Paris have shared in Emmy casting nominations for Stranger Things, Ozark and Atlanta, winning for Stranger Things with casting director Carmen Cuba, and have handled location castings for virtually all Marvel productions shooting in Atlanta including Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: No Way Home and WandaVision. 

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Kicking off the chain of events this past week was an April 19 tweet by Lind in which she shared her frustration that “Gigantic cinematic universe making movies about fighting for justice for the little guy sends auditions to non-star actors: WILL NOT PAY ABOVE THE BARE MINIMUM REQUIRED OF US BY YOUR UNION and you just have to laugh.”

In an interview with Deadline, Lind, probably best known for her major recurring roles on Ozark and Doom Patrol — both booked through Feldstein|Paris — declined to specify the project, but she is believed to be referring to Disney’s Marvel, which films a lot of movies and series in Atlanta.

Lind herself had stopped auditioning for “the cinematic universe” because all local roles — also handled by Feldstein|Paris —  come with a note saying, “scale only, will not negotiate above scale.” She said she was helping a neighbor, a local actor who had worked for 40 years, tape an audition and found cruel irony in the fact that a multibillion-dollar corporation would make a fortune coming to Atlanta to shoot a movie about superheroes protecting the little guy and yet won’t think about paying a guy who has been acting for 40 more than the bare minimum the actors union SAG-AFTRA requires them to pay.

That bare minimum, or “scale,” is $1,000 a day plus 10% for actors to pay their agency commission, collectively known as “scale+10.”

Her tweet received a surprise quick response by Feldstein, “$132/hr + free food to sit around most of the day seems like a good day to me,” triggering an exchange that also included other local actors chiming in, pointing out that the $1,000 also covers time and gas for driving to callbacks, fitting on a non-shooting day and to the set on the day of filming, and does not come with some benefits regular jobs provide, like accruing paid vacation time.

“Actors are not paid by the hour on set, they’re paid for the hours, months, years it takes to even get TO that set,” Lind, who also has been cast by Feldstein|Paris in a Stranger Things guest role, wrote in her Twitter reply. “Training, preparation, equipment, life experience, sacrifices. To boil it down to hours on set and a sandwich shows how little we settle for in this community.”

Feldstein continued to shoot down dissent, telling actors to take the issue with SAG-AFTRA and stop “coming to Twitter to constantly talk negatively about working in a local market,” arguing that if an actor works once week for $1,000 a day, that would be almost $200,000 a year, adding, “I don’t think anyone would be complaining about the scale wages then.”

The last comment led to actor Eric Mendenhall exclaiming that “the arrogance is appalling” because actors don’t make money every day, to which Feldstein clapped back, “And to say every actor works every day is also arrogance.”

With the tone escalating, Lind tried to bring down the temperature of the discussion by arguing that casting directors and actors should be united taking on studios that refuse to pay local actors above scale, to which Feldstein responded, “Acting is a sweet gig when you book it. When I tell people that actors make $1000/day to say 1 line or sometimes none, people light up. I’ve been to set enough to know it is a lot of hurry up and wait.”

That last line was like throwing gasoline on fire, getting strong reactions from all corners.

“We… don’t do this to say a line for $1,000. We are artists,” Lind wrote. “We expect respect for our work just like one would in any line of work.”

When Feldstein responded that “not ALL actors are the same” and some “barely prep, show up to set not knowing their lines, try to take a million selfies with celebrities and break NDAs,” Lind shot back, “Which is why it’s insulting when someone with a track record of being on time, doing the work, being an actual professional actor — is getting the same offer as the person you mention here.”

Lind, who eventually received an apology from Feldstein, told Deadline that she was surprised by Feldstein’s message to actors to be grateful and quiet. She said she knows that studios come to places like Atlanta to save money via the state’s lucrative tax incentives. But she raved about the pool of actors in the city “who are phenomenal — series regulars, top-of-show talent,” adding that “we would dream of what the market could become if we are all on the same team.”

“That’s why it was so shocking that they chose to respond in the way they did,” Lind said of Feldstein’s remarks. “It became pretty clear we are not fighting for the same thing here, and it was disheartening.”

What’s more, “It is a problem with that particular casting office that they have cast so much and have so much power. People are afraid to make them upset or angry about negotiating,” Lind said, a sentiment echoed by many actors who participated in the online discussion.

“They are talking down to actors publicly,” Lind said, pointing to the comment by Feldstein about local actors not showing up on time or breaking NDAs which she said sounded as if it applied to all actors in the region. “It seems to be an attitude from that office.”

In his Twitter statement Sunday night, Paris apologized to actors for the way Feldstein spoke to them in her tweets.

“What @tarafbennett said was insensitive,” he wrote. “As my partner & best friend I know it wasn’t intended to harm, but that is what happened. Please know she regrets it from the bottom of her heart & it’s caused us to rethink a lot of things, especially our communication w/ the market. WE LOVE ACTORS! We’re heartbroken that some think otherwise… We’re human & I’m sure will make future mistakes, but we strive to do better to show our appreciation to the lifeblood of our career: actors.”

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While Feldstein ultimately wiped her Twitter feed, her comments continued to be shared via screenshots. The discussion clearly struck a chord, with Martin Bats Bradford (The Last Days of Ptolomy Grey) calling it a “very triggering exchange” in an emotional TikTok video.

Addressing Feldstein’s statement that actors should be grateful to be making $1,000 a day, sometimes for saying one line, he noted that local actors’ inability to get more than that regardless of their body of work is what is troubling.

“When you are a new actor starting out, you are grateful for any booking because you are finally getting paid to do your dream,” he said. “When you are 10 years in with 20-30 credits under your belt, and they are still paying you that default of $1,100, when you find out that your cast mate is making quadruple that. You both have the same amount of credits, that person may even have less, same amount years in the game, that person may even have less. But the only thing that’s different about you is that person is represented on the West Coast, and you live in the South…Even if you have the body of work, a great agent willing to fight for you, you are still paid considerably less than actors with West Coast representation for the same exact job.”

Speaking of the stigma of being “local-hire actors in the South,” Bradford noted, “We are all peers, and when certain dues are paid, once certain experiences and expectations have been met, once you résumé starts looking a certain way, no matter where you’re currently living, you should be getting paid your worth.”

Allison Gabriel (Sweet Magnolias), who used to live in the Southeast but has since moved away, took aim at Feldstein|Paris in an Instagram video.

“You’ve been through a lot the last couple of days, and I feel for you, but there is a lot of anger in the market towards you and the way you have been treating your actors for a long time now,” she said, adding that part of the issue is the fact that Feldstein|Paris has created “an essential monopoly in the Atlanta market through hard work and hustle no doubt but also through underpaying and under-crediting actors whose résumés deserves better pay… This is about fair work for fair pay.”

Speaking to Deadline, Paris said he was surprised to hear how Feldstein|Paris is being perceived.

“Until this past week, I would’ve been shocked that there would be a negative reaction to the company,” he said. “Up until now we thought we did a got job. Hopefully this gets us to the new version of us.”

He put some of the blame on the pandemic, which interrupted his and Feldstein’s direct, in-person relationships with local actors, and said the duo will now focus on improving communication.

“We are committed to being more transparent w/ the community… and more available/relatable to actors. It’s obvious we’ve failed there & want to get back to that,” Paris wrote on Twitter.

He told Deadline that building “better, strong and more robust communication” with agents also will be a priority because they relay the information from Feldstein|Paris to their clients, sometimes forwarding the emails the casting company had sent to them. 

“I don’t think our emails were as communicative,” Paris told Deadline. “They are short and professional but I’m learning now that they’re received as curt and dismissive which is not our intention.” On Twitter, he said that “we can fix this by being more detailed, even if just to say no, so everyone knows they were heard & we’re trying.”

On the issue of local actors being offered “scale+10” regardless of experience, Paris pointed to a pamphlet by Erica Arvold and Richard Warner’s Arvold Warner Studio about how the determination is made. Both Paris and Lind retweeted it over the past couple of days (you can read it below). It lists various factors including the size of the role.

Paris admitted that “sometimes there are bigger roles that still pay scale plus 10” and offer lower billing when it’s a local hire. “There are different budgets for talent from local markets than L.A. and New York; we make the deals that are available and approved by production. We still have to fight for our talent.”

He also addressed the issue on Twitter. “A lot of comments referenced us refusing to negotiate, forcing actors to work for scale, never improving deals, etc. This is NOT true, we DO fight for you, but you don’t see behind the scenes… Sometimes we know ahead of time what we’re able to do.”

Paris vowed to “pull back the curtain how deals are made” and be more transparent with talent reps about their conversions with producers so “they can send us appropriate people & prep them.”

He also addressed “some misinformation I saw repeated a few times.”

  • We do NOT bid on jobs. We have a creative meeting w/ the team to see if we’re a good fit or we get offers through relationships. We have in 10 years NEVER discussed how cheaply we can hire actors to be hired. Literally has never come up.
  • Our success being attributed to shady dealing or promises of cheap labor is insulting. We busted our tails to make a way for ourselves in the early days & continue that work ethic today. THAT is why we keep getting hired.
  • Yes, we watch every single self tape that comes in before deadline, unless the role is cast or cut before we can, which is exceedingly rare. We are very busy & see a lot of actors per role so I understand skepticism, but I can assure you this is the case.

The last statement was in response to accusations that the company only works with a pool of favorites, and some submissions for actors outside of that are not even reviewed.

Paris said he and Feldstein are now focused on listening to what actors have to say and, with “such strong feelings on all sides,” they don’t want to get defensive but stay positive and turn this into a growth experience for everyone.

Looking back at the experience, Lind is happy she posted that April 19 tweet.

“It inadvertently started a conversation; I’m really thankful it happened and continues to happen,” she said. “I hope that, as producers come here, they will understand the value the talent here brings to their productions. I hope that they will be willing to have a conversation how they can match the value that we bring monetarily, that casting offices in the Southeast will continue to see the value and continue to fight and that actors will know and understand their value and will not be afraid to speak up.”

She then shared a wish she had also made on Twitter over the weekend. “I just dream of a world where ‘how much money is enough for you?’ is not asked of non-star actors with little negotiating power but of studio heads.”

 

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