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What happens on mute: Viral Zoom audition exposes young actors' struggles

If you ever wondered what's said behind closed doors when you leave a casting office or conclude a Zoom audition, this week gave us a disheartening clue.

A video shared on Twitter by Euphoria star Lukas Gage has gone viral, featuring a director's withering criticism of "poor actors" in "tiny apartments" like the one in the background of Gage's Zoom audition. When Gage winces, the director realises he's not on mute. It's painfully awkward.

There's been plenty of coverage of the director's mortifying mute/unmute mistake - a classic example, say the newspapers, of Zoom etiquette gone terribly wrong.

And, after three days of silence, the guilty director eventually outed himself. Tristram Shapeero, who previously worked on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, penned an open letter of apology on the Deadline website:

"I was using the word ‘poor’ in the sense of deserving sympathy, as opposed to any economic judgment. My words were being spoken from a genuine place of appreciation for what the actors were having to endure, stuck in confined spaces, finding it within themselves to give a role-winning performance under these conditions."

Is this savvy PR, or an honest confession? In a sense, it doesn't matter - Shapeero's clumsy use of Zoom has effectively thrown a spotlight on the struggles of young actors - especially during these socially-distanced times.

Acting auditions in tiny apartments

Giving your best performance under pressure is difficult enough. Doing so under financial pressure is even harder. A 2014 study found that over half of UK actors earn under the poverty line - a shameful statistic for an industry that takes such good care of its stars. We're all working our socks off for our Big Break - and the sacrifices we make to get there can be huge.

Meanwhile, most of us are recording ourselves within living spaces we share with others, taping the pinnacle of our performing flair from the confines of a small room. As Gage discovered, this is far from ideal.

We completely get that, and we've lived that: it's why we've shared our top tips for self-tape scenes - including how to get the lighting and background of your recording spot on every time.

We're also proud that Flairbox is built to reward talent alone - that's why we exist in the first place. Your videos are front and centre of your profiles, and they're the key metric judged by Casting Directors on our platform. To learn more about how to impress them, check out our ultimate guide to being discovered on Flairbox.

Unmuting young actors

It's true that young actors don't have much of a platform to share their experiences, or their trials and tribulations, when they're striving instead to buff up their performances and add nuance to their characters.

At the very same time, actors pushing through their early careers are aware that they're competing against a huge number of astonishingly talented individuals. It's not exactly dog-eat-dog - we know actors support one another every day - but it's tough, often thankless work.

The upshot of Lukas' Zoom recording is that young actors can finally feel seen. This short viral video unmutes the rollercoaster that young actors find themselves on, showing the public that acting isn't all Hollywood glamour and red carpet pouts - there are plenty of lows, as well as the highs.

And, if nothing else, at least one director has eaten a sizeable slice of humble pie. Here's how Shapeero concluded his apology:

"I move forward from this incident a more empathetic man; a more focused director and I promise, an even better partner to actors from the audition process to the final cut."

We'll take him at his word. Let's hope other senior industry figures can be more like the amazing Casting Directors on Flairbox: they know, like us, that talent is always in the foreground - not the background.

By Alex King, Flairbox Contributor.

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