I’m sure you predicted that this week’s Your Turn would be all about last week’s column on Age and IMDb. Let’s get to it, shall we?

First email:

What!? You mean when that casting director told me I had aged out of the character in his thirties just after my big 4-0, I was been fed a line?

Okay, all joking aside, if it is really important to you, your settings can be changed so your age doesn’t show on IMDbPro. It is on the IMDbResumé page, which is part of the IMDbPro account. You can also hide things like height or also known as.

This won’t affect IMDb settings. Their reasoning, which I have to agree with, is that the industry is going to go to the IMDbPro site.

Nathan Will

Thanks, Nathan. That tip came in from a bunch of folks. I greatly appreciate it. I wrote about that a year ago, when it was first offered up as an option from the good folks at IMDb, but it’s always a good idea to remind folks of the fact that birthdate is, in fact, “hideable” from the Pro side, which is where — like you said — industry buyers are going to be visiting the site.

Second email:

I was in a national SAG board meeting a full two years ago when this came up. Seriously, SAG has been dinking around with it for more than two years, claiming that they were in talks about it.

IMDb did make the concession that they would take it off the Pro version. So for all those people whining about age discrimination, it would be a hard case to make, legally, since the PROS would have IMDb PRO, would they not? So they aren’t seeing your age!

It is viewable on regular IMDb (the fan site) but not on IMDbPro.

That’s an important point. Folks who are upset that removing the birthdate from IMDb-Pro “isn’t enough” are missing the reality of how work is done — and at what pace — in the casting process.

Someone asked me via Facebook whether actors may never even get called in after submitting (or being submitted) because they are checked out on IMDb (where an actor’s birthdate is still published, even if removed from IMDb-Pro). I was like, “Are you really thinking that anyone in casting has time to look at a submission from a project they posted at Breakdown Services or LA Casting, leave that site, look up an actor on IMDb-Pro (where they’ll already be logged in), find the right actor (which is especially time consuming if the actor’s name is common), go to that actor’s Pro page, switch to the non-Pro version of the site so they can see the actor’s age, and then go back to the casting site to click ‘pass’ on the actor’s submission or decide to put that actor into the selects?”

That’s a lot of work — on one actor among thousands — before the selects have even been pushed through. What’s that quote that’s attributed to at least four different people, all over the Internet? Ah, yes: “We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.” Right. So, to assume that someone is doing that much digging before they’ve even decided whether you’re going to get called in is ludicrous. It’s much more about what is perceived about your brand — which I covered last week — and that’s alllll stuff you can control (unlike your age, or someone figuring that out).

Third email:

I was definitely on the other side of the fence going into reading your article. But what you are saying makes a great deal of sense. My frustration comes with the fact that every agent, manager, and even most producers I’ve ever met with have asked me my age. And it is not appropriate, in my opinion. And if I answer with something to the effect of not choosing to disclose that information, I am met with a judgmental frustration that belies the claim that age doesn’t matter. If it didn’t matter, why are they asking?

There is a cultural affirmation of the idea that an actor’s worth decreases with age. This is of course an exception with certain stars. God bless Betty White! And we’ve no doubt seen Meryl Streep’s career continue to flourish and grow. But I would still contend that there is a shared collective belief that actors (and in particular female actors) get judged on their credits in relation to their age. An inverse relationship. So especially for actors starting out, the older one is, the more collective feedback there is to the belief that one’s worth is declining.

I’m definitely not saying I believe this. And, having worked in casting, I agree wholeheartedly with what you said about how casting is often about issues not at all related to the reasons offered in order to end the conversation. And I also concede that every profession arguably has age bias. A lawyer who is 30 with no resumé experience should maybe by rights be suspect. Or at least should understand when he loses the job to the 25-year-old post grad with work experience under his belt. By that same token, in fields like medicine, law, academia, it can be argued that one’s worth increases with age and experience. That age as a factor can be a source of respect, worth, credentials, merit, mentorship. Whereas the cultural stereotype is rampant of the washed up 30-year-old actress who is, by Hollywood standards, over the hill.

It’s out there, thick. The collective bias. And I find it hard to be convinced it is harmless information. Either way, thanks for the provocative perspective and intelligent insight.

Ooh, let’s go back to my column on expectations. You may recall that I wrote about how people will ask someone’s age to determine where they should be, based on where that person is and what she has accomplished. They’ll ask, “Who’s your agent,” because they want to make the leap that if they could get with that agent, they could get that appointment you got, rather than attributing your success to the factors that actually matter (not age, not rep, but instead a history of relationship building and hustling and the right attitude and a zillion factors that may or may not actually contribute to the thing about which the person is grilling you).

Absolutely, people are obsessed with asking women what their age is. The thing is, they’re obsessed with asking their male prospective clients, cast members, etc., too! But the men don’t talk about it. They don’t stress about it. They don’t believe at their core that their best years are behind them, ever, and we could say it’s because our society conditions them to believe that. But then how is that Hollywood’s fault? It’s happening everywhere.

I turned 37 and people started asking, “Oh… so, no kids, then?” as if I had reached the age that meant I’d made some political decision. It’s a shitty question and I realized I would never say to a woman pushing a stroller, “Oh… so, no career, huh?” But people get weirdly inappropriate because of their frame of reference, because of their beliefs and needs. It has nothing to do with whether or not someone could get cast, but they’ll ask how old the actor is, because — to them — it’s a benchmark that means something. To them.

I have to say, being on “the bad side of 40” has been the coolest thing, for me. It’s given me great awareness of the things that people expect to see in a life, by a certain age. It also gives me the right to say, “piss off,” on a lot of it. 🙂 Because it’s nobody’s business and I see decades still stretched out ahead of me, here, and I’m not going to back down on my goals and dreams just because I should feel small due to the number of candles on my cake, the size of my body, the car I drive, my ZIP code, whatever.

Is there bias? You betcha. And there always will be some, somewhere. To vilify a site is to feed the societal breakdown that causes these expectations and limiting beliefs to feed one another already, as it is. It’s just a bunch of actors giving away their power, saying they’re not getting their due, due to this site. And who says anyone automatically deserves anything anyway?

Let’s say the actor suing gets IMDb to relent (which they never will, because the lawsuits will flow like mad and the company will go bankrupt, trying to pay out all the claims — probably class action style — for all the damages actors will say the site caused them, for years) and the site goes away and now there’s no more centralized database for actor birthdates (or anything else).

Then what do the actors who feel they’re not being cast enough start to blame?

There will always be something that blaming types blame. 🙂 And those who choose to shrug and say, “Yeah, that sucks! Good thing I have these kazillion other ways to hustle and get my work seen and connect with buyers and teach them how to cast me,” will win the day, and blamers will start asking them, “how old are you,” or, “who’s your agent,” because they can’t figure out what they are doing right, since it’s gotta be some secret unlocked by those banal questions.

Nope.

It’s attitude. It’s hustle. It’s letting the unfortunate societal circumstances that absolutely do exist not creep into your day to day. 🙂 And that is a choice.

Fourth email:

Exactly. I couldn’t agree more. My age or gayness or eyelash length never has anything to do with my roles, and I have the footage to prove it. It’s mine or it’s not. Period. These people I hear ranting at the unions are just embarrassing. They could spend that energy on new photos and a butt-firming walk around the block.

Again, kudos to you and your rational point of view.

xoxo
Bobby Reed

Love it. 🙂 The overwhelming majority of responses I got to last week’s column were just like that, from folks who are OVER hearing people complain about what’s not working.

Again, I never want anyone to roll over when they’re feeling bullied or put down. I never want someone to accept injustice and “take it” when a revolution is coming. It’s just that ageism isn’t going to go away, even if — by some miracle — IMDb decides to stop publishing birthdates.

Fifth and final email:

In a town so based in “perception,” I feel “real age” can be a killer. It may not be specific to a casting session, but it certainly is batted around on an executive level. In the bubble we work in, youth is the Holy Grail. Aging in this town is a bitch. Performance is about illusion. Performers have an age range that very well can be outside of their real age.

In a business of “No,” actors need every weapon they can find to battle “No,” whether it’s Botox, Clairol, or no birth year published for all the world to see. Unfortunately in the Wiki world we now live in, I also believe that train has left the station.

John McCormick

Let me first address the “weapons to battle ‘No'” thing. Sure, if you tend to focus on the “No,” you should arm yourself with weapons for that battle. It’s the only way you’ll survive. And — sadly — it’s a prescription for bitterness to choose to live a life of battle, when that’s only one of many options, no matter what career you’ve chosen. I’ve written before about how I simply don’t see this as a “business of ‘No.'” Not by a long shot. It’s a business of selective inclusion, and not everyone will be included at the highest level. Good! Just like you wouldn’t want amateur football players suiting up against the pros in the Super Bowl, Actor Darwinism prevents injury at a much deeper level than physical. This business isn’t for everyone.

For those who choose it, though, focusing on “battle” is eventually going to lead to bitterness. What happens when someone slices up their face, gets hair plugs, goes through liposuction, changes themselves entirely because they believe it will help them get cast… and they still don’t get cast? What then? Ick. Why go through that? Choose happy. Live a life in which you search for the YES. Leave the “No” stuff alone. It’s ridiculously liberating.

During a casting meeting I had last week, we had something come up that totally proves the point that real age doesn’t having anything to do with an actor’s ability to win or lose the role. We’re looking to cast a female who is single, frazzled, can’t pull her life together, and her lovely journey throughout the film is what the audience roots for (we’ve seen this formula a thousand times, of course).

On the producers’ list was a name I had to toss out: Julie Bowen.

Why? Her brand. Because her brand is now linked to Modern Family and her Emmy-winning role of “mom” (and not just “mom,” but “mom to a daughter who’s about to head off to college”), she won’t be an easy sell, as investors go, when they’re considering whether they’ll make their money back on a film in which Julie Bowen is in the role that usually goes to your Jennifer Aniston types. (She, by the way, has made a career out of branding herself that way. All the way to the bank.) What is irrelevant is Julie Bowen’s actual age, or marital status for that matter. What matters is, she’s in millions of homes, weekly, as someone who has a child who is old enough to vote. That is going to make it nearly impossible to believe she is the gal who dates loser after loser after loser… and we cannot wait to see her finally settle down. It’s not about her age. Not at all.

It’s about her brand.


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001418.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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