The Casting Directors’ Guild committee calls on the UK’s television and film industry, in light of COVID-19, to safeguard the future of UK theatre and theatre makers. The talent fostered in theatres throughout Great Britain and Ireland is envied around the world and is endlessly drawn on by screen media. We believe that television and film production companies must confront a stark reality: that, without your help, the talent pool which we all rely on faces its greatest existential threat in a generation.
In 1963, Anthony John, a theatre director (and father of current CDG Vice Chair Priscilla John), informed Howard Thomas, who ran the Associated British Corporation, that without financial assistance from the more affluent television sector, the theatres in which they found their directors, writers and actors would be run dry.
Aware that his network’s hugely influential Armchair Theatre had relied on and ultimately depleted talent both on and off stage, Thomas recognised the time to pay back had come and gave John the resources to establish the Regional Theatre Young Directors’ Scheme. The subsequent programme, and the successful writers’ initiative that followed, gave a platform to creators who would go on to push the boundaries of theatre, film and television for the next 50+ years and alumni include Ken Loach, Sue Townsend, Trevor Nunn, Sue Pomeroy & Bill Bryden.
Television and film continue to reap the benefits of UK theatres’ innovation and industry, with artists now celebrated for their screen work – from Sam Mendes to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Abi Morgan to Chiwetel Ejiofor – having forged their careers on and around stages of all sizes in the UK and Ireland. Put simply, television comedy, for example, would be forever changed without the Edinburgh Fringe, leading actors in studio films would never have been discovered without the bold experimentation of affiliate theatres and celebrated screenwriters would have gone unnurtured without their local theatre’s new writing schemes.
It is vital that we, as an industry, acknowledge the grim ramifications of abandoning our theatre colleagues as they face the fallout from COVID-19. The Casting Directors’ Guild call on the more financially robust sectors of the arts to, once again, create unique creative and financial partnerships in a bid to save our theatres and keep the wheel of talent turning, to the benefit of the entire entertainment industry.
The Casting Directors’ Guild Committee: Victor Jenkins (chair), Priscilla John (vice-chair), Andy Brierley, Sophie Parrott, Kate Ringsell & Jessica Ronane