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CA Passes Law to Fight Actor Ageism

September 29, 2016

Did you ever lose a role because the producers and director of a given project “skewed younger?” Did you ever win a part because you pulled off a younger demographic? Perhaps you played a high school student when you were well out of college. Or maybe you played a thirty something in your late forties. And did you ever wish you were younger because the entertainment business is so youth-oriented? Well, being there is nothing to be done about Father Time’s march into the future, we might as well enjoy our aging. And there is some good news!

As of January 1st, 2017 California is combatting ageism in the entertainment industry. Leave it to good ol’ Cali! The law, AB 1687, applies to the entertainment database website IMDb as well as other similar websites regarding an actor or actress’ age and/or birth date. Specifically, if a thespian would like to keep his or her age a mystery, if they’d rather the whole world didn’t know the amount of time they’ve spent on the blue planet, it’s all good! Actors will soon be able to simply request their age be deleted from the online website–or better yet, request their birth date not be published in the first place.

Interestingly, this particular legislation doesn’t only apply to actors and actresses. Producers, directors, writers, DPs, grips, etc. may also opt out of the birthday game. So industry professionals and performers will be able to celebrate the day they showed up on this earth with loved ones, cake, ice cream, or champagne–and not have to publicize it!

Upon the law’s passing, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris announced:

“Gov. Jerry Brown today stood with thousands of film and television professionals and concerned Californians who urged him to sign AB 1687, a California law that will help prevent age discrimination in film and television casting and hiring.” 

Indeed, SAG and AFTRA have been fighting for this change for several years. After all, industry professionals heavily rely on IMDb, some touting it as the “most valuable resource” and “an integral part of the process” for filmmakers.

Among the countless list of casting professionals who routinely use IMDb is Casting Director Sharon Bialy who is known for her work on The Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad. She once described her reliance on the site saying, “I have [IMDb] up all day long at the office. For me it’s a tool that even when I’m on the phone with an agent and they suggest somebody…I’ll have the visual of who that is so can immediately discuss it.”

Describing the potential power such websites can have on an actor’s career, Carteris stated, “Many actors have endured age discrimination of some sort throughout their careers. Those isolated, individual cases have now morphed into the almost-automatic age discrimination made possible by the online casting services. The information is put front and center before those making the decisions about whom to audition and whom to hire.”

So the passing of AB 1687 is a giant step in the right direction for actors who pass for ages other than their natural age. Now, actors can refreshingly choose to have their presence, photos, and reels demonstrate their passable age.

And for the record, Casting Frontier is not affected by this law. Listing your date of birth is optional for those over the age of 18 on Casting Frontier actor profiles, and talent control all aspects of their profile including their birth date.