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soon be able to simply request their age be deleted from the online website–or better yet, request their birth date not be published in the first place.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.

 

Landmark Lawsuit about Ageism in Hollywood Rejected by Jury

April 15, 2013

Huong Hoang is the Asian-American actress from Texas who filed a lawsuit with the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) initially in 2011 for over one million dollars. According to her suit, the company posted her actual date of birth against her wishes on her IMDb Pro subscription service. She is now 42, but because she has maintained a youthful appearance and tries to pass for younger roles, she filled out her IMDb page claiming to be years younger. Her case has sparked a hot debate over the prevalence and consequences of ageism in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Hoang’s lawsuit claimed:

“In the entertainment, youth is king. If one is perceived to be ‘over the hill,’ i.e., approaching 40, it is nearly impossible for an up-and-coming actress, such as the Plaintiff, to get work as she is thought to have less of an ‘upside,’ therefore, casting directors, producers, directors, agent/managers, etc. do not give her the same opportunities, regardless of her appearance or talent.”

Many actors were glad to have this issue discussed publicly–an issue that affects so many in the acting field. Even SAG and AFTRA came forward to condemn IMDb for its policy on the matter, insisting IMDb was morally obligated to refrain from discrimination in the realm of actor employment.

In response to the suit, IMDb filed for a motion to dismiss the case last week, arguing they had a First Amendment right to publish accurate information, saying:

“Truth and justice are philosophical pillars of this Court. The perpetuation of fraud, even for an actor’s career, is inconsistent with these principles. Plaintiff’s attempt to manipulate the federal court system so she can censor IMDb’s display of her birth date and pretend to the world that she is not 40 years old is selfish, contrary to the public interest and a frivolous abuse of this Court’s resources.”

Additionally, the company asserted it is protecting entertainment consumers from an actress who wants to “more easily deceive the public and prospective employers about her age and potentially be considered for more roles.”

Indeed, Hoang’s suit asserted she was fired from a film after its producers learned of her actual age on IMDb.

Well, a federal jury in Seattle rejected the claim, although the details of the jury’s deliberations have not emerged. At the end of the trial, IMDb’s lawyers said, “Hoang did not present any testimony, documents, or other evidence supporting her damages, allegations of lost income and profits.”

Hoang, who goes by the name Junie Hoang, has appeared in the films Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver and Hoodrats 2: Hoodrat Warriors. In case you’re wondering just how IMDb even knew her actual birth date, Hoang claims it is because the site used her credit card information along with the PrivateEye.com website. Hoang stated, “What’s at stake here involves far more than just my own career. Anyone who values their privacy and has ever given credit card information to an online company like IMDb or Amazon.com should be concerned about the outcome.”

IMDb is owned by Amazon.com.

Well, there you have it. Are any of you concerned about the outcome of this case? Are you comfortable with IMDb researching actors’ actual birthdays and publishing them online? And, is an actor’s real age relevant for casting purposes or is the age he or she can convincingly play all that really matters?