My friend Bob Frazier has been working in the business for a long time. The phrase “show runner” was first used to refer to Bob when he was running the legendary sitcom, Benson. His site, http://www.showbizhowto.com, is an amazing resource for actors, and I value his opinion. He and I have had healthy and vital discussions about the realities of working in show business, sometimes disagreeing, but most in lockstep, about treating your career like a business. Here’s his take on the business of whether or not to attend casting workshops.
Well, I’ve been getting a lot of email from my subscribers asking me to weigh in on this casting director workshop discussion.
Most of the actors writing to me are asking whether or not I think casting director workshops are of any value.
With that in mind, here’s my ‘take’ on the whole CD Workshop question.
(Before I begin, let me say that I think Bonnie has some of the best career information in the business – and expresses it better than anyone out there, including me. I say this up front because Bonnie is a casting director and some of the things I’m going to say about casting directors – in general – might be thought to be a bit negative.)
As I said to David at dinner the other night (before his website went up); the most important thing actors need to understand about these ‘workshops’ is that casting directors are mostly former actors.
That word “former” is very important inasmuch as it points us to something that a lot of new-ish actors are overlooking – “you are trying to get good career information from someone who did not succeed at a career where they claim expert status.”
This is a huge disconnect when it comes to the idea that you will actually get good career advice at a casting director workshop. (By the way, you probably won’t get good career advice from most acting teachers either – unless they happen to be successful actors.)
What you do get from CD workshops is some ‘face time’ with the casting director in the workshop. (What you get from acting teachers is an ‘outside eye’ – to help you improve your craft.)
Another point I made with David is that there seems to be a large number of actors who think that they are dealing with ‘decision makers’ at some of these workshops – and nothing could be further from the truth.
Do you seriously believe that a television series producer, film director or any combination of producer and director – allows a casting person to decide who is cast in the project?
Believe me, that never happens.
(In fact, Spielberg – famously – is involved in choosing extras for his projects.)
To jump on an analogy that was used earlier – you are not paying to see the CEO … you are paying to see someone in the personnel department (and in some cases you are paying to see an assistant in the personnel department).
Back to the question – do I think it’s worth paying for a casting director workshop to gain access to some casting directors?
Sure, why not?
In many respects, as David points out, it’s advertising, promotion … dare I say, a business expense.
So, go ahead and sign up, pay and go – as long as you realize what is going on in these ‘workshops’ … you are simply paying to be seen by a casting director.
By the way, with that in mind, be sure to check to see if the casting director actually has a current assignment before paying to see her (him) – because paying to be seen by someone without a job is sort of silly.
Now, I know that there will be those who say “you cannot get in to see the decision makers without first getting by the casting director” – and, yes, this is true.
That’s why we hire casting directors – to winnow down the applicants for each acting job to a reasonable number. In other words the real job is to say ‘no’ to a lot of actors – most of whom fall into Bonnie’s on-the-nose category, “What Were You THINKING?”
As I say in my workshops – the casting director’s main job is to keep the crazy people away from Spielberg.
Finally, I agree with David’s overall point – the government should not interfere with legitimate business opportunities, simply because some intelligence-challenged hoopers can’t tell the difference between a legitimate opportunity and a scam.
In fact, a better plan (in my mind) is to prosecute the scam artists using current laws having to do with unfulfilled contractual obligations (what is said is just as important as what the written contract says – ask any car dealer).
That’s the way to stop ‘talent scouts’ from proliferating.
Am I right about all of this? I don’t know – it’s just my opinion based on 50 years in showbiz, enjoying some success as an actor, writer, producer and director.
In the end, you each have to make up your own mind and decide for yourself.
Deciding is the most important skill you can develop if you hope to make a living in the ‘arts.’
(And, yes, that’s another opinion – but I know I’m right.)