Acting is a tough profession, filled with more failure to obtain work than success. It’s difficult enough to find paying acting jobs, and even more difficult to find high paying acting work (certainly, without government interference with our ability to conduct business).
This is due in no small measure to limited access to casting directors, who are increasingly overworked and underpaid.
Being able to meet a casting director and perform for them is crucial to an actor’s success. This happens most often when called in for an audition – which happens most often when an actor has representation.
But what if you are agent-less? How do you attract the attention of a casting director who spends most of his or her time choosing potential audition participants from a pool of actors found on Breakdown Services, most whom have agents or managers?
It’s difficult at best, but, fortunately, there are other opportunities to meet casting directors: casting workshops.
These casting workshops usually consist of 20 or so actors, meeting in the evening or on the weekends, learning from a guest casting director (or assistant or associate) about how the process of casting works in their offices, and then receiving sides from that CD based on an examination of the actors’ headshots and resumes, rehearsing them for a few minutes, performing them for or with the casting person, getting valuable feedback and adjustments. The casting director usually makes notes on the individual actor’s headshots to remind them of their skill level and any interesting facets of the actor’s experience, and then keeping those headshots in a file at their offices for reference should a part come up that that actor might be right for.
That’s the way it’s supposed to work: a business person (the actor) meeting a customer (the casting person), displaying their wares and leaving behind a sample (the performance) and a business card (headshot and resume). And an actor should be like any other businessperson – they use any opportunity to meet their potential customer’s needs and, hopefully, fill them.
Whether or not the casting director volunteers unpaid for the evening, or is paid for his or her time (usually the princely sum of $150 or $200 for the evening, a fifth of what a bartender or waiter, common jobs for actors, can make at a popular bar or restaurant in an evening), both the casting director and actor should be free to enter into this arrangement, and casting workshop companies should be free to arrange for these workshops.
Likewise, organizations like the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG), the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFTRA), The Actors’ Network and others should be free to arrange for meeting space, invite casting directors and actors alike to participate in free workshops.
Both free and paid workshops serve several purposes: to educate and inform actors as to the way the casting office and process works, and to educate and inform casting directors about the pool of potential actors available for current and future projects. There is nothing wrong with this process: it is our contention that far from being a paid audition, it is an amazing opportunity for both actor and casting director to discover each other and find success where none might have existed.
We believe that the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, California AB1319, now currently state law, places all parties in an uncertain and unsafe position, greatly interferes with actors’ abilities to conduct themselves as any other business person wanting to market their services to potential customers, and hangs a Sword of Damocles over the heads of both casting personnel and casting workshop companies, placing their actions and viability in jeopardy. We believe overall that this Act abridges the First Amendment rights of both casting directors and actors.
We do believe that Paul Krekorian, the author of this Act, had his heart in the right place: to protect actors from the scam artists who take advantage of actors who have not educated themselves as to how the industry really works, and end up paying incredible sums of money to scam modeling agencies, fakers posing as managers and agents, con men and women who fill parents’ heads with dreams of stardom for their cute children. We join Mr. Krekorian in our condemnation of such organizations and their practices.
But we feel that AB 1318 throws the baby out with the bathwater: acting workshops are either free or reasonably priced, they provide much needed education as to how the industry really works, and they can make a star of those well skilled actors who, while previously unable to get the attention of an agent or casting director because they had no credits. There are no starry eyed dreamers in these workshops. The attendees are well aware that they are placing themselves in competition with other actors to stand out and excel at their work and potentially break in to a very difficult business.
The proof of this is in the pudding: the list of actors who have found success is long and lustrous. While the list of people who have not found success via workshops, paid or not, is far longer, it’s not the fact that some workshops charge to attend causes that failure. Rather it’s that success in show business is based on business acumen and talent, and no amount of workshop fee money can change that.
This website is designed to inform actors, CDs, workshop and networking companies and politicians of the chilling effects removing the freedom to choose between paid and/or unpaid casting workshops creates. We seek change in the law to affirm the right of all parties to engage in these casting workshops, and to remove the danger of violation of state law in doing so.
We will not cease our efforts until actors have the affirmative right to attend these workshops, casting directors have the right to teach at them, paid or not, and companies have the right to hold them.