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Aren’t paid workshops, plain and simple, illegal under California law?

Yes. Or no. It depends upon how the workshop is conducted. And we believe that the current law is, at the very least, ambiguous, and at best, interferes with an actor’s opportunity to meet a potential customer, and we want that law changed.

Why don’t you just go to free workshops?

We can, and we do. We just want the choice, affirmed by state law, to let the marketplace decide.

Isn’t this just payola for CDs?

We don’t think so. As a 30 year veteran of radio, I can tell you that the radio payola scandals of the 50s were a far better example of what “pay for play” really is. But in the case of DJ’s spinning records in return for money, the actual performance was the end result. That example doesn’t hold up when compared to a typical casting workshop, where you’re dozens of steps away from actually getting cast in a TV show or a film. The truth is, workshops are populated with all levels of actors, including ones that are not ready yet to be seen by a casting director, or, in turn, be presented to the real decision makers in TV and film. We think the price someone pays to attend a workshop, network with the CD, network with fellow actors, learn what to do (and, sometimes more importantly, what NOT to do) in an audition situation is next to nothing when compared to the costs of all the other marketing efforts an actor can undertake. And we feel the $150 to $200 that casting directors make for the evening is entirely reasonable and hardly payola.

Wait a minute…that math doesn’t work out. Where does the rest of the money go?

20 actors times $40 is $800 (if they are completely full in class, which doesn’t always happen). Let’s say the casting director gets $200 of that. The other $600 (the maximum – could be less if the class isn’t full) goes to the casting workshop company to pay for the space, the furnishings, the electricity, the administration of the workshop itself, the producer and reader (either in direct pay or in free workshops, reducing the income of the workshop the producer or reader ends up taking for free), marketing, legal, accounting and other business related costs and the remaining funds, if any, as a profit (or loss, if the classes aren’t full).

Why can’t casting directors just teach for free?

They certainly can, and some of them do – that’s their choice. If you’re an actor reading this, ask yourself how you feel every time someone asks you to act in a production for free – or, even worse, pay to be in a stage production? You have the choice and freedom to say yes or no to such situations, and no one is forcing you to do anything at all. Casting directors are no different, and the fact that they might be able to bring you in for a role you’re right for is separate from the idea that paying a professional for their time to teach you something isn’t dependent upon their ability to introduce you to a production.

Isn’t it part of the casting director’s job to meet new people?

Certainly. Their effectiveness as casting directors is partially related to being able to meet and judge the possibilities presented by new faces. And it can happen anywhere: an audition in their office, at a restaurant, a conference, in an elevator, at a dinner party – or at a workshop – or a million other places. CDs always have their radar going looking for potential actors to bring in. We believe that casting workshops provide a prime opportunity to not just sit next to a potential actor at dinner and make small talk, but to interact with, and see that actor work.

Why can’t casting directors just watch television, see movies and go to plays?

They can and they do. And that opens their eyes to some possibilities – the actors that are already working. Chances are, if a casting director has been working for some time in the industry, they’re going to know far more people in the cast of any TV show or film than you would imagine. And where we might say, when talking about an often-working character actor, “You’d know him if you’d see him even if you don’t know his name” – CDs usually know their name. Casting workshops is one more way to present casting directors with a larger universe of actors to choose from, most of whom still don’t have their first major credit.

If you came to this page looking to see if your question’s been answered and it’s not here, go ahead and ask it below in the comments.

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