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Actor Commenter on Deadline Hollywood Article

Fear and uncertainty prevail in the casting workshop industry after yesterday’s article from Variety announcing that charges have been filed against 25 people for charging aspiring actors for auditions. Let’s be clear. Workshops are still legal. The major problem is that casting directors, even those who are following the law, are terrified they will be targeted if they continue to teach workshops. I understand this completely. Even if the charges do not hold up, they will cause huge amounts of stress, legal fees, and wasted time. Worst of all, they can potentially damage reputations. It’s just not worth it for most casting directors in Los Angeles to continue to teach workshops right now.

I am skeptical about the veracity of the charges in this particular “investigation.” I’ve had personal conversations with some of the individuals who were charged, and I know how careful they are about adhering to the law and even the CSA Guidelines. I’ve seen the disclaimers and contracts they use. I also know this “investigation” was spearheaded a while ago by individuals with an agenda of ending paid casting workshops… including the lawful, educational ones (even though they will ardently deny this agenda). Read my open letter on Deadline on this topic. So while I would like to believe that this investigation was carried out with the best interests of actors in mind, I am worried that may not be the case.

Ask yourself why these 25 people were singled out among all the teachers of workshops and owners of workshop studios. Did all of those casting directors claim the workshop was an audition? Really? Something smells fishy. I will reserve judgement until the accused have their day in court, and I encourage you to do the same. I can’t wait to hear about this undercover actor’s experiences. If he or she was really charged for an audition, then I support these indictments. But my heart goes out to these people if they have been falsely accused to make an example of them and scare other casting directors who teach workshops. Right now, it appears that following the law may not protect you from having charges brought against you, and that is truly terrifying.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully support the prosecution of scam artists who take advantage of actors. Part of the reason I created WorkshopGuru.com was so that actors could more easily share information about casting directors who were teaching crappy classes (no info, no feedback, poor attitude toward actors, etc.), and so actors could easily compare workshop studios and find the ones with the best prices and best customer service. I believe education is one of the best defenses against being taken advantage of, hence the weekly #GuruTips for Actors video series.

Unfortunately, there are LOTS of scams being perpetrated out there against actors. I’m just not sure this is one of them.

A commenter on the related article in Deadline Hollywood made some good points from an actor’s perspective:

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Also check out an article from KPCC, one of the news outlets who has published a response from one of the workshop studios and even an actor who values workshops.

We will see how this plays out in court. Meanwhile, WorkshopGuru.com will continue to publish up-to-date information on what workshops and classes are happening, and which have been cancelled. You can also find schedules of workshops and showcases with agents and managers.  Now, more than ever, it is important to anonymously share your workshop experiences by writing a review on the site. If you’ve had a negative experience in a workshop, share your story with the community in a safe space. If you’ve had a positive experience in a workshop, post that as well. We all benefit when we look out for one another and share information.

Check out our Workshop Survival Guide for ideas on what to do to stay proactive and engaged during this (hopefully temporary) reduction in the availability of casting workshops.

Wishing you all the best,

Ajarae

13 COMMENTS

  1. It looks like the truth is simply being exposed. I’ve been to many “workshops” at many studios in town, including ALL of the ones indicted by the city attorney. They are ALL the same. Every actor knows in their heart of hearts that you are paying to meet a CD you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Why? Because they’ve stopped attending plays, stand-up gigs, improv…etc because they get paid through the workshops. Several have said in workshops, “I don’t have time to just go and meet actors. My time is limited and valuable.” We all also know that people book work from attending workshops and formulating “relationships” with casting professionals. At its core, it is nothing more than the exploitation of actors. I know from my own experience. You can sugar coat it as much as you’d like, but if we’re going to be honest, I’ve spoken the truth here.

  2. So you’re saying this is a witch hunt? And NONE of those charged claimed the workshop session was a paid audition; I think that was the point. The rules are clear and if they didn’t follow them, either through intent or carelessness then there are consequences. The point of the law is to protect actors. When a CD is making money through a workshop company he owns in order to cast a show he is getting paid by producers to cast…I find that hard to justify. Follow the law and everyone will profit 🙂

  3. I’m torn because when I was first starting out, yes, I did get something out of workshops. I did a whole bunch of them in 1 month and by the end of the month I was no longer nervous in the room. Where else was I going to get that experience?

    Now, after working for some of these places, I’ve learned that some of these CDs charge up to $500 for a 1 night “workshop”. $500 for a few hours? Thats crazy! Some SAG films only pay $125/day.

    I fully understand the cost of renting out a room but on several occasions I’ve had CDs walk into the room and dismiss the Q&A because they just weren’t in the mood. Sadly, Casting Directors used to (and should still do) Generals. THAT is how you find actors.

    If a casting director is willing to spend a whole day with a group of actors to work on their auditioning skills, deciphering a script, etc then I saw bring it on! I’ve had great experience with CDs who taught full day classes or weekend classes. I’ve even been brought in and booked work from those CDs. There is real educational value in them. But these one-nighters have to stop and generals need to be brought back.

  4. I agree with Jon. Every workshop I’ve attended (at various providers) is basically the same; a quick q&a that tells me nothing I don’t already know and then performances with limited to no feedback. Like nearly everyone, I go knowing that I won’t be taught anything; it’s a chance to meet and perform for the casting director, hoping they’ll remember me. This is not a class. It’s not an audition either; at least at an audition you’re up for a role. This is paying for the chance to get an audition and it’s wrong. The entire formula of these workshops is fine if you subtract the compensation for casting directors. I’d gladly pay a fee to cover the expense of the location and paying the organizers, but if casting is truly getting something out of it (meeting new talent) then they should be willing to participate without it being a money-making experience. Note that some do teach actual classes, but the workshops targeted in this investigation, and the ones I’ve attended, are not classes and anyone saying otherwise is full of it.

  5. I know workshops get a bad wrap. Personally I feel like you have to go in them with the right mindset. You shouldn’t go to them with the thought that you are auditioning or expecting to get a job. You should go in there just hoping to learn something that you didn’t know before walking in the door. If you gain any piece of added knowledge than it’s worth it plus exercising those auditioning muscles in front of a well established casting director is a bonus. I’m sure there are some bad apples in the bunch and it sucks for us actors because we have to be in a constant state of putting ourselves out there and there is no blueprint to be successful. Everyone has to find there own way. Well either way I wish everyone success and I hope that those who were affected can still continue their careers with open hearts.

  6. What a strange industry. This is an almost impossible business, so actors should pay as much as we can to even the playing field? No. Shame on Casting Directors and others who pay to be seen. It is not complicated. It is illegal to charge for a chance at a job. The arrogance of CD’s is amazing. Shame.

  7. They teach nothing and please stop saying that. They won’t even talk to you unless you pay them and that is disgusting. They need to find fresh talent and faces and if they don’t get paid for the hour, they will better understand actors who make nothing for every audition we work our tails off for. Be grateful you can do what you love or do something else but stop charging actors just to see your face.

  8. I am willing to bet most are guilty as charged. And far more should be charged. Yes, for breaking the law. And even many who adhere to the guidelines are still nothing more than opportunists taking advantage of desperation. These workshops, by and large, are hideous.

  9. According to Gary Marsh CEO & Founder of Breakdown Services and Actors Access, etc. ‘within the first hour that a two-line co-star is up on the breakdowns 1750-2500 actors are submitted for that role by the top 10 agencies in LA.’ Now that “go-sees” are long a thing of the past, CD workshops created an opportunity to be seen. To learn details of a CD’s particular preferences regarding contacting them, accepting submissions, what they like and don’t like from actors. You also get to hear anecdotal information regarding what did and what did not make the difference when it came to landing the job. When done right, an additional mention that you’ve met can make the difference in being one of the 25 or 30 out of 2500 that actually get into the room. It’s NOT a “paid audition” its paying for networking and information. Those are the rules. The workshops I attend follow those rules to the letter. If they don’t I don’t go back. From my perspective every CD workshop I’ve attended paid for itself multiple times over. – Were there CDs who took advantage of “wannabe” actors in all this mess? Sure. – But from MY experience, at least 5 on the list with whom I’ve had personal experiences and were charged, are good, honest, hard-working members of our entertainment community, and unjustly had their careers tarnished (if not ruined) by this over-zealous witch hunt. – Most of the sour grapes I hear seem to be coming from actors who THOUGHT they were buying an audition and were therefore disappointed when they didn’t get what they were never promised. Sour Grapes. – This turn of events threatens to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” in some attempt to get notice. – I also wonder who this “undercover Professional Actor” is that the sent in to entrap people… I’d love to see their IMDB listing —

  10. I thought the United States of America was a “free enterprise system?”

    Whaaat?

    Has LA City and County separated itself from that concept?

    Dunno.

    To put it bluntly, this CD bashing hurts us! We are the aspiring actors! It hurts us!

    CD Bashing?

    It seems that every aspiring actor in LA should want to be active in the efforts to reestablish “us,” the talent, “We the People,” in some position where we have access to the industry on a level playing field (like we had until last week) with open markets into the CD Workshops, with qualified, creative. motivated, and interested CD’s in attendance, free from fear. To do that we must support our workshops and the CD’s who network with us in those workshops.

    Power to the People.

    Do you actors realize what the loss of ACTOR’S KEY alone represents?

    Whaaat? Loss?

    For those actors who can only complain about paying a small fee for networking with a CD, tell us your plan now. Do you intend on returning to street theater in front of Grumman’s, hoping to be noticed? How about doing a underfunded play in a 30 seat theater in Ventura and sending out postcards? One Man Shows?

    Get Real!

    We need access to good CD’s, real CD’s! The workshops gave us the access, and it gave the CD’s opportunities to get to know us!

    KooL

    As a SF/Bay Area actor burrowing into LA TV networks and film, I, like many others, was very dependent on access to CD’s through self-marketing. Without the direct and handy resource of WILLING CD’s and open access to CD markets with the hope of forming good communication with good CD’s, how do we self-market?

    Come on, tell me!

    It seems we are headed back to the dark ages of Hollywood TV and film, where unless your agent sends expensive gifts to the producers and parties all night with them, or the talent is back on the casting couch, we will all be limited to hoping for a “call-in” from “luck of the draw” Breakdowns and impersonal submissions.

    Luck?

    BTW, that is assuming you have an agent, which all of you do, eh? NOT !

    Hello Sumbuddy!

    Actors better take a second look at your options, because prosecuting and banishing CD’s, and us actors from having access to CD’s has the markings of big insider money behind it, union money, actor money, guild monies, that just like most other trades throughout U.S. history, wanted to keep the newcomers out of the business to safeguard their cloister and protect their job security.

    Well, I never knew that…

    Ask yourself this: is it possible that some “good old boy” nepotism combining with “politically” supportive journalism, i.e., “Hollywood Reporter” and other reporting, was able to force pressure onto LA County to enforce a valid law, but with obscure “charges” to fit some insiders’ interests?

    I’m jus’ sayin’…

    It’s like watching “On the Waterfront,” or “Hoffa” from the discomfort of your i Pad.

    I liked those flicks.

    LA County did not care a hoot about the workshops until “insiders” began their tactics and campaign, and make no mistake, LA County has much  greater “crimes” to pursue than this alleged “crime.” LA is one of the least safest, most homeless, and scariest cities and counties in the good ole U. S. of A. Don’t the city leaders have better plans and visions with tax funded LA courts, law enforcement, judges, and government paid-by-the-people lawyers?

    Of course!

    Is it possible that LA County was under pressure from insiders that came before us, who already made their mark? Those insiders have been annoyed with this new generation of open access to the industry since the first Reality TV show made a profit! 

    Whaaat?

    It’s a bad dream, guys and gals. Look at history!

    L@@K

    Look at the results of the Writer’s Strike: no access to getting a screenplay read.

    Lawyers running everything! Heard of the American Revolution?

    It’s scary to think this CD fracas is part of larger game of thrones involving industry money and politics, but let’s just consider that the “powers that be” have decided that the new generation of open access to the biz has threatened the rank and file.

    Really? But, I THOUGHT THEY LIKED US.

    So the hammer has fallen! LA County arraigns 25 CD’s and owners of workshops, starting a return to closing doors again! Welcome 1960.

    Yup!

    Make no mistake. LA has always been a town for those that got here first.

    Oh, Baloney!

    Without open access to CD Workshops those who did not “get there first” are back to relying on agents only, if they even have an agent…a rather dismal, pre-Internet, pre-digital, pre-You-Tube prospect.

    OhMiGosh!

    Just consider this before you bemoan the $40 it takes to network at a CD workshop: The big powers of LA do not want it happening that way.

    It makes sense to clean it up now that it’s been broken, but only if we don’t return to the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s when actors walked the streets unless someone sponsored them into an opportunity.

    Was Sal Mineo killed walking on an LA street?

    AND you ain’t gonna get discovered in a drugstore or the Top Hat CafĂ©!

    No Way.

    CSA and LA County are supposedly trying to define some new rules for workshops, but that will take time, and in the meantime, the good CD’s are all scared to go outside of their offices into anything that looks like a workshop. And if those new rules come into play we can be sure it will only be to “meet and greet,” and not to even dream of any future contact coming from the meeting.

    Whaaat?

    It’s possible that meeting CD’s, combined with an actor’s agency making a reference to the CD and actor meeting in combo with a submission will help, but its a peanut, beyond that, does anyone know what any aspiring actor in LA can do?

    Powerless, Baby!

    It has been said that CD’s will have to work harder to find talent if the workshops become a thing of the past because they won’t have the workshops to view 30 actors at a session, two or three nights a week.

    Maybe that is ONE good.

    Let Us Pray.

    Agents may have a bigger opportunity and return on investment if said agents will “sell” their actors into the rooms like they did in the Old Hollywood.

    Giddy-Up!

    Where are the A-List actor/activists who believe in Justice?

    HELP us ! We are your supporting cast members. HELP !

  11. So reading all these posts from disgruntled actors only proves that they have only gone to places that only care about making money and don’t follow the rules. Sad for them. Some workshops are pretty much non profit and offer a great source to work on audition techniques with industry guests who have a lot of invaluable tools to offer the actors….NO ONE EVER SAYS THIS AN AUDITION AND THE DISCLAIMER IS READ EACH TIME AND POSTED.
    You don’t know the positives and apparently Don’t care to educate yourselves.
    And hey we’re not babies, we can make our own choices, this is supposed to be a free country and no one is being forced to do them. Just don’t do them and leave us alone who value them.

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