Are you an actor who only does workshops with casting professionals who are CURRENTLY working on projects? Stop it. Only targeting casting pros with projects casting right now is a short-sighted strategy that probably indicates a slight problem with your perspective on the purpose of casting director workshops. This “casting right now” strategy is costing you valuable time and money, and probably not getting you the results you desire. Why? Because you are not focused on relationship-building, which is the real value of workshops. If you slightly tweak your perspective, chances are you’ll start seeing better results from your workshops with casting directors.

Be honest with yourself. Why are you doing casting director workshops?
A) to impress the casting director so she’ll bring me in for an audition next week
B) to learn more about the casting director and how her office operates
C) because I never audition and someone told me these were a good way to meet CDs
D) to show the casting director that I am a trained actor ready to work, and to start a mutually beneficial relationship

All of these are valid to some extent. Even A happens occasionally. That’s how I booked my very first network television role! But please don’t go into every workshop expecting this, and don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. In fact, I am going to try to convince you that you should focus on B and D.
The anti-workshop camp can’t stand the idea of casting director workshops because they believe actors are being forced to pay for job interviews. But workshops aren’t job interviews. Auditions are job interviews. Workshops are networking opportunities. What’s the difference, you ask?

Well, let’s think about it. Why do job interviews happen in the corporate world? An employer has a specific opening to fill, and they are looking for a qualified candidate to fill that opening as soon as possible. They have an immediate need for a new employee. Candidates submit resumes for consideration, and/or the employer makes a list of people he knows whose skills match the requirements of the job. The employer invites a list of candidates to meet him for job interviews and then decides who would be the best fit.

Yup. Sounds just like the audition process, doesn’t it? Casting directors (working on behalf of employers) have a specific role (job) to fill. Usually quickly. Agents and actors submit headshots and resumes for consideration and/or the CD makes a list of actors she ALREADY knows whose qualities match the role. The casting director invites a lists of actors to audition. She either decides who gets the job, or sends a smaller list to her employer of actors who will be the best fit for the role.

Now let’s think about networking events. First of all, we usually have no problem paying for these. I happily pay for a Women In Film networking breakfast or my ticket to a conference for entrepreneurs, to name a couple of examples. The hosts of these events incur a cost to put these things on! And as the owner of a business, I understand the concept of paying for something of value that I receive. So do I expect to leave these networking events with a job, or to get a call next week from someone who wants to interview me? Not really. But I do expect to learn something helpful, and to build relationships. During these networking events, I connect authentically with people, I learn what they do, and I teach them what I do. I build relationships that may be mutually beneficial immediately… or six months from now… or a year from now. And that’s what I prepare myself to do as I plan for these events. Same goes for workshops.

If I had to pick three elements that encapsulate the purpose of workshops, they would be:

  1. To learn things about the casting director and their office that you can’t learn online, like how their office runs auditions, how they like to be contacted and followed up with, specific details about the projects they cast, and the casting director’s sensibilities when watching actors work.
  2. To show the CD what skills, energy and essence you bring as an actor. To show them how you would fit into the kinds of projects they cast, and to start a relationship that will last long into both of your careers.
  3. To show the CD that you are a professional actor who can be trusted.

So the biggest reason that the “casting right now” workshop strategy is seriously flawed is that it implies that the only CDs worth establishing a relationship with are those who just happen to be working on a project on the day you have that workshop. See how silly that is? Never mind the fact that the CD may be coming off of hiatus to re-start casting on her long-running series next month. Never mind the fact that she may get a call tomorrow from a film director who always works with her office (yes, always) to start casting a project that happens to be perfectly in line with your goals as an actor.

So I think you get my point. I encourage you to develop more of a longer term, strategic view on casting workshops. Set goals according to the kind of acting work that inspires you, or that will bring your career to the next level. Choose goals according to what YOU actually want to do, not what someone else told you is a good idea. Workshop with casting directors whose projects tend to be in line with your goals, and nurture those relationships!

Now please, go have fun showing all the value you can bring to this wonderful process of storytelling in the form of TV, film and theater! Tweet to me at @ajarae or @workshopguru and share how you are going to implement a long-term, relationship-building strategy around workshops. Have a great weekend!

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Ajarae is an actress and entrepreneur living in Los Angeles. She founded Workshop Guru in 2012, which expanded into Acting Resource Guru in 2017, to help actors save time and money on classes and workshops, and give them a powerful voice by publishing anonymous actor reviews of acting schools, casting directors, talent agencies and management companies. You can see Ajarae on shows like ABC’s SCANDAL, REVENGE, PRIVATE PRACTICE, and THE CATCH, CBS’s THE McCARTHYS, 2 BROKE GIRLS, and NCIS: NEW ORLEANS, NBC’s DAYS OF OUR LIVES, TNT’s PERCEPTION, I'M SORRY on TruTV, and more. She raised over $17,000 and co-created an action comedy television show called SMACK Unit, currently has national commercials running, and has cultivated rewarding relationships with her agents and manager.

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