Not too long after I posted the entry about casting director workshops and how to best utilize them, I got immediate criticism, mainly from casting director Billy DaMota and others who insisted that these workshops are a waste of time & money, and worst of all, they are a scam that rips off actors (Billy also went on to nitpick my resume and asked why I have 6 co-stars on it from network TV shows). So for today’s entry, let’s look from the perspective of why casting director workshops are not ideal and if there are any POSSIBLE solutions I can theorize if casting director workshops were to be banned forever.
I must stress here that I am a supporter of casting director workshops but I also see a lot of problems with it and see where people can get disgruntled about it. So here we go!
For starters, let’s start with the cold, hard facts. An actor pays to go meet a casting director and that casting director gets pocket money for every workshop they attend. Depending on the reputation of the office and rank position of the casting individual (a casting assistant would get a lot less than the head casting director), the range in how much they are paid varies significantly. There are also casting directors who own their own casting workshop facilities or teach their own acting classes. Some are legit. Some are not. Does any of this rub you off the wrong way? That’s for you to decide. It’s not like they make a boat load of money doing casting work in their offices so whether or not getting a lil (or a lot) side pocket money is ethical to you is entirely dependent on what the worth a casting director is and how much they should get paid for their jobs (which, more often than not, does not get any recognition).
You may then ask: “Why do I even have to pay casting people for them to even see my work?”
Excellent point. Before casting workshops even existed, casting folks had to go to plays, stand up shows, film festivals, and other areas of entertainment to find actors. That was the old way, before casting workshops became one of the primary (and easiest & most profitable) way to find actors. Why go to a play (even when comped) when you can go to a workshop and get paid for it? This is not to say that all casting folks think like this but slowly but surely, it has become quite a convenient vehicle that is hard to argue against as a casting individual take a risk watching a play or standup routine that may or may not be good. If the performance sucked, the person wasted 2+ hours of their life with a sour taste left in their mouth. With a workshop, they can expect at least a few good actors and get money for their time. Once again, does this rub you off the wrong way? That’s for you to decide once again.
Casting workshops are NOT meant for educational purposes. I don’t care what any casting workshop facility says, most people in casting are not qualified to teach acting (taking an acting class back in college and being in a few tv shows/indie movies does not count) nor should you go to casting workshops and have that substitute for genuine acting class. So when a casting director tells you that you are too theatrical? Take that with a grain of salt. When they give you a 1 on a headshot for evaluation that your theatrical agent loves? Who gives a shit. An actor must remember that casting directors are not gods, they are only mere gatekeepers and as such, your attitude should not be crushed when they give you a bad mark.
They also do not guarantee any audition or job opportunities. They are solely for networking purposes, similar to an actor paying to be in a industry gala event. That’s it. Now, when I say that, let’s get to the other real truth. Casting workshops do not guarantee auditions but more often than not, they are used to fill co-star roles, the one to 5 liner roles that they rather not send out breakdowns on (and thus going through 500-1200 submissions and then picking out 10-30). Mind you, this does not apply 100% of the time as I have seen (and personally experienced) casting folks bring in actors for larger roles. But most of the time, workshops are used to fill co-star roles.
Newcomer actors are told that casting workshops are necessary and that it’s a major gateway to starting your career. This idea is absolutely false. Casting workshop is just one out of many ways to create an acting career for yourself. Most new actors do not realize this and because of that, they spend a lot of money on meeting as many casting directors as they can without making the most of who they’re meeting and why they even bothered to spend money on a casting director who casts a show that is not right for them. More importantly, they waste money trying to scatter themselves out when they should really be focused in training, creating a strong demo reel & website, and getting all their materials in order.
With over 40+ casting workshop facilities in LA, it is hard for a newbie actor to decide which place to go to. Places like TVI Studios and Your Studio Productions charge an exorbitant amount of money for their workshops when you can take the same kind of workshops at a much lower price in places like The Bridge or Actor’s Artistry. Some places spam the living daylights out of you every single day and tell you how PERFECT you are for one casting director (when you’re clearly not) while others send you an email once or twice a month that new workshops are posted.
I will admit though that it is also troubling to see when random places host their own casting workshops. When I saw a well known headshot printing facility began to host their own workshops, I had to shake my head. What better way to get extra money than to hold casting workshops? When I hear this, I get disgusted and it is here that I began to wonder if there are alternatives to casting workshops.
So summary of the cons of casting workshops:
1. You have to pay for them.
2. Casting folks are not ideal acting teachers and CAN give feedback that is unfounded
3. Some casting workshop facilities rip the shit out of actors with high charges
4. Casting workshops are not a jumpstart to your career, whatever anybody says.
5. Non-casting workshop facilities are having their own workshops. Lame.
As of this moment, I am afraid to say that there won’t be a substitution for casting workshops anytime soon. Like I mentioned before, why would a casting director bother to watch a play when they can go to a workshop and get paid for it? The only way this concept were to be radically changed is if casting workshops were outlawed altogether. But in order for that to work, an actor would need to file a lawsuit on behalf of actors and press charges that workshops are unethical, harmful, and a complete lie. I know I can’t personally say this to be true as I have benefited greatly from doing workshops. However, I know most actors aren’t like me and can’t say the same. But there must be many disgruntled, bitter actors out there who feel like this is the case and so if one of them wants to take the charge, they should do so and see how far they can go with that. Who knows? Perhaps they may win.
My personal suggestion? If you asked me what could you do with your career that had nothing to do with workshops without taking drastic legal actions, I would tell you that you would need to amp up your marketing skills. Create a FB fan page, a Twitter account, a Linkedln profile, Instagram, and so on. Use it frequently and use it well. Create a unique and simple webpage. Create enough social media presence so that when people google your name, the first 8 results should be all about you. Create a strong demo reel, whether relying on your friends or through legit reel making services. Market yourself through effective means to find agents and managers who believe in you (and then check out this article). Create your own content and create it well. Market that constantly. Collaborate with others and keep them close to you. Do not be so snobby to turn down student films (especially grad thesis level) or indies, for you may never know where that director or producer will go onto next. Thank them for an awesome experience and you’d be surprised how often they will think of you for their next project because you were such a pro when you worked with them on their no-budget short film. Write to producers, directors, and writers you best want to work with. Write to their legal reps or production companies to best reach them (don’t write to their agents) but never ask them for a job or even say you’re an actor. Your letterhead should have your name, email address, and website so they can look it up themselves if they get curious. I have gotten responses from such folks that at least showed they read what I wrote to them. Does it guarantee a job? No. Does this at least get me productive and creating a network slowly but surely? Hell yeah.
So there you have it. Hope this article helps in giving you a balanced perspective on casting workshops but like I said before, your acting career is yours to mold. Nobody can tell you what’s right or wrong, only those like myself who can suggest how to best utilize your time and money as both are those are quite precious to a struggling actor trying to achieve their dreams in this crazy place called Los Angeles.