Saturday, July 10, 2010

California Gov passes laws to protect Actors from Shady Workshop Organizers


Recently, while in New England, I sat down with Bradley Van Dussen from New England Actor, and he asked me if I heard that casting directors aren’t allowed to teach workshops anymore. I realized that there must be a lot of rumors flying around about this, which I shall attempt to debunk.

Firstly, I’ll say that I am a member of the Casting Society of America (CSA) and have no problem with adhering to the guidelines and shall continue to teach my master classes.

The main areas of concern in the new CSA guidelines are as follows:


I have always tried to make this clear in my classes in the first place. I’ve noticed the occasional mumbling over the internet. Occasionally someone will anonymously write to me and suggest that this is a conflict of interest to both teach and cast. Or they will accuse me of favoritism towards people who have taken my classes. These guidelines will protect me from these accusations and make it clear to the actors who don’t come to my classes that they will not be discriminated against either.

“The Casting Director/Casting Associate (and Casting Assistant) (CD/CA) may not use workshops for the purpose of auditions, "pre-reads" or suggestions of future employment.”

In other words… the concern here is that actors should not be paying for job interviews. And the money paid for the workshops should not be perceived or interpreted as a bribe.

I personally am very happy that this clause is included. I remember one time, an actor who had taken my workshop, very rudely confronted me at a later date, demanding to know why I hadn’t called him in for any castings after he had taken my class, as if I owed him that.

Do I remember the actors from my workshops? Yes, I never forget a face. Have I cast people from my workshops? Yes… if a role comes along that is right for them, then yes I have called workshop actors in and they have on occasion booked the role. (Karim Rohoma, for example comes to mind, on a recent Fox pilot called Masterworks. He heard about the casting when I announced it on Facebook.)

But the purpose of the classes is NOT to audition actors or find actors for a specific project. The purpose of the workshop is to share useful information and above all to educate. A possible role in the future is a fringe benefit for the actor and the CD, but should not be an expectation. 

“The CD/CA may not retain a student/actor’s headshot, résumé, business card, reel, DVD, other electronic media, other promotional material, or any links thereto.”

OK so here’s the real kicker. I know this clause is upsetting a lot of actors. You’re thinking, So what is the ***king point of meeting a casting director if you can’t give her your material? Well actually in the case of my workshops, I already have a rule that I don’t accept headshots etc because I’m usually traveling when I give class, and I don’t have the room in my suitcase for thirty show reels or whatever. So I’ve made that my policy anyway.

However, in my case, I have a website that is public domain. Anyone and their mother can submit material to me at any time. Many of us CDs don’t like to collect paper copies anyway because we have a problem with storage space.

What this means in that you can meet the CD in the workshop, learn from her whatever is valuable then WAIT until a time when she is casting a project with a role for you THEN submit your headshot to her at the RIGHT time. I emphasize these words because it is a point that I’m making over and over again in my classes. Agents are talent oriented and casting directors are project oriented. We’re interested in specific actors at specific times. We don’t generally collect random resumes anyway. It’s understandable that an actor would want to shove one in our hand… actors are always looking for work. But that is my advice for the best way to use a CD workshop. Make the connection, learn and then keep an eye on what she’s doing. That means reading Backstage (US) or The Stage, (UK) keeping an eye on IMDB Pro, and in the case of my work, it’s easy (I keep a blog!)

Furthermore, the workshops organizers are required to take out a $50,000 bond with the state of California to confirm their legitimacy against fraud. This obviously does not apply to workshops taught outside of the state, but if you are in CA, you can check this out to make sure they're legit. 

This is a short article, but if you want a long and thorough explanation of the history of why this legislation came to pass, please see Bonnie Gillespie’s excellent analysis in the Actors Voice:

In short the new law is designed to protect children and actors who are being ripped off by shady workshop organizers who are exploiting actors with false promises. It’s certainly correct and fair that actors should not be paying to audition, which is what was in some cases happening.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good info.

Also, send us any casting notices and we will share with our actors.

Film Casting WebSite