An Open Letter to All Casting Director Workshop Owners

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and make a few assumptions. Mainly because I know they're true.

Marcia,  Hannah, Melissa, Lawrin, Suzanne, Beth, Shane, Scott, Kristin, Kenna, Aaron Öand all the others I've yet to meet.

The reason you all became workshop providers is because you wanted to find a way for you and your friends to make genuine relationships with working casting directors. Most of you are actors or started as actors or have actor friends who you wanted to help get a leg up in this crazy business when you started your workshop company. Thatís what actors do - or used to do: help their fellow actors find a way to move forward, upward. A rising tide lifts all boats! You pay it forward and the beautiful circle begins.

Profit?

A few of you either started your businesses strictly for profit, or your personal motives changed as you saw how lucrative the multi-million dollar charge-for-access casting director workshop industry could be. This message is probably not for you. If youíre not an actor, you just wouldnít understand.

This message is for all the actors I have met over the years who became workshop operators, and to the new actors who started your businesses to try to stay in the game. In an era where so many casting directors and their staffs take a paycheck to meet you, it's not hard to understand why you want to do everything you can to increase your odds of success as an actor - and that starts with meeting and reading for casting directors. But doesn't it piss you off that you have to pay them for doing a job they're already paid (and often quite well) to do? It hasnít always been like this, and certainly not nearly as bad as it is now.

So here's my plea/suggestion/gameplan:

Help me generate new and innovative ways to meet casting directors - for free.

When I spearheaded the organization called DoNotPay.org, much of my effort was placed in creating such opportunities. I was an important part of getting SAG and the casting community to sit at the table together, to get the SAG Foundation's Casting Access Project off the ground. I envisioned a scenario where actors could meet and perform for the people who were in a position to hire them - but without paying a dime. And that's what happens every month at CAP. Casting directors, after all, are always looking for great actors! But sadly, not enough CDs participate.

Now -  30 years after workshops appeared on the scene - it's time to look for new, exciting and free opportunities for actors. It's time to put on our thinking caps and generate ideas that will benefit every actor, not just the ones who pay to play. Time to be selfless, not selfish. Time to give our friends a boost, not stand on their shoulders.

I spoke to an employee of a workshop business today. Believe it or not, she called to ask me if I would do a workshop. She had no idea what my history was with the issue. So we got to talking. She let me know that the workshop she works for ONLY asks the actors to pay enough to cover what the CD is being paid. Thatís a start, but itís not enough. My suggestion was that she pay the CD nothing, and charge the actor - you guessed it - nothing. While she LOVED that idea and was certain that her workshop owner boss would do that in a heartbeat if he could, she also told me, with a sad tone in her voice, that not only were casting directors unlikely to meet actors for free, many were actually asking for more money to do workshops Ė as much as $400 to meet actors in a 2 hour event. Itís become a ridiculous situation.

So therein lies the rub. Workshops make as little as they can to facilitate the CD/actor meeting/reading, the actor pays the price, and the casting director (most often an associate) makes off with the lion's share of the dough.

What is wrong with this picture? That's a rhetorical question.

So. Help a brother out. Help me find a way to use an already existing infrastructure to create more opportunities for actors. Help me find every casting director, associate, assistant and intern who wants to give back to actors (the actors, after all, are why they have a job!). Help me put the casting associate pay-for-play dynamic out of business, or at least to diminish its impact on the acting community. Help me find the sunlight in a very dark (and getting darker) industry where actors must grovel for even the smallest slice of the pie, or even just crumbs, and pay for it too. It's not fair.

Actors, feel free jump in anytime with your ideas and suggestions. Have a casting director friend who wants to play with us? We can have it be a dinner, a party, a coffee clatch or tea party, a picnic, a sock hop, a Glee or Star Wars or Vampire night, a barbeque - anything - so long as actors aren't required to pay a fee and casting directors aren't making their car payments with your cash. I'm serious.

I'll be the first one to give of my time and expertise. I'll even donate the space. Those who know me, know I'm not f*‪#‎kin‬' around. I'm ready.

Let's get this party started.  You know my number.

Billy DaMota CSA