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