Posted: Sun., Dec. 29, 2002

Calif. casts a spell
State, acting workshops reach deal

The state of California has reached agreement with a group of seven actor workshops on new rules to clamp down on the controversial practice of "pay to audition" workshops, in which actors pay to be seen by casting directors.
The agreement with the Actors Workshop Consortium -- which includes ITA Prods., Actorsite, Reel Pros, Casting Network, Aaron Spieser Acting Workshop, Casting Break and One On One -- comes a month after California Labor Commissioner Arthur Lujan reached a similar accord with the six members of the Los Angeles Actor Workshop Coalition.

In both cases the workshop operators have signed off on a set of guidelines making operators liable for lawsuits if they are found to be taking unfair advantage of thesps. Agreements are in the form of a stipulation for declaratory judgment, giving the regulations the weight of state law.

Lujan's office stunned the industry in February by asserting that over a dozen L.A. workshops were violating state laws banning payment to apply for employment. The office issued cease-and-desist orders to those operators, prompting loud complaints from the workshops about state intrusion into a practice that has been long supported by actors.

Many of those workshop operators have signed the stipulation although advocates of strict state enforcement maintain the guidelines do not go far enough in preventing the practice of charging actors for access to casting directors. The key new rules bar workshop providers from permitting casting directors to use material from roles they are currently casting and from offering workshops consisting solely of cold readings.

In another development, Lujan's office faces a legal challenge to its authority to enforce the state law on the workshops. Bob Stewart, representing the L.A. Actors Online service, filed a court petition last week for a writ of prohibitory mandates.

Susan Gard, a spokeswoman for Lujan's office, said the state is attempting to convince other workshop operators to sign the stipulation. "We are not there yet in terms of signing up all the workshops because this a brand new set of regulations, but we certainly plan to do so once a reasonable amount of time has passed," she added.

Other new state rules require that attendees sign a disclaimer stating that workshops are not job interviews or auditions, while operators must discuss the disclaimers at the start of each class; that workshops provide instruction of an educational nature; that if a cold reading is included in the workshop, critiques and other feedback be provided; that instructors be qualified either by being members of the Casting Society of America or by having 18 months experience as a casting director, associate or assistant; and that operators may not use testimonials about the success of workshops in getting acting work.

© 2002 Reed Business Information  © 2002 Variety, Inc.
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