On Casting Workshops

Hey there!

I have some very strong opinions about whether or not you should take casting workshops.

And they run counter to much of what you’ll read.

Recently, on a LinkedIn actor list I’m a member of, someone asked about them.

Here’s what I wrote.

I’m more than happy to be what appears to be the lone voice in favor of casting workshops. I’ve never considered them pay-for-play, and I’m not a stupid actor who is being hornswoggled by predatory casting directors out to steal my hard earned money.

(And know that I’m well aware of, and am nauseated by, the current legal challenges that some casting directors are facing in here in LA. It’s insane.)

On the contrary – it’s exactly what you’re supposed to do when you’re an entrepreneur:

Get to know your customer.

Find out what their needs are.

Fill those needs.

And it probably costs more to do this in other businesses than it does in the performance business.

In any other business, you’d do whatever it took to get on the radar of your potential customers – dinners, golf, lunches, gifts, whatever. I’m always amazed that actors, especially righteously indignant ones, play the “I’m an ARTIST! I shall never part with any of my hard earned dollars to meet my potential employer’s gatekeepers!”

Good for you.

I’ll take my way any day.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars marketing myself to my clients. That includes actorsaccess.com, Breakdown Services, Now Casting, headshots, resumes, MOO cards, my efforts on social media, speeches, volunteering, interning, drop offs, and yes, casting workshops. And I think my track record speaks volumes.

Do what you want, but know that you have a choice – you can hope that the phone will ring, or you can pick it up and use it yourself.

In addition, the amount of pure learning I’ve received from all of the casting directors I’ve worked with is invaluable. For those that think you get nothing but an opportunity to show your work in these workshops, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Being able to hear how casting offices work, what they expect from the actors that they bring in, what prompts them to bring actors in at all, their process with the shows they work on, their etiquette, ways to look better on camera and so much more are just a few examples of the things that have made a difference in my acting career, and that I’ve learned from CDs in workshops.

I’m so pro-casting workshops and their benefit to the ready-to-book but unrepresented actor, that I created a website about it. I make no money on this website; I do it because I’m so passionate about the fact that you should be able to choose how to spend your money without politicians telling you how:

http://befreetochoose.org

To be clear, don’t take casting workshops if you’re not ready to step on set the very next day.

I’m not kidding.

You should be good at your craft, and you should talk to fellow actors and stay away from casting director workshops helmed by the bad apples. But the things you learn in those workshops (as well as what you learn NOT to do) is invaluable. Plus, you are in front of the very people you need to know as customers, and if you’re not represented by an agent or a manager, this is a great opportunity to show that you’re ready.

Tell me your thoughts about casting workshops in the comments below.

Hope this helps.

David

Responses

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  1. David—tonight my episode of Better Call Saul airs; easily the most important gig I’ve had, so it’s a good time to take a few seconds to thank you for this article. I am SO in favor of CD workshops, for all the reasons you put forth. And I realize I never would have gotten aforementioned gig if it hadn’t been for meeting a CD associate at one of them–more than once. As we both know, Karl is excellent at getting his people out, but we also know he he keeps careful track of who you see! And he welcomes e-mails from me that start “last night I saw…” I also know I can also tweak him when something shows up on the breaks and a casting name leaps out at me as someone I’ve seen. When folks ask me; “do you ever get work from going to these things?” I practically scream “YES!!” So if you’ve slogged through all this, it’s just my usual, long winded way of saying THANKS!!

    Carol

    1. Thank you for this as well! I am an on-camera actress and agree wholeheartedly! I have made amazing relationships doing CD workshops, and can only hope I get brought in the room. Congrats on Better Call Saul! One of my faves!

  2. Thank you David for your bold words. Your track record is evidence enough that casting workshops are a valuable tool for an actor who is ready to work. I appreciate all you do to help your fellows!

  3. I totally agree with you. My first two costar roles came from casting directors I met in workshops. In one case, everybody I saw at the audition were members of that workshop.

    Like everything else, you should choose your workshop carefully. If they offer an opporutnity to audit before joining, take it. You can assess the way the workshop is run, and see the level of work done at each session.

    At the very least, you are practicing your craft. And if you need to improve your cold reading skills, here’s your chance. Nowadays, you may only get 2 hours notice for an audition-no time to prepare.

  4. David!

    This was a great article and it’s my thoughts exactly on the on-camera side. Are their CD workshops available for VO? If so, I would love to know! Thank you for all your valuable info you provide to us.

  5. I’ve based a huge part of my career as a working actor in L.A. on Casting Director workshops, and I’m now approaching nearly 70 tv and film credits on imdb. I have several friends who are now multi-millionaires, who created the foundation of their careers in workshops. Everything you’ve said here is spot on. And the recent (and still unfinished) legal action OUR COLLEAGUES has been an atrocity. I wrote letters and emails to the City Attorney, and even called their office, to protest their wrong-headed witch hunt. Recently, I showed support for one of our victimized CD’s by showing up at her trial. The case against her was wrong and insulting. The prosecution’s witness, who was the guy who went undercover to film a workshop scenario for the prosecution, was SO OBVIOUSLY a failing, bitter actor. Disgusting.

  6. I have two related questions:

    First, what relevant facts about the industry have changed in the last twenty years to render these workshops necessary?

    Second, is it right and just that the financial burden for these workshops fall solely on the shoulders of actors?

    To the first: there was a time before “casting workshops”, a time when actors were still required to be entrepreneurs, forge relationships with CDs, and take control of their careers. And yet, in the absence of workshops, these things all still happened: new actors were met, cast, and built careers. What’s changed to warrant the proliferation of workshops?

    Yes, the internet now exists to set them up, publicize them, charge for them, and return the footage from class to the actor. But that’s not what I mean. I mean what’s changed in the casting side of the industry to require workshops? As far as I can see, the answer is nothing.

    To the second question: it’s my job, as an actor, to maintain my craft and my instrument. This sends me to the gym, voice lessons, keeps me reading plays, going to class, working on my voice, seeing plays, movies, and TV. It is right and proper that I pay for these things, since they are part of my job.

    It’s a casting director’s job to cast. This requires them to know who’s out there, who’s available, and what new faces are now in the business. When I pay for a workshop, for a CD to get to meet me and know my work, I am paying for them to do their job. Why should I pay for them to do something that is as much a part of their job as going to scene study class is part of mine?

    There was once a time, I’m told, when CDs held generals and got to know new actors that way. Why can’t we go back to that model?

  7. Great article, David. I took action last year by emailing: the Editor of the L.A. Times (150 words or less) and all
    Los Angeles City Council Members, Los Angeles County Supervisors and Burbank City Council Members. I expressed most of the points you made above. I suggest everyone who feels strongly about this issue to take similar action. The extent of ignorance about this aspect of the industry appalls me. Most professions require continued education.
    My proposal: to improve the professionalism of actors, perhaps casting director workshops should be mandatory. Just sayin’…