Written by Sean Pratt
Here are some relevant issues about whether and why attending one might be worth your while and how to prepare for it if you do.
Every weekend around the country, there are acting workshops held by casting directors offering actors the chance to work on monologues, cold readings and audition sides. And while a first glance it may seem like a no-brainer to sign up, there are several things you should consider before plunking down your money. Then, if you do decide to attend, you’ve got some homework and preparation ahead of you, because the last thing you want to do is just show up.
First off, let’s be honest about what’s being sold here. Unlike a workshop with an acting teacher, what you’re ultimately buying is access to that casting director; in business and politics it’s called “pay to play.” If you’ve been trying for months to get called in for an audition by that person, then this may be the perfect opportunity to showcase your talent in the context of an acting class. So ultimately, what you might learn about technique is secondary to the chance of meeting and working with them.
Next, let’s review a basic concept of advertising. In the ad for any product or service there are two kinds of promises being made – explicit promises and implicit promises. In this case, the explicit promises are that you will be working with this casting director on specific acting material at this location and time, etc. But more important are the implicit promises. Like it or not, the casting director is holding out the possibility of perhaps calling you in at a later time for an audition. Honestly, why else would you go?
Place Your Bets
What you’re doing is gambling that the money you spend on the class will be offset by the impression you’ll leave with them. So, if the main purpose of going to the workshop is to show the casting director your talent and charm, then you need to ask yourself some hard questions:
Are your audition skills, monologues, etc., up to snuff? If not, then you run the possibility of stumbling your way through the class and being viewed as an amateur.
Are your marketing materials current? What happens if they ask you for your picture/resume and your headshot is ten years old?
How sharp are your “schmoozing” abilities? Being charming, confident and intelligent are always good things to showcase.
The next step is to do some research into the kinds of projects they cast and what producers and directors they work with. After all, some casting directors focus on theatre; others TV, corporate video, or film. This may influence:
What kind of picture and resume you put together when you come to the class.
The choice of monologue or scene you prepare, if that’s what the class is focusing on.
Your choice of clothing, makeup and hair style.
What, if any, other kinds of marketing materials you might stick in your satchel in case they ask for them.
Finally, after the class is over, be sure to follow up with a letter thanking them for the class. Mention the insights and ideas you garnered from them, the fun you had during the class, etc., and what a pleasure it was to finally meet them. Then, and this is essential, be sure to let them know that you’ll stay in touch…and then actually do it! Hopefully, your future correspondence will be read and they will begin to have you to mind when they’re creating that list of actors to be seen for their next casting project.
“But to me the bottom line is the more education you can give yourself, and the more preparation you can do, the less chance of failing.” – Stuart Pearce, English soccer player/manager
Sean Pratt, (AEA / SAG / AFTRA), has been a working actor for over 20 years. Sean was a member of the resident acting company at The Pearl Theatre, an Off-Broadway classical repertory theatre and has also performed at numerous regional theatres around the country. Major films include – Gods and Generals, Tuck Everlasting and Iron Jawed Angels. Television work includes – The host of HGTV’s, Old Homes Restored, and supporting roles on Homicide, The District and America’s Most Wanted. Audiobooks – He’s narrated for 15 years and has recorded nearly 550 books in just about every genre. He also teaches classes on and writes articles about the business of the Biz.