Re-posted with permission from Billy daMota
Over the next few months, there will be some dramatic changes in the way the workshops are seen as a “tool” in Hollywood. Now seems like a great time to enhance those changes by taking action on your own, as an actor and a professional.
14 Things You Can Do To Stop the Workshop Scheme in Hollywood
To all actors who are opposed to the growing sickness in Los Angeles that is casting director “workshops” (and the related schemes), please join me in my mission to EQUALIZE the equation, to even the playing field, and to inject some reason, common sense and professional responsibility back into the casting director/actor relationship. It seems as though so many in the casting community have lost track of their responsibility to the very people without whom they would have no career or profession. Sadly, people are suffering from an ethical disconnect and the many in our profession seem to have developed a palpable arrogance and sense of entitlement when it comes to their place in the Hollywood hierarchy. Their moral compass can no longer find True North as it seems their unyielding lust for actor dollars to provide access to their offices and shows has clouded their sense of what is right and just. It’s no secret that many casting associates make as much or more from workshops than they do from casting. CSA casting directors currently working on network TV shows are actually opening and expanding their own workshop businesses. And every dollar these companies make is paid by actors. That’s you.
I just spoke to a woman who canceled her membership with a popular workshop company (she’s STILL fighting for a refund) because they replaced one of the casting guests on a TV show she was targeting with a woman – a casting assistant – who is an actress she studied with in an acting class just 6 months before. It’s getting bad. It has become nearly impossible to get on the radar of most TV casting offices in Los Angeles without first paying at the workshop tollbooth. Actors are subsidizing the casting associate community to the tune of millions of dollars each year. Isn’t it time to stop paying a casting person’s rent when you can barely pay your own?
Just to be clear, as I’ve said in the past, and will continue to say…this is not about casting professionals who are real teachers, with ongoing classes with a real curriculum. This is about one-night, single session events where as many as 24 actors get up to perform scenes for a working casting person, with limited (or no) feedback or critique. Currently, too many workshops have morphed into one-on-one interviews, where actors pay to sit in a 5 minute private meeting with a casting associate and read a scene or a monologue. These meetings were once called “general interviews” and were a normal part of a casting director’s day. We all know what these things are today; actors know what they’re paying for and casting people know why they’re being paid. They can deny and justify, but the intent is clear.
The Emperor has no clothes.
It’s simply time to stop feeding that beast. The workshops and the insidious pay-to-play culture in Los Angeles can be stopped it its tracks. It’s already happening, drip by drip, but the way to make it go away is not to give the scheme credence and in fact, call them out for what they really are: a waste of time, money…and credibility! Workshops are not a replacement for hard work, dedication, sacrifice and talent. They are a lazy way to pretend that you’re doing something “pro-active” for your career. Don’t let yourself fall into the traps they set up, traps that rely on your fear and desperation!
Here are some things you can do (PM or email me if you need specific info):
1) Tell your friends. If you believe that workshops are bullshit, let your actor friends know. Steer them away from the scheme…which doesn’t work. If they really believe that workshops are a tool to get real acting work, send them here: www.facebook.com/notes/billy-damota
2) Write your unions. There are specific SAG-AFTRA rules that prohibit casting directors from getting paid to meet you and watch you perform scenes in workshops. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for contact info.
3) Write the Casting Society of America. They created guidelines 6 years ago which sadly are violated every day, by workshops and casting people alike. UPDATE: In May 2016, the CSA created a “Workshop Committee” to address the abuse in workshops. Urge them to enforce the guidelines that were created to help protect actors and thank them for their attention to the matter. email@example.com
4) Write the Los Angeles City Attorney. When you complain, they listen. The more you complain, the better they listen. They are in the process of prioritizing funds and when you complain, that money will go toward investigation, enforcement and prosecution. Your support and encouragement makes them recognize the problem for what it is. Mark.Lambert@lacity.org
5) Write the human resources departments of the studios and networks who employ the CDs who take your money. Most studios and networks already have rules in their employment contracts with casting directors which prohibit them from using their position at that studio or network to make a profit. UPDATE: Since The Hollywood Reporter article was published in April 2016, casting directors – slowly but surely – are forbidding their staff to do workshops. Now’s the time to make your voice heard!
6) Then write the press. Crooks don’t like it when their names are in the news. If you have specific incidents of exploitation, now’s the time to reach out to the media. There are more industry publications every day that are anxious to tell your story.
7) Make trouble. Stir up some shit. Write letters to Backstage, Variety, Hollywood Reporter. . Create a conversation.
8) Respond to posts about the issue whenever and wherever you can and make your own posts in online actor-related forums. Get involved in creating dialogue about the things that you’re unhappy with. Your voice can make a difference.
9) If you’re brave, post things on your Facebook page or tweet it or Instagram it or Reddit it. Make a video, share it on Vimeo or YouTube. Or as Jared Milrad did, start a petition! (His has over 14,000 signature so far – you can still sign it!). I can tell you that not everyone will agree with you, but enough people will to make your efforts worthwhile. Don’t be afraid about what people say about you. If they’re talking, you’re creating a conversation. And that’s a good thing.
10) Start a Mastermind Group and vamp on ideas of how you can make a difference. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
12) Go to donotpay.org to learn more about workshop history, and me and my story.
13) Read An Actor Grovels: Exposing the Casting Director Payola Scheme in Hollywood. Yeah, I wrote it, and it’s free for the asking. So ask.
14) Write a great story. Get a good camera. Begin to create your own content, become your own boss…and put the greedy users out of business. Hire casting directors whose philosophy is in line with your own. Disregard those who could give a shit about you. There are companies out there which are making their own movies and taking back their power. Align yourself with that power, not with weakness; with success, not with begging for crumbs. Ask me and I’ll tell you who these people are.
Remember, you don’t have to do it all, just what you can. Even one voice can make a difference. A chorus of concerned voices can change the world! There are actors and agents and managers and casting directors and union leaders and teachers and producers on my friends list who agree with my philosophy about workshops, but simply cannot speak out against the scheme that pays the very same people who might use their services or hire them or their clients. If you’re reading this, you know who you are, and I totally respect you and your need to protect your interests. But if you CAN speak out…do. So we’re starting our army here and now. Slowly but surely the workshop industry is becoming recognized for what it truly is. With your help, which could be simply telling your friends not to pay – and with your support, which could be just sharing what you see and agree with – we will make a difference. A bigger difference. A lasting difference.
I love being a casting director. Although I can see areas where their approach to this issue could use a little help, I’m proud to be a member of the CSA. I want there to be a day (while I’m still alive!) when a young professional who wants to follow in the footsteps of legends like Marion Dougherty, Mike Fenton and Lynn Stalmaster and become a casting director will NEVER have heard of workshops.
A guy can dream.
Billy DaMota CSA