In response to the Los Angeles City Attorney investigation into alleged “pay-to-play” casting workshops — a investigation begun by reporters from The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year — the casting workshop industry has begun to respond to the accusations that casting directors are using workshops as paid auditions for roles.
Casting workshop agencies have been contacting their clients asking them to sign a Change.org petition to stop the inquiry. The petition says that the signers are “disgruntled, offended and outraged that the LA City Attorney Mike Feuer is spending our tax dollars on an overreaching investigation of the workshop industry,” though the text also notes, “We are not disputing the Krekorian Act. It is the law. The issue is the way the enforcement is being handled.” The 2010 Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act made “pay-to-play” practices explicitly illegal, though no one has ever been prosecuted for violating it.
The petition argues that a casting director hiring an actor for a role after seeing said actor in a workshop is no different than “a doctor teaching at USC hires into his practice a student who has shown outstanding potential.” Though posted over two weeks ago after a July 18 town hall meeting of the Casting Society of America, the petition has been signed 396 times as of this posting. In contrast, a petition urging the City Attorney to investigate the casting workshop industry received over 15,000 signatures earlier this year.
The Hollywood Reporter also reveals that a prominent casting workshop company, ITA, has sent an email to its mailing list on July 30 that says the City Attorney’s Office is targeting their industry without informing them about what exactly is considered illegal, arguing, “Rather than meet with workshop owners to explain the law and make sure we follow it, the City DA sends letters with threats of $10,000 fines to casting directors who participate.” Similar language appears in the petition.
The argument of the petition, ITA, and other prominent casting industry figures is that this boils down to an issue of consumer choice — if actors choose to spend money to participate in such workshops, that is their own choice. However, many who have urged the City Attorney’s Office to investigate the industry believe that the workshops unfairly target struggling actors who are essentially paying casting directors to cast them.
In the meantime, the investigation led by Consumer Protection Division deputy Mark Lambert continues.