By Billy DaMota, Casting Director
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 the casting community has lost track of their responsibility to the very people without whom they would have no career or profession. Much of the casting community is suffering from an ethical disconnect and seems to have developed a palpable arrogance and sense of entitlement when it comes to their place in the Hollywood heirarchy. 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. And every dollar is paid by actors.
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 - now a casting assistant - whom she studied with in an acting class just 6 months before.
It's getting bad. 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. We all know what they are; 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!
Here are some things you can do.
There's my Facebook friend who is working on a petition to present to SAG-AFTRA, where actors can voice their concerns anonymously. His name is Larry Vigus. Find him and sign up!
There's a company called TCD Studios owned and operated by Michael Valentino and Christina Birdsall and they're doing everything they can to provide real low-cost goods and services for actors as well as having created a mini-studio which is actually creating member-generated SAG-AFTRA projects, putting the power BACK in the hands of actors.
There's an awesome and beautiful casting director, Gabrielle Evans Fields, who has started producing FREE showcases where talent reps can present their talent to industry pros. She needs a donated theatre or similar space in the Valley. Know anyone?
There's Stephen Salamunovich CSA, a 20+ year casting veteran in the Seattle area who understands the actor's plight and fight to get a foot in the door of those who can help move a career forward. He stands on your side.
Then there's Dea Vise - who in addition to marching boldly toward her doctorate in Clinical Psychology is one of the kindest and most giving casting directors you'll encounter. Find her. Friend her.
And there are agents and managers 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 hire 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.
Tell your friends.
Write your unions.
Write the CSA.
Write the Los Angeles City Attorney.
Write the human resources departments of the studios and networks who employ the CDs who take your money.
Then write the press.
Write letters to Backstage, Variety, Hollywood Reporter.
Respond to posts about the issue and make your own posts in online actor-related forums.
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.
Start a Mastermind Group and vamp on ideas of how you can make a difference.
Follow me on Twitter (@billydamota) for news and updates.
Go to tierjump.com to learn more about me and my story.
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.
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!
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 have NEVER even heard of workshops.
A guy can dream.
(NOW...HIT SHARE. IT'S RIGHT DOWN THERE!)