When was the last time you paid to interview for a job? What about paying for the possibility of interviewing for a job? Never, I’m guessing. But for actors, paying for the possibility of auditions is common, though the perpetrators of such schemes would never use such frank language to describe it. Instead, they call them “workshops” or “casting workshops.” And while some of these “workshops” do provide valuable professional insight, others are simply pay-to-audition schemes. Often marketed and advertised as educational opportunities, even the most legitimate workshops typically list an instructor’s current work and projects. The implication is that by participating in a workshop, actors may increase their chances of landing representation or booking roles.
Many companies, including One on One and Actors Connection, offer workshops for actors, and, to be sure, they do create courses legitimately focused on the craft of acting and the particulars of auditioning. The issue is when actors are required to pay for an audition in order to participate in a workshop. The issue becomes still more complicated when an actor, once accepted, must pay additional “member dues.” Members may then be asked to pay yet a third time to participate, for example, in a casting workshop. These companies, then, really function as forums for middlemen that actors must pay to gain access to yet other middlemen — like agents, casting directors and their assistants.
How does this system — actors paying middlemen simply to audition for roles — continue to operate? Is their passion for acting so deep, and their outlook so bleak, that they will do anything to gain an advantage? The dynamic in so much art, especially for performers, has long been “work for free.” But for years now the dynamic has shifted to “pay to work.” Or more accurately, “pay for the possibility of work.”
In some cases, the industry itself has pushed to ban pay-to-audition workshops. Due to an epidemic of them in Los Angeles, in 2009, the Screen Actors Guild successfully pressured the California legislature to pass The Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act. The law requires casting workshops in that state to use specific language in marketing and advertising, to have clear educational content, and to avoid the implication that actors are auditioning for projects or representation.
A fine line between what is legit and scam. Something NY State should also investigate. Bottom line, be careful and never sign contracts without having an understanding what is being said.
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