Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tools of the Trade: Casting Director Workshops

Today, I’m going to teach you about three of the most controversial words in showbiz – casting director workshops.

For the uninitiated, these are workshops featuring a casting director who works in TV or film. Typically the session starts with a group Q&A, after which the CD will hand out sides, often from the project they’re currently casting. Everyone gets 10-15 minutes to look them over, then everyone performs them in front of the class and the casting director. Sometimes actors are paired, sometimes they read one on one. The good casting directors give terrific feedback and acting advice. The annoying ones are dry as dust and say nothing but a flat “thanks.”

There’s a huge backlash against them because some people think actors shouldn’t have to pay to audition in front of a casting director. Opponents say it’s just another way big bad Hollywood is taking advantage of eager actors. Ask any actor about casting director workshops – everyone has an opinion. Here’s mine…

I like them. I enjoy the opportunity to work on my cold reading skills and getting to know a casting director in a casual environment. They’re especially useful for me because I’m focused on television work. I also find it valuable to see other actors act. I don’t think they’re scams and ultimately I think they’re harmless.

(Pausing to wipe off the rotten tomatoes mentally thrown in my direction…)

Because here’s the thing – legitimate casting director workshops only cost $35-$45 dollars tops. That’s less than I’d pay for a shirt at J.Crew. $35 is worth it for me to show a casting director my talent, learn inside tips on auditioning for their office, and just plain have a chance to perform. It's a win-win!

Workshops are an opportunity to connect in a disconnected town that's saturated with actors. Casting directors are way too overworked and underpaid to spend time finding talent in the old ways of going to theater or showcases, especially if they work in television which is already ridiculously fast paced.

So please don’t go all berzerker on me because I go to casting director workshops. I hate scams too. That “school” that offers “classes” for $2,900 for a chance to be seen by “top Hollywood agents?” That’s a scam. $35 is probably what you spend at Starbucks in a week.

If you’d like to give them a try, here’s my advice for doing them right. First, know that there are several places that offer them and they’re pretty much all the same. Just find a place that's close to where you live that offers workshops in the $35-$45 a class range. I go to ITA Productions in Culver City because it's close to where I live, though I used to go to One on One Productions in Studio City.

Next, make a list of all the TV shows that you think you could be cast in. Look at the Production Listings on Backstage to figure out which shows shoot in LA. Consider which shows often use actors of your type as well as shows that cast a lot of actors in each episode. If you're in the 18 to Look Younger category, you'll definitely want to add the Nickelodeon & Disney shows.

Once you find a place and have your target list, you can start looking at their calendar and sign up to see the casting directors that cast the shows on your list. That way you're not wasting time and money on a casting director that doesn't need your type. I limit myself to two a month, which forces me to choose only the workshops that are most useful for me.

If you’ve been wondering about casting director workshops, I encourage you to give them a try and decide for yourself which side of the controversy you stand on. Just remember, casting director workshops don’t equal jobs. Being a good actor gets you the audition and the job.

1 comment:

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