Last week, the Hollywood Reporter broke this story explaining that long time Criminal Minds Casting Director Scott David was released from his position after the publication featured an investigation about the casting director workshop industry.
No matter what you think of the fairness or function of CD workshops (or Scott’s situation specifically), I think we can all agree that this news has raised a lot of questions and caused many of us to think long and hard about our opinions of workshops.
In an ideal world, Casting Directors would have the time and energy and budget to take general meetings, attend live performances, and meet actors more organically.
But that’s not the nature of the business today in 2016.
Should it be? Maybe. But it isn’t.
And this is actually good news because the nature of the business has changed. Today it’s about relationship building more than just being “spotted”. Luckily, it’s not just about being in the right place at the right time or having familial connections anymore. You can actually build strong connections thanks to things like social media, self-producing and consistent marketing on your own behalf.
Workshops are an outgrowth of this new Relationship Culture. And while they’re an awesome way to connect live and in person with industry professionals, not every workshop experience is a positive one.
I think Scott’s firing highlights the tough position you are in as an actor. Your reps might encourage you to attend workshops. You might feel like it’s the only way to be seen. On top of that, your friends are probably doing them and too many workshop services tap into your fear of missing out when promoting their classes.
So, whether workshops are being run by the book or not, it’s easy to feel powerless. Especially considering that, according to the article, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office has not prosecuted one case since the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act was turned into law more than six years ago.
But I am here to tell you that you do have options. You also have a voice. There are countless workshop studios (especially in LA!), and they cannot operate without you. So, if you don’t like how a particular company does business, stop giving them your hard-earned money.
If you get the sense that a particular CD, agent or manager is not there to actually teach you, make a connection and help, let the workshop service know and stop attending workshops with this person.
Making empowered decisions and standing up for yourself through how and where you invest is an extraordinary way to shift away from being at the mercy of the system and into actually driving the system forward in a more ethical, actor-friendly way.
Full disclosure: I do believe in workshops when they’re run ethically. I teach workshop strategy in my Actor’s Business Blueprint course. Many, many of my students have booked meaningful work thanks to the relationships and trust they’ve built through workshops. They did not magically book work straight out of one class. It was a process, an investment, and a business move.
So, if you choose to leverage workshops, you can make the most of them with the right strategy. Here are some tips to help you do that.
Tip One: Change Your Perspective
We covered this, but it bears repeating. This is not a ‘paid audition” but it also isn’t an acting class. It’s a networking opportunity. If you’re attending any Women In Film, Paley Center, Film Independent, or other networking organization, you have to pay to attend.
Casting Director workshops are essentially the same thing. You’re paying a registration fee to attend a networking event where you have access to relationships you may not have had access to otherwise.
Tip Two: Do Your Due Diligence
Before throwing down a chunk of change to register for an agent workshop, take the time to contact each agency to find out whether or not they’re actually taking on new clients.
I can’t tell you how many actors I know who have invested in a workshop with an agent, or an agent showcase, and one of the first things out of the agent’s mouth is, “I’m not taking on any clients right now.” — Cue the disappointment and feelings of being cheated!
But the reality is: you didn’t do your due diligence.
The same applies when you’re meeting a CD. Rely on The Workshop Guru to get the inside scoop on how particular workshops services run and how specific casting directors operate inside the workshop system.
Workshop Guru functions like Yelp, and actors are encouraged to share constructive, real-person feedback on the site. What a great way to make sure ahead of time that you’ll be investing in a workshop that will actually teach you, inspire you and move your career forward.
Tip Three: Remember the Big Picture
Last and most importantly, if you decide to invest in casting workshops, make sure you’re maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the casting directors and agents that you meet.
Too many actors attend workshops thinking that they’re going to knock it out of the park and get called in the next day. Then, when they’re not brought in right away, they feel frustrated, confused, and discouraged.
But that’s not how it works…
Workshops give you the opportunity to showcase different sides of your talent and give you rare face time with people in the business that you respect and admire most.
You’ll build a strong connection with these industry members that converts into meetings, auditions, and bookings, only when you maintain ongoing marketing through mailings, social media, email and content creation.
Workshops are NOT a magic pill. And thankfully they’re not the only way to take your career to the next level. But, they are a powerful aspect of the new Relationship Culture inside the industry. And if everyone involved does their part to maintain high ethics and reasonable expectations (that means you too!), I believe they can become a truly educational, empowering, career-shifting experience for you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts… If you could improve the Workshop system, what one change would you make? Share your ideas in the comments box below.
But please don’t use this blog as a forum to just complain or make personal attacks. I want to encourage a constructive conversation here.