The Illegal Practice of Hollywood Casting Workshops: Pay to Play

On February 25th, 2017, Kim Masters of “The Business” podcast interviewed Gary Baum, who in 2016, investigated the practice known as casting workshops. According to Baum, a casting workshop is “… an educational experience put on by a casting director, an associate, where an actor can learn how to audition better. It practical terms, it is often times really just an audition…” (Masters, Baum and DaMota). These “casting workshops” usually run around $50 and if an actor goes to these places several times a month throughout the year, “it adds up,” Baum says. “If you’re main gig is a barista at Starbucks, that’s a lot of money” (Masters, Baum and DaMota).

These workshops have become so common that Baum says that “a struggling actor found that this was really the benchmark, the cornerstone of how you became an actor, really how you got those initial gigs… it became part of the system, it became central to the system so that there really was no way to maneuver other than to engage with this problem” (Masters, Baum and DaMota ). For the fist time, Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuer filed criminal charges against this practice earlier this month, “naming 25 people involved in running 5 pay to play workshops” (Masters,  Baum and DaMota). As Feuer states: “It is unlawful to charge anyone, any performer, for an audition. Even if that supposed activity is disguised as some educational workshop” (Masters, Baum and DaMota).

Billy DaMota, a casting director, spoke on the podcast about his opposition to casting workshops. He speaks of when he served on the Board of Directors of the Casting Society of America. “One night in the mid late 90s, we talked about the problem of casting directors charging for these workshops and there were certain rules that we had in place in our bylaws that were continually being violated… so the fact is, they literally threw all of the rules out in 1996” (Masters, Baum and DaMota).

The issues plaguing Hollywood, besides political biases, is the illegal practice of paying to audition. Fortunately, this issue is hopefully being solved and in the future will be an issue that will be diminished in the future and with legitimate workshops surging back into the fray of getting that foot in the door.

Work Cited

 “Cracking down on pay-to-play auditions & a bonus Oscars banter.” Interview. Audio blog post. The Business. KCRW, 25 Feb. 2017. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

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