Casting director workshops- whats the score?

  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    Question:

    Is it really right to PAY to be seen by a CD? In the states, such practices are illegal and actors are considered desperate and needy.

    Should one pay to be seen?

    • 3rd Feb 2011
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    But Blake, are we paying to be seen?

    Or are we paying to be informed?

    There are people out there who haven't had the benefit of training (for whatever reason - I do not wish to resurrect the training/no training argument), and so find these sessions with Casting Directors very useful, and a lot cheaper than regular training (although I'm a firm believer in 'proper' training on an accredited course).

    But if you're looking at these sessions as a chance to be 'seen' by the Casting Director, then you may well be disappointed. Then again, I'm sure some people have benefited and got a casting for paid work with the same Casting Director as a direct result of the workshop - but not everyone.

    And I have heard the argument that Casting Directors are taking money from desperate actors - I find this a tad cynical, perhaps?

    In these difficult times, Casting Directors have to make a living too, and why shouldn't they charge for passing on their knowledge?

    If you have never had a professional casting, but are looking to break into the industry, then these sessions can be very beneficial.

    If you are a professional actor looking to be noticed by a Casting Director, then I'm afraid you may be barking up the wrong tree.

    We spend so much time in the industry blaming everyone else for what is wrong with it, and yes, possibly there are some cynical Casting Directors out there who are using these workshops as a chance to make money out of desperate actors, but maybe we need to look at our own attitudes and try to look at a situation from every angle?

    I'm sure there will be plenty of discussion around this topic, and I do hope it doesn't get unpleasant - we are each entitled to an opinion, however right or wrong other people think that is. I look forward to seeing other people's points of view.

    • 15th Apr 2010
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  • Guy Press

    Actor

    CD workshops are a waste of time in my humble opinion. They do spin money for a CD but as for worthwhile knowledge? That is questionable. I would tend to say that most of the workshop views expressed are general common sense with their own personal likes / dislikes and anecdotes thrown in. As For exposure it can't harm you, but I don't believe you should pay for this - you are helping them do their job!

    As a Producer / Director myself I no longer use CD's. I can do the job quicker and better myself. CD's may well be a dying breed as costs get cut!

    • 15th Apr 2010
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    Worthwhile knowledge? To you and I it may be the case, but what if you've no experience of the industry (playing devil's advocate here), surely what you see as 'common sense' may only be common sense if you've a grasp of the industry?

    And somehow, I don't think CDs are a dying breed - most regional theatres have gone from having their own casting department to using freelance CDs, and I think the big studios/production companies will always use the big, well-known CDs because they know the market.

    But interesting to hear your perspective (or should that be see? LOL!!).

    • 15th Apr 2010
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  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    Annie, I've done workshops and totally agree with you . I'm trained as are you- but I do feel casting directors sometimes exploit the neediness of actors.

    Then again- year after year drama schools take on a plethora of students- most who drop out two years after graduation.

    Also- the same could be said for the medical profession as well. Doctors train for seven years- and then can't get work.

    • 15th Apr 2010
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    I hear what you're saying Blake, but maybe the CDs are setting up the workshops for inexperienced people, but the places are being taken by desperate actors who want to be seen? The CDs have no control over who attends.

    PS I've just booked on the John Cannon workshop through Annelie Powell - it'll be my first one and I'm doing it because I have never yet been seen for TV, and I want to find out if there's something I'm doing wrong. I suspect, as no TV CD has ever seen me, that it must be one (or all) of the following:

    1. my advanced age on entry into the business - someone told me (hearsay!) that a well-known CD said "if I haven't heard of you by the time you're 40, I assume you must be sh*t."

    2. Wrong headshot

    3. Inappropriate submission (i.e. I am not right for a part that my Agent (a Co-op) or I thought I was

    4. Lack of TV exposure

    If it's no 4, then I don't have a cat in hell's chance, because how do you get no 4 without being seen?

    So, am I a desperate actor? To be honest, some days, yes I am. But as it's 6 years since I had any training on what a TV casting would be like, I think of this workshop as updating my skills. If it gets me seen for casting by the CD in question, then I would look upon that as an ADDED bonus - it's not my main reason for shelling out the hard-won lucre!

    • 15th Apr 2010
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  • Guy Press

    Actor

    Hi Annie and Blake,

    Regional Theatres have used external Casting Directors for years because it's cheaper. However, the turnover of CD's now is huge - a lot are leaving the profession because of a lack of work. It was originally a secretarial job that was transferred into the realms of Director.It's now going back to being a a production job.

    Yes the big studios have big name Casting Directors but mostly in name only. Their job is slowly being taken out of their hands to make things cheaper. They're now more fixers.

    As a green Actor out of drama school back in the early 90's I went to a few CD workshops and really didn't learn anything new, apart from... a few anecdotes, a few huge fibs and of course the foibles of the various Casting agents.

    I look back and wish I'd saved my cash! ;-)

    Best to all!

    • 15th Apr 2010
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  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    I tend to feel more drawn to your opinion Guy. I'm not saying they aren't worthwhile but just you have to question everything.

    • 15th Apr 2010
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    Hmmmmm... I'll report back after my workshop, and we'll see how I feel then! But no matter how you look at it, it's a sign that every single part of the industry is getting squeezed!

    • 15th Apr 2010
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  • Luke Stevenson

    Actor

    I havnt done an accredited course, so have no 'proper' training, however I find that I learn nothing new in these workshops. I learnt it all at the place I studied acting.

    I just see them as a way of meeting CD's, so they can put a name to a (living, breathing) face.

    You get given an opportunity to read in front of them. They may or may not like what you do and then may or may not call you in next time they are presented with your headshot.

    I personally never spend more than £30 on these workshops. That's within what I can manage. I consider it money better spent than on pastimes.

    I dont think you should go to these workshops hoping to be given a casting for something on the back of your reading.

    Just go to meet a CD and other actors.

    You are given a script and an opportunity to impress. That itself I think makes it worth it, whether the CD is making a profit or not.

    • 15th Apr 2010
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    Ooooh - and I agree about questioning, Blake - it should be what we do about anything that's asking for our hard-earned cash (or time for that matter)

    • 15th Apr 2010
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    Nope, don't do it - I had a bad experience with a workshop and I think it damaged my credibility and I wish I'd never done it :(

    I recently had an audition at Spotlight with a CD who said she would never run a casting workshop because she didn't like taking money from actors. x

    • 15th Apr 2010
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  • Simon Burbage

    Actor

    Maybe we should have actor workshops? Casting directors could pay to learn how to give me a job!

    • 15th Apr 2010
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  • Guy Press

    Actor

    Now that a great Idea Simon..... let's write it! ;-)

    • 16th Apr 2010
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  • Cathy Conneff

    Actor

    I attended some casting director workshops run by Stand up drama and I actually found them very useful and I have had accredited training.

    It's just useful to have the opportunity to have feedback from an employer about what you can do to further your chances of getting hte part and also on what they are looking for.

    Also just for those things which are so blindingly obvious, you would never realise them until someone points them out to you.

    It's also good just to go do something like that when you're in a "dry spell", just to keep you sane!

    • 19th Apr 2010
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  • Heather Rome

    Actor

    I find Guy's comments about CDs going back to more of a production and/or fixer role quite interesting. I agree it's probably being driven by cost-cutting and technology as the exchange of information is quicker and easier than ever and even first and second-round auditions can be done online using a webcam or posting footage.

    However, what nobody has mentioned is that the best CDs are employed for their knowledge of what talent is out there and who may best fit a role. This has become more problematic as the industry has become more overcrowded and it's a numbers game more than ever. If you can only offer so many audition slots, how and who to chose? If you are mounting a production that involves significant money, as the director how much time do you want to spend sifting through mountain of applications that come in? And would that be cost-effective.

    The greatest CDs are talent spotters and nurturers, but if you haven't been allowed to filter or cast performers in a string of successful productions, your work will have dried up over the last 2 years. And many doing workshops, like some actors, are only mid-tier at best and are doing it for the money. That said, it's personal as to whether you gain useful knowledge through them. I have, but like others won't pay through the nose unless I'm convinced they will offer me something very special. And that's only happened once and the over £200 I spent was worth it because it helped me to get a better agent. But there are never any guarantees!

    • 19th Apr 2010
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  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    Heather, I agree with you. I did a charity gig last night and sang a song with a top note that usually causes brain cells to shrivel ( don't even think about comments on my intelligence! ) But the judges were a resident director of a top musical theatre prod company and other producers. I did get "seen" but I did also get valuable criticism that showed me what I need to change. But I didn't pay a cent! And I got personal numbers of one or two industry people as contacts.

    Maybe these workshops need to be looked on as FURTHER TRAINNG in audition technique etc and if anythinh else comes, then its a bonus. That attitude prevents cynicism.

    • 19th Apr 2010
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  • Stephen Moriaty

    Actor

    I think the workshops with experienced CDs for 25/30 pounds are ok as extra training when like me you are new to the profession and I did get a commercial casting as a direct result of attending one. Paying to be seen for a casting however is not on

    • 19th Apr 2010
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    They help keep you 'close to the fire' but pay over 50 quid for the CD w/shop & you've got burnt!

    • 19th Apr 2010
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  • Tanya Katarina

    Actor

    I went to a casting director & agent workshop not long ago and paid £85 for only 2-3 hours.

    Yes it was very informative and helped me get a bit more insight into casting for tv, get headshot and feedback by top industry professionals and we all had a chance to read scenes for them and be given feedback.

    I've found these types of workshops becoming more and more popular, but feel a little disappointed when I see other companies holding workshops with some of the same industry people for £20 for 2-3 hours. Maybe it's to do with the number of people attending, but at the workshop I attended there were about 20 of us. A nice little money maker? I'm not convinced one small rehearsal space costs that much.

    It's not put me off going to more in the future, I will just do my research and shop around for the cheaper deals for the same quality ;) haha

    • 23rd Apr 2010
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