Before we explain these to you, we want to warn you: DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS UNTIL YOU HAVE REACHED A CERTAIN LEVEL OF COMPETENCE, WHICH YOU CAN ONLY ACQUIRE AFTER HAVING TAKEN SOME SERIOUS ACTING CLASSES IN HOLLYWOOD. (See ACTING TEACHERS/COACHES/SCHOOLS.)
Here’s how these all basically work:
- You audition in order to be allowed to join the workshop. Do not join a group that doesn’t ask you to audition; it means they’ll let anyone in and that can lead to disaster.
- Once you’re a member, you will receive a calendar of events, usually a month to two months per calendar. Each “event” is a session with a casting director, talent agent, or occasionally, a producer or director.
- You choose the ones you wish to attend and sign up as quickly as possible, since they tend to fill up rapidly. Each session is paid for separately (the various groups offer different ways to pay and some include discounts if you buy “tickets” in advance).
- The casting people (CDs) usually bring their own sides and after a relatively short Q & A (by law in California, they cannot take your money if they don’t give you a “lesson” in return, thus the lecture or Q & A), they hand out the sides, pair you up with a scene partner, and give you about 15 minutes to rehearse. You return to the room and perform your short scene for the CD.
- In the case of agents looking for new clients, they are not expected to provide the sides. The group may provide them from a stash they’ve kept, or allow you to bring in your own material.
It’s that simple. The purpose is obvious: To give actors a controlled way to meet casting directors who might otherwise never call them in for an actual audition, since they have no idea whatsoever what the actor’s talent level may be. The hope is that the workshop will eventually lead to a real, live audition. Many actors are disappointed when they begin to realize that it can take months, sometimes years, before these workshops start to pay off, but for the well-trained, diligent actor, they almost surely will. A single booking at the day player rate (upwards of $750 in 2008) will pay you back for the 15 or 20 workshops you may have taken.
Look at it this way: There are no guarantees in life. You have two choices – you either do these workshops and hope for the best, while doing your best, or you don’t and let your competition (yeah, that’s what they are, folks – the competition) do them, without you to impede their upward climb. The casting people will get to know whomever of you actually shows up for these very necessary workshops. So, who’s it gonna be? Them or you?
Another little warning: There are a lot of whiners and nay-sayers in this business. You will hear the occasional high-and-not-so-mighty moaner and groaner grousing about what a “rip-off” these workshops are – how actors shouldn’t have to pay to audition – blah, blah, blah. Well, guess what: We ALL thought that same thing when they first started back in the 1990s, but there have been far too many positive results for us to continue to worry about any of that.
You came to Hollywood to act, right? Well, these workshops are an opportunity to do just that. If you’re going to attend them, do it with the right attitude, because if you walk in the door with a chip on your shoulder, you will blow any chance you had to favorably impress the casting person, agent, or director who is spending his or her time to get to know your work. So what if they’re making a little money at the same time. That is really none of your business, now is it? After all, you don’t think you’re the only person who wants to earn a little bit more money, while still doing what you love, do you…?
As for our first warning…casting directors are like elephants: They never forget…a bad performance or an unpleasant attitude. That’s why we urge you to wait until you are truly ready before participating in these workshops.
A few of the best:
Please note: There is no good reason on earth to pay a high fee just to join one of these groups. Most of them charge a nominal processing fee after they accept you into the group, but there are a couple out there (not on our list!) who charge several hundred dollars just to join. We’re not talking about paying in advance for the workshops; we’re talking about a fee to join. Shall we say that one more time? A. Fee. To. Join.
Do. Not. Do. It.
Needless to say, your own cold reading skills must be excellent. If they aren’t, start working on them now, so that when you are really ready to start meeting the people who will influence your entire career, you’ll know and they’ll know that you are, indeed, a pro.