CASTING DIRECTOR WORKSHOPS in Los Angeles
(A guide for the serious actor)
By Merrick McCartha
You want to get a theatrical agent in LA....but Agents really only want to sign you if you've already booked a network show role at least once.....but you can't get an audition for those without an agent, because the casting director has no clue who you are.......but you can't get an agent unless you book a network show.....but you can't book a show without an agent....but you can't get an agent without booking a show....but you can't book a show.....etc...etc...etc....
This is VERY common for actors trying to break into the LA market. The solution used to be, do a good play and have the agents/casting people show up to see you. OR.....take a class by a reputable acting teacher that has showcases twice a year, and the agents/casting people see you there.
THESE METHODS STILL WORK!.....sometimes.
Fast forward to the digital age. Hardcopy headshots are barely used....breakdowns sent out by courier are GONE.....A landscape once containing only three networks (ABC/CBS/NBC) has ex-ploded. The Casting process moves at light speed now. I personally could not wait for 6mos, twice a year to meet agent's an CDs in LA....just didn't fit into my career plan.....plus I was over 30...and in Hollywood...that means time is a factor. Don't get me wrong, if you are fresh out of college with your MFA...or a child actor......You are the chosen few that can afford to take your time to build your career........maybe. smile emoticon If you are a mature adult that has made the decision to change your life and follow your passion for acting....after the age of 30...like me....then you need to be tactical in your approach....or you WILL burn out.
I haven't gotten to Casting Workshops yet because I want to be clear about a couple things first. You have to be be good. Yes....GOOD...at acting before you even attempt to meet an agent or casting person in LA. And I must clarify that from this point foward...I'm speaking to the mature adults I acknowledged in the last paragraph. You have to study and practice your craft and be GOOD!!...REALLY GOOD. I can't stress that enough. It doesn't have to be acknowledged with awards, etc....but you need to have some feedback letting you feel certain...that you are a very good actor. That's first and foremost.....or else everything beyond this point in the post is a waste of your time.
Secondly...you have to be SAG...or at least SAG-E. I'm really sorry. I don't make the rules about this...but I learned the hard way that if you present yourself to a casting pro of network shows as non-union....you almost literally Disappear before their eyes.....they have no interest whatsoever...no matter how good you are. This is because, they CAN'T hire you...even if they want to marry you. The idea that they will be the ones to give you a voucher, or taft-hartley you so that you are SAG....is a fantasy...so please stop it. There are many easy ways to become SAG in San Diego with all the wonderful SAG films being produced...so don't sweat it, just get it done. You may not be able to afford the $3K in new member fees...and decide you want to stay SAG Eligible until you absolutely have to join. That's actually fine!!....that's what I did!! I did however....craftfully 'conceal' the fact that I was SAG Eligible from Casting people in LA for quite some time.....in order to remove that hurdle to me developing a professional relationship. So...there are ways people.
Third....make sure your headshots and resume are on point. No low quality headshots...they stand out like a <blank> in church. Also make sure your resume is formatted correctly. There is an industry standard....and if you don't know it...I guarantee you that you have newbie mistakes on yours....and the casting pros and agents in LA will spot it immediately...and now you have that going against you as well. So get it together!
Fourth...pick out two GOOD scenes and memorize them. They should NOT be from a famous movie or well known show episode. One should be serious, the other more comedic. Both scenes should be you playing characters you would most likely be cast as. They should be no longer than a couple minutes. They should show some type of shift in a situation. Know these scenes frontwards and backwards....they are your core tools. NO...no monologues...did you see the word monologue anywhere???..NO. It should be only two characters in your scene ideally....but NEVER a monologue.
Alrighty....I think you're ready to discuss workshops. Here's the Skinny:
Back in the day, there were only a few workshop places in LA. A place called REAL PROS was the top spot to go to. Anyone could go in and 'audition' to be accepted as one of their actors that could attend these workshops with CDs. You had to be pretty much illiterate for them not to accept you. It was about $40 per CD. They had what was then a neat calendar system for you to enroll into each workshop. There were top notch CDs there all the time. They would take your headshot and resume...do a QnA session...then you could perform a scene for them with a partner...in front of them and the whole class. They would not allow you to come with anything memorized. They firmly believed you should be able to cold read, and would only give you 15mins to rehearse...with a random scene partner that you had to hope was any good at all. Yeah...it sucked.
THEN...more workshop places started popping up. Some of them started implying that you were all but guaranteed to be called in for an audition by the CDs. Well...this is what started the big stink about workshops...and they started getting a lot of attention from critics. So much so....that they actually passed legislation specifically targeting workshop companies. CDs were no longer allowed to actually keep your headshot at the end of the class.......yes, it had to be called a class and structured in more of a class-like format.....and all kinds of disclaimers to make it clear that this was not an audition and you were not promised or entitled to an audition of any kind by paying your money. So yeah....you drive all the way to LA...show them your headshot...do a great scene...take back your headshot...and hope they remember your name when they get back to casting the show next week. smile emoticon I honestly thought they would all close up shop soon.
BUT..they thrived!! This is because the interesting thing about legislation is....to be effective, it needs to be enforced. The bad apples were reported on and mostly either changed or shut their doors. New companies started gaining steam....like ActorsKey...a company that started out in the back storage area of a real estate office....it's now the mega-lyph of workshop companies in LA.. CDs keep your headshots if they choose...they usually make you come with a memorized scene..and rarely ever have you cold read. Some CDs even have multi-day sessions that are once a week over a span of three weeks. This means you have little excuse for not developing a relationship with a CD even if you don't have an agent yet. I highly recommend you get to know which CDs cast the shows you think you have your best shot at getting on...and targeting them for multiple sessions...spread out over time....so that they know your name when you walk into the room.
NOW...one last thing. There are some CDs that do workshops...but never call in anyone they see at the workshops...like ever! There are also some...that have nothing going on in the near future...but do workshops anyways. There are CDs that are on hiatus from casting and do workshops and would not even have a role to cast for several months. I'm not judging them. I'm just letting you know...in case you are pacing yourself a certain way. The trick to knowing who is actually doing what....is to have a CastingAbout account. It's owned by the same company that releases all the major tv and film breakdowns...so they know the real deal. You will be able to verify whether a CD is still casting director for a certain show...whether that show is on hiatus...or still casting....or almost done casting for the season! CastingAbout is awesome!....it's fairly inexpensive and essential to anyone tactically using workshops to help their career.
And that's it folks!! Workshops in a nutshell. I sincerely hope this helps you. All of this is based on my personal experience. I have an agent and manager now...and I have some success in LA as an actor for television. I credit my navigation of workshops as part of the reason for that success. I'm here to help if you have specific questions....so feel free to msg me if you do.