You’ve seen them: those ads stapled onto telephone poles and plastered all over the pages of those throwaway neighborhood newspapers. They promise the moon, the stars and a shot at the big time, but rarely deliver even a pinch of stardust. “Audition for Bob! casting director of the hit TV show…” “Read for Bill, superstar talent agent at…” “Jim, personal manager of top actors, such as Steve and Susan, will be looking for new talent…” For those struggling to get a break, these meetings may seem to be the way to get that long-sought meeting with the big guys, the chance to be seen by casting agents, to work with directors, to be spotted by managers and agents. Sadly, most of them turn out to be a waste of time and money, if not an outright scam calculated to separate you from your hard-earned money.
There are certainly many legit companies that offer a chance to meet and read for casting agents and directors in a classroom setting; but be aware that if any fee is charged for these sessions, your participation may be in violation of SAG-AFTRA Rule 11 or California Labor Laws.
Section 11 of the SAG-AFTRA Rules and Regulations states, in part: It shall likewise be deemed conduct unbecoming a member for any member of the union, directly or indirectly, to give or offer to give any money, gift, gratuity or other thing of value to an employer, or prospective employer, to any officer, agent, representative or employee of such employer or prospective employer, or to any employment or casting agency representing an employer, or prospective employer, or to any of their officers, agents, representatives or employees as an inducement to secure employment. This rule shall not apply to prohibit the payment of lawful commissions to motion picture agents holding franchises from SAG-AFTRA.
If you are asked to pay a fee or give any form of compensation to audition for a casting director, producer, agent, manager, or anyone else that has any input into the hiring process, please contact Terri Becherer, Director, Background Actors at (323) 549-6809 to report the incident. This includes workshop-style situations where a casting director watches your scene or monologue, offers no meaningful critique or feedback, and is presented as someone looking for actors for “current and upcoming projects.” This becomes a paid audition, which is against SAG-AFTRA rules.
California State Labor Code prohibits employers or potential employers from demanding payment for employment opportunities; you should contact your state labor board to inquire whether they have similar laws. The Hollywood office has notified the California Labor Department about violations of this section, and Guild members should likewise not hesitate to contact their state or their SAG-AFTRA Local regarding violations. The more people that stand up and protest these practices, the more likely it is that action will be taken.
Now, there are certainly legitimate classes offered by casting directors and producers. The difference is that these classes are in fact ongoing, “traditional” acting classes, during which acting instruction is offered rather than being simply a one-time paid audition. California recently set guidelines for casting director workshops to distinguish the legit ones from those that, for a fee, offer only a vague hope of being remembered for some future role. California members can get a copy of the guidelines by contacting the California Labor Department, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, Department of Industrial Relations.
Here are a few examples of what SAG-AFTRA considers to be paid auditions:
Don't Pay Reality Shows
Don't Pay Fees
Don't Pay Producers
Don't Pay Casting Agencies
If you have any questions regarding the legitimacy of workshops or auditions, contact your SAG-AFTRA Local or Terri Becherer, Director, Background Actors at (323) 549-6809.