CD Workshops

I am an actress considering joining casting director workshops (ITA, The Actor’s Group, Reel Pros, Actorsite, TVI, AIA, The Network Studio, One on One, Primetime, Actors’ Workout) but I don’t really know which are good. Could you please inform me on these workshops’ reputations and any other workshops out there worth looking into? Thank you.

Actually, I notice in reviewing my previous columns that I’ve stayed pretty far away from writing about casting director workshops. That’s probably due to the fact that I think there are many better uses of an actor’s money, in terms of career investment. I’ve often likened signing up for a casting director workshop to buying a lottery ticket. What follows is from a post I made a few years ago about truth in advertising at the now-defunct Wolfesden Actors Exchange:

“Tuesday at Be Famous Soon Workshop, Polly Pepper, assistant to Big Wig CD, will be in to read with 20 actors only. Limited space! Call now. Polly has worked with such CDs as Big Wig, Wig Bigger, and Wiggly Worm in her five years as an assistant. She loves actors and gives great feedback.”

And then, on every flyer, there should be the following series of questions and answers:

Q: Does Polly Pepper bring actors in to read for Big Wig CD after seeing them in workshops?
A: Yes. But she has to lie to Big Wig CD, as Big Wig CD does not know she’s doing workshops.

Q: In her five years of working as a casting assistant, how many actors has Polly Pepper brought in to read for her CD bosses?
A: Four.

Q: In her five years of working as a casting assistant, how many cold-reading workshops has Polly Pepper done (at $150/pop honorarium)?
A: One hundred and twelve.

Q: So, while twenty actors a pop have paid $40 to read for Polly Pepper 112 times in five years, four actors have been called in, making the financial viability of such an endeavor somewhere around the ballpark of $89,600 spent (and $16,800 of that earned by Polly, leaving $72,800 for the workshop owners to cover administrative costs)… or four actors, each getting a $22,400 ticket into the door of that casting office?
A: Yes. But don’t forget that that means 2236 actors paying $40 each over five years got NOTHING for their entry fee.

Q: So this is basically a lottery ticket?
A: Yes. But the payoff, if you pick the right numbers, so to speak, is high.

Basically, I think it’s the responsibility of the lottery commission (AKA workshop owner) to disclose the odds of winning, as is the practice with any contest. As for actors who choose to spend money on a lottery ticket instead of on classes or theatre company membership fees or new photographs or editing their demo reel or even putting food on their tables… well, I guess it’s no different than going to Vegas for the weekend. You’re down the money, but you took a chance… and you knew the odds going in.

Now, I’ll go ahead and argue with myself (on one point in that piece I wrote years ago) by saying that certainly there is plenty that actors get out of the CD workshops, along the lines of having the audition process demystified. So, I won’t say the 2236 actors I referenced above got nothing for their $40. That’s not fair, as a blanket statement about all of the various CD workshops out there.

That said, I just don’t like the idea of CDs getting out of the habit of attending theatre, showcases, stand-up open mic nights, etc., in favor of doing workshops. I think CDs should do all sorts of things to find the best new talent — and I believe that actors should do all sorts of things to get seen (self-submit, showcase, theatre, promo postcards, web presence, etc.) — I just don’t love that the ONE place people seem to MOST-defend seeing actors and casting directors intersect is the one that fills the pockets of a third party (the workshop owner).

Putting all of that aside, let’s get to answering your question. Which CD workshops are the best? Quite frankly, I don’t know. I have been invited to do CD workshops at several of the facilities you listed above, but have said no. I prefer to see live theatre and actor-produced showcases to scout for new talent and I prefer to speak at free events sponsored by SAG LifeRaft or Breakdown Services to demystify the casting process. I don’t like to mix one agenda (scouting talent) with the other (guest speaking).

Since actors do like to do both of those things at once sometimes, I think it’s a great idea for me to ask you, my readers, to let me know which CD workshops have good or bad reputations. Let’s call this a request for your “vote for best workshop” and maybe you’ll share a little info about why you prefer one workshop facility to another. Do you find that you’re the most talented person at a low-end workshop facility and that suits you just fine? Do you participate at a facility that features the most active CDs in town? Does your favorite CD workshop yield a fantastic booking ratio? Are you a member of a facility that gives great “extras” like free workshop attendance as an incentive for bringing in new members? Do you like the consultation services offered by your favorite workshop facility? Is it the cool reference library that does it for you? What makes a CD workshop worth the investment? How much is too much to spend? What should you expect and how long should you continue to participate before expecting to see benefits? Educate me from an actor’s perspective and I’ll turn the emails I receive into a future column, sharing the ins and outs of CD workshops from your point of view!

And yes, I’ll do my best not to pepper that column with my personal opinion about this use of actor-money. You already read my take on it, above. [Note: I do buy lottery tickets.]


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000259.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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  1. Pingback: A CD Workshop Caution for My NY SMFA Ninjas – Bonnie Gillespie

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