You’ll recall that a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about The CD Workshop Issue. Well, here’s some more of the email that week’s piece generated. Thanks, everyone, for weighing in!
Your column is pretty skippy great! Straight and to the point. It suits me perfectly! So I’d like to respond to the CD workshop for access issue you so thoroughly wrote about. When my audition schedule lulls I try to shake things up with an acting class or research new music to learn. I like the quiet patches between work and auditions.
So this week I went to a SAG NYCAP seminar. A cold reading seminar with a known TV/film CD who also teaches on-camera acting for actors (more on that later). Normally these aren’t my thing. I like to take acting classes from acting teachers. I like to feel free to flop in a scene without judgment or worry of whether this person will hire me or not. Then I can polish my work and go to a casting looking and feeling “on point,” just how I like casting directors to see me. It’s just my preference. I don’t like or need to spend lots of hard-earned cash on access. I work on other ways to build relationships. I also live in NY where access is just closer and easier.
My last paid workshop was a few years ago with a major network CD that everybody raved about. It proved to be a hot box of mess. This CD repeatedly rescheduled classes, showed up late, and just wasn’t that on their game when they were in the room. When I requested my money back after the second class, the studio owner was shocked because he hadn’t had an actor complain about this CD’s class before. Well, maybe actors are afraid to rock the boat but I paid $450 and I was expecting an on-camera technique class for actors, not a CD just taping random scenes which you have to watch at home for the full scope of your critique. I wasn’t paying to just meet her. I’d auditioned for her in the past. I wanted to actually learn something. And after finishing an acting technique class in his studio the month before she wasn’t cutting it by along shot in my book. I realized that I wasn’t getting the point of this class. She was there for access and making $$$.
So back to the SAG seminar, cold reading: Hoping to hone my cold reading skills, for no additional cost to me, I was ready to meet a CD that doesn’t have an official NY office. They cast African-American projects often. Perfect. I am African-American. The CD begins the seminar by telling us cold readings are really auditions so the seminar will be set up as an audition. We would be reading scenes with another actor. Okay. The CD tells us a bit about their resumé and hands out scenes one by one. No one gets a scene for more than a few minutes before their read and in between the CD takes questions. It’s not easy being in a room trying to read a scene while there is a Q and A still happening!
After actors read, the CD offered a general critique (that was very film like acting) but no insight on how to break down a three-page scene quickly. After 15 or so pairings, the scenes all seemed flat and similar. No attempt was made to show actors the ins and outs of what makes a cold read successful and unique to each actor. What a bomb! Now, I could have asked more pointed questions about the scene work but I’m a control freak and would have taken over the show if it had been left to me. I sat and bit my tongue. It wasn’t worth getting in the middle of their seminar. But what really blew me away was how the seminar ended. An infomercial for the CD acting classes they’ll be having next week! What? Did I miss something? The CD didn’t even seize the opportunity to “audition” their own skills as a teacher of anything in two hours! If this was going to be a seminar to sell a casting director’s classes, can we be a bit more upfront about it? Why the guise? Once again I wasn’t getting the point! Even the unions aren’t immune to the “access” as apposed to the “teaching.”
I would like to thank both AFTRA and SAG for making the effort to bring creative minds together with the rank and file. I really do have great respect for their dedication to give members as many tools to prosper. But both unions can do better. I stopped attending the AFTRA seminars. The AFTRA seminars are commercials and every time I go I could kick myself for getting suckered in again to another sales pitch. My last time at a CD “audition and meet” at AFTRA, I was in the middle of my monologue and a union member’s (monitoring the audition) cell phone went off — killing the moment! LOL! And I keep hoping that the next time….
Anyway, the next day after NYCAP the CD sent a mass email. Guess why. I should have known when she so pointedly asked for email addresses saying that’s how she casts. The casting director’s classes start next week!
Wow! That’s appalling. This is one of those reasons I so recommend actors keep a playbook about what to expect from one encounter to the next. This sort of information could prevent others from wasting valuable time on what looks like a great opportunity but is actually just a chance to have yourself exposed to classes you have no interest in taking, because they’re using the CAP time as ad time. I really do hope the folks who moderate the experiences do a better job of inviting in CDs whose interest is genuine and whose time with actors is spent in educational focus, not sales pitching. Maybe your email could serve as a wakeup call to the good folks at the NY SAG Foundation CAP office.
I just now was able to read your article in The Actors Voice from May 31, 2010 on The CD Workshop Issue. Wow. Wow. Wow. Awesome article! Once again, thank you so much for your time, energy, talent, insight, knowledge, and everything you so graciously offer and provide us actors with. You are simply amazing! I am ever so grateful every time I read your column. I feel like I’m attending a class lecture (and I mean that in a good sense).
I could pitch in my two cents worth on the issue of CD workshops, but suffice it to say, I’m totally on board with ya’. I’m inclined to believe that the popularity of these CD “workshops” would greatly decline if there weren’t so many desperate actors looking for a shortcut. There’s something to say about hard work and paying your dues, y’know. That’s a good thing, on so many levels.
I totally don’t object to the fortunate few who suddenly get their “big break” in an unsuspected manner. That’s wonderful and I’m happy for whomever may get lucky enough to experience that, but it’s not the norm. Besides there’s enough other legitimate necessary stuff actors have to fork out their cash for, why lay it out on something that’s not really, mmmmm… the best investment, I guess you could say.
I just wish, for their own good, that all the newbie actors, and all other actors who have a desperation that compels them to seek after shortcut ways into their “big break” would chill, and just concentrate on working hard — studying, practicing, auditioning, etc. — and know and trust that if they’re good, CDs will find them.
Anyway, I just had to thank you again, Bonnie, for all that you do. You totally rock! And I mean that with all my heart!
Absolutely my pleasure to show up here each week and share some ideas. That you find them of value from time to time is a bonus and I really appreciate the feedback. There are many wonderful sources for good information out there and I hope you’re reading it all and picking and choosing what is working for you, of course, lining it all up with your first-hand experience, which is the most valuable teacher.
I’d love it if folks would take a more long-haul approach to their careers as actors. Unfortunately there is a great desire for that quick fix, that easy way to the top, that shortcut. And the sellers of access know that and count on it. As long as actors are smart about doing research before plunking down their money, we can hope that only the best opportunities will survive. But I have my doubts, as research scares the bejeezus out of a lot of people, unfortunately. But I’ll keep writing for those who do want to do the homework it takes to truly create a sustainable career in this industry.
Next, here’s email #3:
I just read your article about casting director workshops from May 31, 2010 upon the request of my manager. As an actress who has attended a few workshops, I found your article to be so on and wonderful to read. As a matter of fact, I do question the integrity of everyone involved in them. It does feel odd to pay some of these workshops and see the same group of casting directors jumping around from one workshop to another. I even had the experience of one CD who disclosed at the beginning of the workshop that he was not associated with the very casting director he works for to this day which was advertised by the middleman. He was basically, covering his [blank] and I couldn’t believe I witnessed that. Then he sat there with no personality, or feedback like it pained him to be there as a room full of eager actors bowed down to this person and there was little respect paid to the paying talent in the room. I just stayed cool and calm and just professional, but what I saw you touched on in the article. It appalled me the amount of people there and the total dollars collected by them for a double session that day and the way he acted. It will be one that I will never forget.
Thank you for writing the very informative article as I do not support any of the half dozen I attended, even though I was called in by an owner to read for a feature film, which was a wonderful experience. In the future, it just is something I won’t be supporting anymore and I hope you will keep on top of the legalization and ethics of the whole business model. I did however, just sign up with your encouragement to the SAG Foundation ones and the packet is coming to me in a few days, so kudos to you for that advice!
Thanks so much Bonnie and I hope to meet you, keep working hard and you are indeed a great writer, so that journalism degree really paid off!
Oh, Debra, I’m so glad you got involved with the SAG Foundation CAP workshops. You’ll enjoy them, I hope! Of course, do your research and get in front of the good ones, as well as ones who are actively casting projects your type consistently books.
Bummer that you had one of those bad experiences, but I have to tell you, since writing the article on CD workshops, actors are coming out of the proverbial woodwork to tell me about their nightmare experiences with the bad ones. And casting directors are telling me about the worst workshop facilities in the bunch — the ones that cold call actors saying a “friend” referred them, don’t audition the actors, and really do just run a mill. This has all been such an education for me.
Best yet, I’m working directly with the deputy city attorney to help with a strategy for bringing free workshops to the most talented actors, featuring the most high-end casting directors we can assemble for the experience. I’ll definitely keep y’all posted on what we come up with!
And the final email of this bunch:
I really appreciated your article on the CD workshop issue. Like you, I can see both sides. I don’t really like the idea of paying to be seen but I’m recognizing that it seems to be a trend that isn’t going away… so that if I am to participate I might as well be wise about it. Your clarification on a lot of the issues with the new law was really helpful.
My question — as someone who is SAG eligible/technically nonunion (ready, but waiting, to join once I book another union SAG job that justifies paying the sizable entry dues) — are there any sort of outlets similar to the SAG Foundation’s Casting Access Project but for people that are not yet members of the union? At the very least it seems that I can check out their streaming online videos.
Thank you again for sticking your neck out with that column!
I know I included emails like this in the last Your Turn I had focused on responses to The CD Workshop Issue, but I wanted to bring this all up again in case — outside of the many suggestions I made in that particular Your Turn — there are some ideas starting to brew out there. Maybe readers will write in with some good ideas? Let me hear from you! I’d love to share the information and — as you can see from the repeated requests for opportunities like this for nonunion actors — this would be good business, for the folks who could come up with the right way to do it!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001201.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.