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Casting Director Workshops: The Con Exposed

Last week The Hollywood Reporter published an article about Scott David, a CBS casting director for Criminal Minds, who was fired for his “side-job” of offering aspiring actors paid access to CD’s. Finally, a light is being shown on the con that has been plaguing the industry for almost two decades, and is a major reason why a significant number of American actors are so bad. Actors have been fooled into believing that casting directors will actually teach them craft. CD’s can be the linchpin of an actor’s career. Agents and managers daily pitch and beg to get their clients in the audition room. The casting director holds those keys. Many of them now use this power to extract money from struggling, untrained actors for utterly superficial advice. It’s like an aspiring guitar player, who, rather than actually spending years learning to play from a master guitarist, believes they’ll learn to play by paying money to a talent booker who gives them tips on how to hold the microphone and gyrate their hips. Ok, but you still have no clue how to play the guitar.

The Untrained Actor and the Crisis in American Acting

I have spoken previously about the crisis in American acting, primarily the collective disinterest of not just this current generation of actors, but also of the many industry professionals who treat the art of acting as merely a superficial quest for fame and celebrity. Both embracers and peddlers of the notion that an artistic process can be cobbled together with the occasional three-hour workshop. As an artist who has spent the last 25 years committed to the art of acting, and specifically the last decade solely devoted to the art of teaching and preserving the work of Sandy Meisner, I am appalled at the disinterest we have towards training the actor as an artist.

The Myth of CD Workshops

Every year, thousands of untrained yet hopeful dreamers flock to LA and NYC. They want success quick, and so they start plopping down $30-$200 a shot for the opportunity to sit in a room and listen to people who actually know NOTHING about what it takes to consistently and organically create vivid, fully realized human behavior. The promise of a chance at one or two lines on a TV show is promoted as a major step towards a long and substantive career. It isn’t. These “industry professionals” (who are often no more than 20 something office assistants) can make a quick $200-$500 for three hours of “advice”. Who can blame them for wanting to supplement their income? But it has done tremendous damage to the quality of acting in this country. And what makes it even more offensive, is that many of the businesses that provide these opportunities actually pass off what they do as training.

The Serious Actor

Acting is an art form, a beautiful, vital part of our culture for thousands of years.

Any serious actor should have a deep desire to illuminate the human condition. The only thing that will lift you out of the swamp of mediocrity is a serious commitment to training. The best artists in any medium master their instrument. Its only actors who find that to be too much work. It takes two to three years of intense training, and a decade or more of relentless work and grit to truly become a first rate actor and artist.

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