Saturday, September 06, 2014

How to avoid the "casting couch"

Yes, the "casting couch" does exist in Hollywood -- for women and men.  Most of the time casting sessions are legit (governed by union guidelines), but not always.  

So how do you know going in to a casting situation that it's shady? Good question.  Rarely is "must sleep with me" on the breakdown sheets.   So girls, here are some warning signs.  Yes, they are facetious but also true.

You may find yourself in a casting couch situation…

… when the casting session is held in an apartment in Pacoima.

… when there’s no script.

… when the producer’s first question is “Will you sign this document verifying you’re 18?”

… when the project is the MOTHER TERESA STORY and you’re told nudity is involved.

… when you Google the producer and it takes you to

… when he’d prefer not dealing with your agent because he’s an artist not a businessman.

… when he looks like Fredo from THE GODFATHER or Bob from BECKER or Steve Buscemi from anything.

… when there’s no one else in the room.

… when you learned about the casting session from a handwritten note on the bulletin board at Safeway.

… when there are bars on the windows of his office.

… when he has seven video cameras in his office and one is built into the floor.

... when he wears an ankle monitor. 

… when you’re the only one there to audition.

… when you recognize him from BIG BROTHER.

… when the script is CHINATOWN by Robert Towneger.

… when it’s a student film but the director is 60.

… when you feel the least bit suspicious for ANY REASON.

I hope you never find yourself in one of these situations.   Best of luck. And I look forward to seeing you one day in a real casting session, where you have a drive-on to the lot and everything!

NOTE: This was a modified re-post.


Scooter Schechtman said...

"This was a modified re-post."
Excuse me, I believe the more marketable phrase is "Enhanced Episode".
This is an ALL-NEW comment!

Johnny Walker said...

Hard to believe such things still exist. On the latest Bluray of the very legit film, ALIEN, one special feature is a taped dress audition featuring an unknown Sigourney Weaver that strangely fades to black before it's over.

A little research reveals that she'd been asked to take her top off as part of the "scene" (which wasn't in the final movie), and the Bluray producers decided to fade to black to spare the older Weaver any embarrassment.

Strange to think that nudity could be part of a late stage test, even on a wholly legitimate movie.

Johnny Walker said...

Sorry, it was a "screen test"... Whatever that means?

Mike said...

Strange to think that nudity could be part of a late stage test, even on a wholly legitimate movie.

Not at all. If you're auditioning for a part that's going to require you to be naked, they're going to want to see what you look like with your clothes off. That's just part of the process and isn't at all the same thing as the casting couch situation Ken is joking about.

This applies to men every bit as well as to women. If you're a guy and there's any possibility that the part you're auditioning for is going to require you to appear shirtless at some point, then someone's going to want you to take off your shirt so they can see what you look like.

Which is why every actor or wanna-be actor has a gym membership, and why there are more personal trainers per square foot in Los Angeles than in the rest of the country combined.

At the same time, unless you're auditioning to do porn, taking off your clothes should be just a very minor part of the audition process.

DBenson said...

Mark Evanier had what might be considered the equivalent cautions for writers and artists. Instead of nudity, it's similar characters looking for extensive free spec work:

One of his warning signs is guys who speak of getting their ducks in a row.

Steven said...

Oh, back when I was in college I knew a guy who went to a porn audition. He came back kind of upset because the guy conducting the audition had basically said, "Okay, get naked and get it up." The fellow who'd gone for the audition was very shaken over this and seemed to think he'd been somehow violated, which both amused and puzzled me. I mean, he went in to audition to do a porn video. What in the world did he think they were going to want him to do? Read from "King Lear"?

Matthew said...

Steven: You're right, it was much more likely to have been King Leer.

Todd said...

Russell Johnson recalled, with amusement, being asked to take his shirt off during his audition for the role of the Professor on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. Not, he said, that he hadn't had to do it before. Just that given the part and the nature of GILLIGAN, he wasn't expecting it.

Daniel Asuncion said...

Fascinating post, Ken.

So, movies have been around for just
over a century?

I wonder when the first "casting
session" trap was set?

Halifax, NS


Last night, 3:30 AM, saw what I think
is the best FRASIER episode: the one
where Frasier's Dad says that he was
the one who had an affair, many years

And, the story developed quite
naturally...Frasier & Niles would not
even have seen their Dad in that
diner, if their previous plans for
the evening had not fallen through.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thanks to social media, things don't quite work the way you're describing, Ken. But thanks for the trip back to 1988.

Johnny Walker said...

The thing is, Mike, there isn't any nudity in ALIEN! :)

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken (Levine): I don't know if you've seen this, but Washington Post has an interesting piece on the aging of TV:

I'd be interested in your thoughts on the implications for the business. (Aside from: if the networks raise the ages of the characters in their shows to match those of the audience, the casting couch problem might go away entirely.)


VP81955 said...

I fear the aging of TV isn't good news for the multi-camera sitcom, which many younger audiences believe automatically equals "old."

That said, I also note that Ed Asner is getting a recurring role on "Mom" (Bonnie's father, perhaps?).

Jay said...

@Johnny: Just because there's no nudity in the finished picture doesn't mean there wasn't any in the script, or that the producers weren't allowing for the possibility of there being nudity.

thomas tucker said...

...when you see Chris Hansen waiting outside with a camera crew.

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