Monday, April 11, 2016
Now, I don’t know Scott David. I have no idea whether he’s a good casting director – I assume he is; he’s done it for a long time. He may also be a lovely guy. I don’t know.
But he was disreputable and taking advantage of the people who can least afford it – young actors.
How’s this for a scam? You’re a casting director for a major network television show. You’re paid handsomely for your services. Your job is to find talent. That means you need to go to local plays, see what’s happening on YouTube, travel to New York occasionally to check out that talent pool, watch as many movies and other shows as you can, check out demo reels, and basically scour the landscape for actors.
Instead (or he may claim “in addition to”), Mr. David organizes showcases, where actors can sign-up and perform a monologue or whatever. And here’s the rub: He charges them.
Now to me, that’s double-dipping. Finding and auditioning talent is what CRIMINAL MINDS is paying for. To then ask the actors who can ill afford it, to pony up a healthy fee just to be considered is unconscionable.
And illegal. In 2009, The Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act was passed in Los Angeles, meant to halt this disgraceful practice. (Yet, the LA County City Attorney’s office has yet to prosecute one of these cases. Why the delay? Are they still catching up after the OJ trial?)
Meanwhile, Mr. David saw nothing wrong with the practice. He claimed it was just good “marketing” for the actors. He even allowed himself to be interviewed in the Hollywood Reporter on the subject. Add chutzpah to the mix.
Mr. David is not alone. There are a number of casting directors who charge for “workshops.” A recent investigation by the Hollywood Reporter is trying to fully expose this issue.
Make no mistake; I have tremendous respect for casting directors. A good one is a Godsend. They have to stay up on who’s out there even though it changes ever day. They have to discover talent, keep track of thousands of actors, match the right actor with the part, often negotiate with agents and managers, deal with finicky showrunners and studios and networks, and offer choices in the most subjective field in show business. Plus, their ultimate success is out of their hands. They may find the perfect actor, the network and showrunner are thrilled, and if the actor tanks it on the screen it’s their fault.
But some casting directors are brilliant at it. They have a sixth sense. They can pick out diamonds in the rough. They’re tireless. When it appears you’ve seen every possible candidate they somehow find two more. They're part talent scout/psychologist/mother. And since casting is the most important decision a showrunner will ever have to make (everything else can be rewritten, reshot, re-edited), the right casting director is critical. I don’t want to lose out on an amazing special actor just because he wasn’t willing to shell out a hundred bucks to participate in the casting director’s showcase.
It’s extortion. It doesn’t serve the actor or the showrunner. The only one it serves is the greedy casting director.
When the Hollywood Reporter article came out with Mr. David defending this practice he was released by CRIMINAL MINDS. Kudos to the producers of CRIMINAL MINDS.
There are wonderful actors who are sacrificing everything to make it in this town. They don't owe you; you owe THEM.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM