Monday, April 11, 2016

Hollywood's latest scam revealed

Here’s one of those feel-good Hollywood stories you rarely hear. Scott David was fired as casting director of CRIMINAL MINDS.

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. 

28 comments:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

This is very much like those scams aimed at unpublished writers where an "agent" will read your manuscript for a fee and give you feedback. (Some of them then try to enroll you in other for-pay workshops and programs). No reputable agent does this. In this case, what's awful is that supposedly reputable casting directors are doing it.

Speaking of casting directors, the one on THE GOOD WIFE deserves a nod for finding some truly wonderful actors who hadn't been seen a whole lot on TV before the show's run. It's a testament to their quality how many of them subsequently landed gigs on regular shows (rendering them unfortunately unavailable to appear again on THE GOOD WIFE!). It's just a pity that they've been given such awful dreck to do for the last year or two. Even Christine Baranski's character barely exists any more.

wg

Anonymous said...

Latest "SCRAM"?

You telling us to "Get out of here"? or didja mean SCAM?

MikeN said...

What about colleges that charge $100 for admissions applications?

In some places you have to pay money to go to a job interview. The amount collected probably covers the first year's salary.

Stephen Marks said...

Get me Scott David!

Get me an honest Scott David!

Get me the lawyer suing Scott David!

Whatever happened to Scott David?

Cory said...

How did your play in Philly go, Ken? Did you have any involvement with the production other than licensing the script? Curious how different it is watching a show you've developed with a director/cast vs attending a production where your only input might be the words.

Cory

Eric J said...

Always a pleasure to see how consistent you are in supporting and defending young writers and actors.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Casting Directors as sharks? Awful.

...don't get me started. The same crap infected the voiceover world beginning fifteen years ago after large radio group owners consolidated and canned their on-air staffs. Hundreds went home to build their own little audio production rooms. Enter: The sharks. Companies like Voices, Voices123 offered the 'opportunity' for voice actors and dj's to audition for jobs...in exchange for an annual fee. Plus newbies enticed by the thought of doing voiceovers from home (i.e. not having to work hard.) Today, there are thousands of folks out there supporting those pay-for-play Web sites, many of which offer 'training' and 'evaluation,' again for a fee.

The result: Too many people chasing too few jobs...that pay poorly.

Ever consider doing voiceover work and earning thousands from home? Visit fiverr.com, enter 'voiceover,' and see 1,658 individuals who will perform your voiceover FOR FIVE DOLLARS.

Sad. The newbies and lazy pros don't understand the new voiceover environment: "The job is not doing voiceovers. It's finding voiceover clients."

Peter said...

The guy is still advertising his workshops on his Twitter account and he seems to also be getting people to tweet about how much he's done for their career. Shameless.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

to my untrained eye, I would think the best way to know if a casting director or associate was any good, would be to see if Executive Producers, or Showrunners would be taking the Casting people with them whenever they had new projects.

David Scott may have been really good but he was illegally taking advantage of his position it seems
The fact that LA never went after any of these people, says a lot...

Ken said...

Off subject but considering your review of Batman v. superman one must ask is does it measure down to Ishtar levels?

Mike in Seattle said...

Casting directors deserve recognition. They deserve their Oscar.

But sometimes casting directors need to stand up to producers and tell them no, as with Scorsese's people casting that PoS Bo Dietl in VINYL. A working actor could have had those lines, a few of them not bad, gotten some exposure and maybe some work. But no.

Instead, they hire a guy who goes on Imus, spouts his racist garbage, brags about how many heads he beat in on NYPD and how he beat the system. A guy who went into full rage mode for 10 minutes on national radio/TV about how he took his kid to see BAD SANTA and it wasn't something a kid should see! It wasn't his fault, no.

Why do they hire him? Because he's one of Marty's ass kissing entourage at Raos? Whoever was responsible for this should bow their head in shame.

jcs said...

David Scott exploited young actors, there's no doubt about that. He was able to get away with his shady behaviour because the networks did not care. Less casting expenses? Great! Casting directors behaving unethically? Not a problem! The piece in THR indicates that there are many willing participants in this game, David Scott was just one of them. Unfortunately the network execs that eliminated casting as we once knew it will get away with their deeds.

Anonymous said...

It's been happening for years in New York with Legit theatre.

Max Clarke said...

Good casting directors really are a godsend.

When I saw Mali Finn’s name on the credits for a movie, such as L.A. Confidential, I knew it was made better by her participation.

Also, Juliet Taylor always found interesting people for Woody Allen’s movies.

MikeK.Pa. said...

When I read your lead, I thought it was about the "casting couch," which - amazingly in this day and age - apparently is still in high gear in Hollywood.

Four years ago, there was a terrific documentary "Casting By," that featured legendary casting director Marion Dougherty, among others.

Mike said...

Meh. Just a shadier version of all the media schools teaching courses in film/television/radio. The best outcome for their students seems to be a job in a media school teaching film/television/radio. Harsh? In the US, is the most deemed useless qualification "Art History"? In the UK, it's "Media Studies".

Then there's the unpaid internships.

Presumably, there was a vocal negative response from the public to this expose, fuelled by the guilty being well-known, leading to the dismissal. A few more of these, the public will no longer respond and there will be no further dismissals. Practice accepted.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Friday Question from someone who must have something better to think about:

Is there ever concern in a multi'cam about actors' footwear so as not to make noise on the floor of the set? Clomp Clomp Clomp or click click click would be hard to remove from the mix. (I was watching BIG BANG THEORY and noticed Leonard wearing tennis shoes on the hardwood kitchen floor. That's appropriate footwear for that character, but it can't be so for everyone.)

Johnny Walker said...

Ha! Mike, guess what my careers advisor told me to take... and a BTEC in it, too, no less. A double whammy of a waste of time. Big difference here is that I didn't have to pay for it, though.

Barry Traylor said...

This guy is a real bastard. I sure hope no one else hires him (well, maybe to clean the toilets).

Lauren Tuerk said...

While I agree with what you have said, Ken, back when I was pursuing parts on TV, I could not get an agent. The only way I worked was because of these darned CD Workshops. Now, there is a great distinction between going to one of these and receiving a nice scene from "Frasier" or "Becker" (first job on my reel on IMDB - it is the first 20 seconds - ha!) to work on, and going in and doing a monolog or "chosen" scene from the deplorable choices the actual casting workshops kept in their files. I was hired on every TV job on my IMDB because of these CD workshops through the years. I am not saying it is right, but the casting people I met brought good material, we all had some time to work on it and then we showed them what we could do . A few months later, I would get a phone call at home from the casting person I was able to meet, and I had an audition. It was great back then. I don't now about these days as I stopped doing them, but I was one of the lucky ones who got all my work from them. I hate that actors have felt duped into paying major $$$ to just go in and do a monolog or "meet". What is the point in that? PS - I wasn't able to meet you when I did Becker. It was 8/2001 if I remember correctly. Anyway, I wanted to add my two cents. Not all CDs were just after an easy evening of cash. Some were really involved and shared wonderful experience.

Johnny M. said...

Ken - Did you see Funny or Die's satirical take on how the internet has ruined TV, using Cheers as the example of a show that was more enjoyable before the internet? Kind of funny.

7 Trends that are Ruining TV
http://www.funnyordie.com/articles/c37bc0718d/7-trends-that-are-ruining-tv?_cc=__d___&_ccid=f873046d-663f-446d-bdae-cc9dc3998472

Anonymous said...

and then there also is the ongoing issue of Managers and the California Statute that makes it ILLEGAL to conduct business as as agent (submit and to negotiate.....) yet there they are.....

chuckcd said...

I was trying to get an unpaid internship with a network TV show some years ago, and I was told if I paid $300 I would be "considered".

I passed.

Danny said...

Charles H. Bryan said...

Friday Question from someone who must have something better to think about:

Is there ever concern in a multi'cam about actors' footwear so as not to make noise on the floor of the set? Clomp Clomp Clomp or click click click would be hard to remove from the mix. (I was watching BIG BANG THEORY and noticed Leonard wearing tennis shoes on the hardwood kitchen floor. That's appropriate footwear for that character, but it can't be so for everyone.)


Don't know about now, but it used to be standard Hollywood practice to put felt on the soles of shoes to eliminate the noise they made.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Ken. One more thing, when is your next writing seminar and how much does it cost? I heard from a past attendee that you might refer stellar prospects to some of your working friends.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Ken. One more thing, when is your next writing seminar and how much does it cost? I heard from a past attendee that you may refer stellar prospects to some of your working friends.

Anonymous said...

This isn't happening with just actors. It's happening with aspiring writers as well.

If you have a moment to look into it, I suggest take a look at Stage 32 (https://www.stage32.com/happy-writers/pitch-sessions). I would really like your thoughts on it. They are constantly offering paid "pitches" to "industry executives" and touting how many writers have been signed or staffed as a result. But when I take a look, these "executives" are often just assistants and coordinators at agencies or production companies. Since I'm a showrunner's assistant & script coordinator, does this mean I can charge $50 a pop for people to pitch me? Granted, they are required to submit a full response and review of the pitch, which certainly could be helpful - but the whole thing just sounds fishy to me. I feel like it's taking advantage of aspiring writers, but as someone who is struggling to get to the next level, I've certainly been tempted. Still, I'll stick to the old fashioned way: sexual favors.

Kaleberg said...

This is as bad as those "modeling school" scams they used to advertise in the back of Cosmopolitan and on late night TV.