Actor Workshops: Everything You Need To Know

If you’re looking for ways to improve your skills and network with other industry folk, actor workshops may sound like a viable option. However, in a city full of desperate actors looking to get noticed, most are all too willing to fork over their money for these “workshops”. While certain types of workshops are definitely worth your time and money, like any other business, scams exist to try and take advantage of the inexperienced.

 

What are actor workshops?

Most actor workshops refer to a casting director workshop — which typically consists of actors reading/performing a scene in front of a casting director – usually followed by some form of feedback. The casting director may also afford time to lecture on a certain audition technique or acting method, as well as taking general questions from the actors. Some casting directors may even give you advice on your headshots, resumes, demo reels, etc. The structure and focus of these workshops vary per casting director, and can cost anywhere from $30 to $300 dollars. The majority of casting director workshops are organized and facilitated by a third party, i.e. an acting school, entertainment group, or workshop company.

Although casting director workshops are by far the most common type of workshop, several others still exist. Another common type is acting “intensive” workshops. These workshops are usually taught by acting teachers/coaches, although many casting directors also teach intensives too. Intensives are longer than your typical acting class or casting director workshop, and are basically entire acting courses and methods crammed into a single session (as opposed to a traditional acting course that spans 4-6 weeks). These intensives tend to be significantly more expensive than other workshops, but they can be incredibly worthwhile for actors that don’t live in LA or NY, especially since the more notable casting directors and acting teachers will travel to other cities across the country (and even the world) to teach these intensives.

Finally, some other common types of actor workshops are commercial workshops and agency workshops. As the names suggest, commercial workshops focus on the commercial side of the entertainment industry, while agency workshops (also known as agent showcases) consist of performing in front of various theatrical agents/managers. Commercial workshops can be useful since the commercial world is drastically different than traditional film, television, and theatre; while agency workshops can be a great way to meet agents/managers, which is obviously useful if you are looking for representation.

The controversy

To preface, the majority of the controversy surrounding actor workshops have been alleviated through recent changes to California law, as well as strict guidelines from the Casting Society of America, SAG-AFTRA, and other entertainment groups on how these workshops are to be conducted.

The original controversy surrounding these workshops revolved around its core premise: actors having to pay to audition in front of casting directors, agents, and managers. This created a troubling ethical situation, one that led to the above-mentioned changes to help protect actors and performers alike. As an actor, you shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket just to audition or be seen by someone. Doing so is equivalent to walking into a supermarket and paying the manager to give you a job interview – in other words, it’s not right. Even though the nature of these workshops has changed for the better, one must still be vigilant when pursuing these kinds of opportunities, especially when money is involved.

Quick tips to avoid being scammed

-Always do your research. Who are the casting directors/agencies participating in the workshop? Look them up. If you’ve never heard of them or the people/projects they worked on, that’s a red flag.

-Check the costs. If you do choose to participate in any of these types of workshops, you should never have to pay an arm and a leg for them. Actor intensives, especially ones where the teacher travels out of state to teach it, are an exception since they are always a tad bit more expensive.

-Curb your expectations. This one is mainly geared toward agency workshops. Lots of agents/managers will give you the general, “I think you’re great, I want to sign you” speech. However, very seldom do these “offers” actually come to fruition. Just prepare yourself.

-Don’t sign anything! This isn’t as common of a problem at workshops, but, if an agent or rep approaches you and wants to “sign you on the spot,” common sense should dictate that you take all the necessary time and attention to look over whatever they want you to sign. Do NOT feel pressured to sign anything in front of them.

Maximizing your experience

In order to fully take advantage of these workshops, you must approach them correctly. Like acting classes, you should do your research. Talk to other actors, and find out which workshops are the best, as well as which companies and organizations offer the best workshops for the best prices. Of course, it’s also important to keep price in mind, as these workshops can vary greatly in cost. If you happen to stumble upon a free workshop (with a reputable casting director or acting teacher), – sign up for it as those are always rare finds.

One very common mistake that actors make about these workshops is that they think that they are actually auditioning for the person (casting director or other), and therefore should impress them in order to gain a spot in one of their projects, or be signed by their company. Rather, you should view your time at these workshops as rare opportunities to gain valuable insight on your auditioning technique, the nature of the entertainment industry, and how you can improve your craft. Although some casting directors have been known to audition actors from their workshops for actual projects – this should never detract from your purpose: learning as much as you can in order to better your acting career.

 

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Kyle

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