In the last few years casting workshops have become increasingly popular; with a multitude of companies springing up to offer this advantageous service to those actors who can afford it.
Many years ago casting directors would hold general meets with actors in order to get to know them and you didn’t have to pay for the privilege. However, now that the industry is heavily saturated with eager actors (desperate for their big break), it seems the only way to be seen is to either get an audition or to pay for the honour.
So the average workshop in London will set you back between £30 – £45. In most cases it will last between 2 – 3 hours and allow you to hear about the casting directors background and methodology, perform a scene or monologue (usually receiving feedback) and ask a few questions at the end.
Your experience will depend on two things. Firstly the casting directors attitude and reason for running the workshop and secondly your attitude towards the workshop.
The Casting Director: In the last two years I have attended around fifty of these sessions, mostly through the Actors Guild. My experience on the whole has been extremely positive. Although, it seems to me that a handful of casting directors are there purely for the money, they seem disinterested in getting to know the actors, happy to simply rant about their pet hates and other industry professionals and rather than giving constructive feedback on the actors performances, simply say “yes, lovely, thank you. Next!”. That being said, a majority of them are delightful and really help to put everyone at ease with their friendly manner and constructive criticism.
The Actor: It still, even now, surprises me to see actors treat these opportunities with a complete lack of care. Things that I have seen include: Lateness (never a good excuse), simply not attending and not informing anyone (looks bad, as your name is on the list and the CD having looked at your spotlight page is expecting you), arriving dressed inappropriately (too casual or too provocatively – remember you are the product, your image gives off a statement – make sure you say the right thing), phones going off mid session…I really can’t believe that this still happens and people simply not preparing what they have been asked to prepare. Of course not all actors are this badly behaved. I just think if you are going to spend your money on a rare opportunity to meet a casting director then why wouldn’t you make the absolutely most of it?
I believe that these workshops are worth it, if you approach them correctly. Think of yourself as the product and the CD as the customer. You have the opportunity to present your product to the customer. First things first, make the product LOOK good (dress well), SOUND good (be positive, friendly and knowledgable about the industry), BE good (having prepared, give the customer what you have promised, a good performance. If the customer has feedback then listen and act on that advice). At the end of the session thank your customer for their time and ask if you can STAY IN TOUCH. Now this is the biggest and most important part: Once you have a lead / contact do not let it go cold. Be sure to stay in touch, obviously don’t hassle them, just simply remind them of your existent every few months. This way, if you are right for a role you are more likely to be in their minds when the opportunities arise.
Everyone has their own way of doing things but this is what I do and it serves me well.