Question about casting service web site

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by Jacques E. Bouchard, Jun 9, 2008.

  1. Has anyone worked with Castingworkbook.com? Any actual experience (not
    speculation), good or bad? I find it strange that they charge actors
    instead of producers, but they're affiliated with several legitimate
    agencies.

    A quick Google search didn't turn up anything negative or positive.

    Thanks.


    jaybee
     
    Jacques E. Bouchard, Jun 9, 2008
    #1
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  2. Jacques E. Bouchard

    PTravel Guest

    Speaking as a former professional actor (SAG/AFTRA) any "casting service"
    that charges actors is a scam. At least when I was working professionally,
    Guild members were not permitted to use "pay for play" services. In
    California, employment agencies (which is what an artistic agent is
    considered) are forbidden by law for charging up-front fees for their
    services. Casting directors are forbidden by both guilds from charging fees
    to actors under the MBA.

    Where are you located and what level of talent are you looking for?
     
    PTravel, Jun 9, 2008
    #2
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  3. I'm in Canada, and I don't yet have the budget for union actors, so I've
    been posting auditions on several web sites.

    My instinct told me something wasn't kosher, especially since they also
    offer headshot services (how convenient!). But as I said, Google didn't
    turn up anything bad.

    I had auditions yesterday following weeks of advertising in small venues.
    It's exhausting. Can't wait until I have the budget to hire casting
    agencies and deal with union pros.


    jaybee
     
    Jacques E. Bouchard, Jun 9, 2008
    #3
  4. Jacques E. Bouchard

    PTravel Guest

    I'm not very familiar with the acting business in Canada. In the U.S., if
    you're near a major production center (I suspect Vancouver, Toronto and,
    probably, Montreal would be the equivalent in Canda), there are professional
    trade publications that accept free casting notices. In LA and NY, that's
    how non-union talent gets cast and . . . ahem . . . the occassional union
    members who will work under a different name so that they can get "film" on
    themselves for their reel.

    An alternative approach is to contact a local university that has a film
    program (or, in a pinch, a theater program -- the acting requirements are
    very different). They're always happy to post casting notices so that their
    students can get some experience. If you find a school with a graduate
    program, you'll be able to tap a pretty broad age range that will probably
    include some pretty decent quality talent.

    There are also some very fine regional theaters in Canada and the U.S. that
    have resident companies. You may be able to find actors who are in Canada's
    equivalent of Equity -- the stage guild -- but not in the sister film and
    television unions who would welcome the opportunity to do some good video
    projects.

    Finally, don't discount the possibility of working with non-actors. For a
    lot of projects, someone with no acting training may turn in a better,
    less-affected, more honest and compelling performance than an aspiring actor
    with minimal and/or bad training. I'd recommend to you Uta Hagen's Respect
    for Acting which gives a good comprehensive and very understandable
    explanation of the acting technique that is used, almost exclusively, for
    performance in contemporary theater and film. As a director, it will give
    you some very useful tools that can be used with both actors and non-actors
    to get the performances that you need.
    When I was working professionally, there were an incredible number of scams
    designed to separate actors from their money. As that is always the case
    when supply is far more limited than demand, I'd doubt if it's any different
    now. I looked at the castingworkbook.com website. I can't say it's a scam,
    but there are an awful lot of things about it that concern me, e.g. selling
    head shots, charging fairly steep fees, handling "non-represented" talent,
    i.e. those without agents, etc.
    Though I've never directed film, I've directed a fair amount of theater.
    I've found that pictures and resumes provide a lot of information that
    helped me winnow down the throng well before I got to the live auditon
    stage. It's not so much the number or quality of the credits, but such
    things as whether the resume is professionally-formatted, who the actor has
    studied with, what the head shot says about what the actor is trying to
    project, etc. Also, most pros (and aspiring pros) have demo reels and, of
    course, there's nothing better to see what an actor actually can do under a
    real production situation.

    For what it's worth, my personal belief is that careful casting is more than
    half the battle -- the right actors will make the project work, whereas the
    wrong ones will ruin it no matter how good the director.

    Best of luck!
     
    PTravel, Jun 9, 2008
    #4
  5. There's a lot of online resources, starting with Craig's list all the way
    to specifically-targeted casting web sites. Not so much for print in
    Montreal (probably different in Toronto and Vancouver), but I generally
    get good responses to my calls for auditions, although the proportion of
    female actors is always a lot higher than male actors.

    As for union actors, many have approached me asking to work for free, but
    there are legal issues if I ever get caught (i.e., I won't hold all
    rights to the film). Basically, it just isn't worth it.
    I always open my auditions to non-actors. Problem is, few of them ever
    show up or even bother to cancel. You get the same from a lot of aspiring
    actors too, but at least most of them know what it means to be on set on
    time. Still, tape is cheap and everyone gets to audition if they just
    show up.
    Thanks, I'll check it out. I still get dirty looks for saying "actress".
    ;-)
    I got a call from my agent (who represents me as a writer), and she
    vouches for their legitimacy. Other acting agents sharing her office
    building also assure me they're on the level. I still think it's weird,
    but since it's free for producers to sign up I'll just go ahead. It'll be
    one more place to announce auditions.
    I've found that few of the actors I audition look like their headshots.
    Some look better, some worse... One woman who I thought looked perfect
    for the role of a 30-something married woman was actually 20 lbs lighter
    than her headshot and looked like a college student. On the other hand,
    one woman who I thought looked too young for the role was actually 33 and
    looked it in person. She got the part.
    I practically offered the part to one actre.. er, "female actor" after
    seeing her in a couple of plays. The audition was only a formality.
    Unfortunately (for her), the 33 year-old auditioned too and exceeded my
    expectations.
    Thanks! This next project is an important one, it'll serve to show
    potential investors to get financing for future productions. I bought the
    last piece of equipment (a field mixer) that I'll own; after this, if I
    need more elaborate gear, I should be renting it with a proper budget.


    jaybee
     
    Jacques E. Bouchard, Jun 9, 2008
    #5
  6. Jacques E. Bouchard

    PTravel Guest

    Are you sure about that? It certainly isn't the case in the U.S. Here, if
    you use union talent in a non-union project, the actor will get in trouble
    with the union, but neither the union nor the government can do anything to
    you. I don't know much about law with respect to film and television in
    Canada, but I do have a big video game client there and routinely review a
    variety of talent agreements (though, of course, they're always vetted by
    Canadian counsel -- I can't advise on Canadian law). They look to me pretty
    much like their U.S. counterparts, i.e. the game developer acquires all
    rights to the performance. I haven't seen any provisions that address, for
    examples, warranties against acquisition of rights because of
    misrepresentation of union status, etc.
    That, by the way, was the secret of limited success as an actor in
    Hollywood. I wasn't particularly talented, but I had a reputation for craft
    and professionalism. That meant that I'd always show up on time for my
    call, I'd know my lines, I'd hit my marks, I never needed more than one
    take, I'd turn in a credible performance and I'd be pleasant and not give
    anyone any trouble in the process. This was far more important to producers
    and directors than my relative talent, which was less than spectacular --
    when production costs are thousands of dollars a minute, there is little
    room for unreliable, egotistical actors who waste time. Perhaps not
    surprisingly, the stars that I worked with were, with only a single
    exception that I can think of, easy-going, considerate, helpful and
    consumate professionals -- an absolute pleasure for both directors,
    producers and their fellow actors (even insignificant ones, like me).

    I used to teach acting professionaly in Hollywood and I'm convinced that
    anyone who isn't neurotically inhibited can, with the right direction, turn
    in a credible, even outstanding performance. The trade-off, of course, is
    that it requires a significant investment of time that just isn't practical
    in professional production. It's one thing to spend an hour or two working
    with an actor to get a scene just right. It's another when there's a tight
    production schedule, you've only got access to a location for a few hours,
    the light is changing, and you need to get your master and pick-ups within
    an hour of actual shooting or lose a critical scene.

    I guess times have changed since I used to do it. What's the term now? I
    hope it isn't "act person." ;)
    Other than producers, I don't know who would know better than agents, as
    these kinds of things are direct competition for them. You certainly have
    nothing to lose. I'd be curious to know what kind of talent you see from
    the website. When I was acting, there was no internet so the "exposure"
    vehicle of choice in LA was live industry showcases. There were a number of
    legitimate ones (I produced one for a while -- River Phoenix and Brad Pitt
    both got their starts at my showcase and, of course, it was how I got most
    of my work when I was starting out), but the field was rapidly infiltrated
    by the scammers. There were also a variety of other schemes to bring actors
    to the attention of casting directors and directors, but virtually all of
    them were aimed at kids who simply didn't know better and offerred no
    benefit whatsoever.
    When I was teaching acting in LA, I used to spend time with my beginners on
    things like headshots and resumes. I think the hardest thing for an actor
    is to acquire a realistic understanding of just who they really are (or, at
    least, how they are perceived). Virtually all the younger people thought
    they were perfect ingenues, even though it was obvious they'd be playing
    character roles for the rest of their career. The strangest ones were folks
    who looked a lot younger than they wanted to play. There is a huge demand
    for actors over 18 and/or 21 who can believably play younger, for obvious
    reasons. They were always shocked when I'd tell them, "I don't care if
    you're 22, you look 15 and that's what you should be going out for. You'll
    work a lot more than your friends who look their age or older."

    Ah, exciting! Good luck with it, and let us know how it goes.
     
    PTravel, Jun 9, 2008
    #6
  7. I asked the union who, of course, would never lie... ;-) They did admit
    they would not discipline their members, but that legally I wouldn't own
    the rights.

    There's also the problem of being blacklisted. I do want to work with
    union actors eventually, but I don't want to have to change the name of
    my prodco to do so.

    I know that a lot of small productions do work with union actors, and I
    wish I could ask them about it. But I can't really call them up and say
    "Hi, I'm someone you don't know, is it true you don't pay your union
    actors?". ;-)
    They're called actorrrrrs now (you have to roll the R). I believe men are
    referred to as "outie actors" and women are "innie actors". ;-)
    Thanks, I will!


    jaybee
     
    Jacques E. Bouchard, Jun 9, 2008
    #7
  8. Jacques E. Bouchard

    PTravel Guest

    I can only speak to U.S. law (and it might be a good idea to ask a Canadian
    attorney). However, I'm very familiar with the Berne Convention on
    international copyright, to which Canada, as well as the U.S., subscribes.
    I am aware of no basis under which copyright can be shifted in such fashion.
    The only thing I can think of is that, maybe, in Canada the union owns
    rights to a member's performance. This would, however, be a function of
    contract, and I'd think would make for some interesting litigation.
    Again, I can only speak to U.S. practice, but the U.S. guilds (including the
    craft guilds) are more than thrilled when a producer wants to produce under
    their jurisdiction. You could get Brad Pitt to work for $1 and beat him
    with whips in a production entitled, "I Hire Union Actors and Pay Them S___"
    and SAG will spill the Starbucks coffee they'll give you in their hurry to
    get a SAG MBA under your pen. The only way you can be blacklisted here is
    if you are a signatory producer and consistently violate the MBA. Even
    then, you'll get a series of strong "talking to"s, followed by an even
    longer series of fines (from the union, not the government) long before you
    wind up blacklisted.
    I can't imagine why they wouldn't talk to you. As I said, unless Canadian
    law is dramatically different from the U.S. in this regard, it's not the
    producer who is at fault when a union actor agrees to work in a non-union
    production. By the way, I'll bet the Canadian guilds do the same thing as
    SAG and AFTRA with respect to low-budget production, which is to give all
    sorts of breaks to producers who have a compelling reason for paying less
    than union scale. In LA, SAG performers routinely work free in student
    productions and similar shoestring budget projects with the full blessing of
    the guild. SAG's primary concern (aside from protecting the incomes of the
    2% of its members who actually make a living at acting) is ensuring that
    guild members not work for commercial non-union productions. I'm aware of a
    lot of projects that were made through a SAG agreement that allowed its
    members to waive their salaries -- in fact, now that I think of it, I worked
    in one for a friend of mine. It was a proper film, meaning full crew,
    professional equipment, etc., but done on a next-to-nothing budget -- he had
    gotten a waiver from SAG so that we could appear in it without pay.

    Quick story: I once did a TV project that Spielberg produced that featured
    a specific actress who was known for her work on the New York stage -- she
    called herself an "acTORRRRR," too. I already wrote a bit about the
    importance of working quickly and accurately, particularly in television.
    Well, this actress (who was actually quite talented and reasonably nice,
    though a bit standoffish), insisted on "preparing" before each and every
    scene -- she'd go off by herself, put a towel over her head and do her
    preparation. Now, in fairness to her, I knew exactly what she was doing --
    I used to teach this stuff, after all, as well as do it myself, but in LA
    you learned to do the bulk of your work at home so that your preparation was
    no more than taking a deep breath between the DP yelling "speed" and the
    director calling "action." The project's director, who I won't name except
    that he's a wonderful talent and a great guy who, at that time, had a
    satchel full of feature film and television directing credits, was driven
    crazy each time she'd do this. We'd all be standing around the set, waiting
    for her (and this project included a fairly major star who played opposite
    her), while the director would say, "Where's _______? Would someone please
    get _______?" At one point, I was chatting with him and commented on her
    idiosyncracy (though, of course, only in a positive context, i.e. "she takes
    her work so seriously," etc. -- I knew enough to never bad mouth someone in
    the business). He said, "Yeah -- she's never going to work in this town
    again." And, to the best of my knowledge, she didn't.

    AcTORRRRS. Got a love 'em. :)
     
    PTravel, Jun 10, 2008
    #8
  9. If you're low-budget (i.e. less than $250,000) you can get a 50% waiver.
    It's the best they'll do. And I still have to pay dues and fees. Still
    comes out to over $300 per actor per day out of my pocket, not to mention
    the paperwork.

    I'll keep your advice in mind for my other project, though. Particularly
    difficult to cast - I need two elderly (70+) actors. It'll either be
    seasoned pros, non-actors (no dialogue) or lotsa make-up.


    jaybee
     
    Jacques E. Bouchard, Jun 10, 2008
    #9
  10. Jacques E. Bouchard

    Steve King Guest

    | |
    | > By the way, I'll bet the Canadian
    | > guilds do the same thing as SAG and AFTRA with respect to low-budget
    | > production, which is to give all sorts of breaks to producers who have
    | > a compelling reason for paying less than union scale.
    |
    | If you're low-budget (i.e. less than $250,000) you can get a 50% waiver.
    | It's the best they'll do. And I still have to pay dues and fees. Still
    | comes out to over $300 per actor per day out of my pocket, not to mention
    | the paperwork.
    |
    | I'll keep your advice in mind for my other project, though. Particularly
    | difficult to cast - I need two elderly (70+) actors. It'll either be
    | seasoned pros, non-actors (no dialogue) or lotsa make-up.
    |
    |
    | jaybee

    In the U.S. SAG allows members to work for a negotiated fee that can be as
    low as zero in certain low/no budget films. I was asked to appear in a
    friend's project two years ago, a shot over a weekend short (20 minutes)
    thriller. I contacted the union and told them about the no-budget project.
    They asked the producer to sign a one-time low budget agreement. It allowed
    him to use both union and non-union actors. I think the producer had to pay
    some Pension and Health fees, but it was around $30 per day. I worked for
    free, for the fun of it.

    Steve King
     
    Steve King, Jun 10, 2008
    #10
  11. Just wanted to revive an old thread to thank you. I picked up my copy of
    “Respect for Acting” from my local bookstore today. Now all I have to do is
    find the time to read it... ;-)


    jaybee
     
    Jacques E. Bouchard, Jul 23, 2008
    #11
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