In the most recent edition of The Business with Kim Masters, Masters interviews reporter Gary Baum, who calls attention to a corrupt process in Hollywood in which actors pay to audition for minor roles. Gary reports that, on the surface, acting workshops are opportunities for young actors to improve their acting skills. In reality, young actors pay roughly $50 per “lesson” to audition. This already seems morally suspect, but Baum highlights the real horror of this corruption when he reports that young actors are dependent on these workshops, resulting in the expense of over $1,000 a year (depending on the willingness of the actor). Baum explains that these are big costs in relation to the low wages that many young, aspiring actors make while they pursue their dream. It is now essential for them to pay for an audition. For the people running the workshops, this practice is very lucrative, and that is precisely why it is so common. However, this is not lawful.
Paying to audition is illegal. In fact, the city government of Los Angeles is looking into this system, and criminal charges are being placed on several individuals who have supported this uneven playing ground. They have sent in under cover actors to explain the workshop system. Now that it is public that there is an investigation being conducted, several workshops have already closed down out of fear. Baum is certain that Hollywood will continue on without this system, even though this corrupt casting workshop system has been very popular in the industry. He believes Hollywood will always need new talent.
It has always been tough to be an actor, but this system is an abomination to the artistic realm. The roles should go to the people with talent rather than people with money who can afford these “workshops.” Fortunately, the LA city attorney’s investigation into this system is helping to deteriorate the pay-to-play practice. However, this also means that actors are going to have to find new ways to make connections to people in the casting departments of networks and studios, an incredibly challenging task.