Casting Director Workshops are a hot topic among actors. Some people swear by them, some people abhor them. But love them or hate them, they are a part of the industry and they aren’t going away any time soon. I first learned about them after signing up for (a now closed) actor support group on Yahoo! called Hollywood Happy Hour. It was run by Bonnie Gillespie, Nelson Aspen and Kristyn Burtt and unfortunately they chose to shut it down in May 2012. Fortunately, a lot of the information that they shared can be found on Bonnie’s blog. Anyway, back to CD Workshops. Bonnie wrote a great post that had originally been posted in her column for Showfax, The Actors Voice, about the beginning of CD Workshops. As the years have gone by these workshops have turned into a very different beast, and love them or hate them, they are a part of being an actor.
There are lots of places to go for workshops, with new ones cropping up every year. Some you have to pay a small yearly fee to even be able to sign up, others you just sign up as you wish, and still others ask you to audition before being allowed to attend workshops. There are some places that you do your scene one-on-one with the casting director (and a reader) others you do it in front of the whole class. Most places usually have a Q & A session before the workshop begins where you can ask the casting director pretty much anything. Each place, and casting director, also chooses whether you prepare a scene in advance (either you find yourself, or chosen from their database of approved scenes), or the casting director sends it out the day before, or you do a cold read where the CD gives you a scene before the workshop starts. So whatever format you like, there is a CD workshop for you!
I have not visited every workshop studio, either because it’s too far, I don’t like their format, or I haven’t been able to check them out yet, so please take my recommendations with a grain of salt and find what works for you. As I visit more I will add them to the list below along with my thoughts. Ultimately, the way this business seems to work right now, CD workshops are the way to go, especially if you are still working your way up the ladder to being a series regular.
One of the first CD Workshop studios I went to, I love it here. The format is (almost) always the same: Q&A session then one-on-one with the CD. Unless the CD requests something different (there are a few who do), you prepare a scene in advance from their approved database. I haven’t been to their new location, but their old location in Burbank was a small house and was always very welcoming, including water in the waiting room and “actor snacks” for sale in the back kitchen area. They also have a westside location now! You do have to pay $12/year to take their workshops, but I found it was worth it with the level of professionalism and the coziness of their space. They have workshops with CDs (both theatrical and commercial), as well as agents and managers. They also have workshops for kids.
ACTORS ADVANTAGE SHOWCASE
Another location that I checked out in the very beginning and really enjoyed. There’s a Q&A session beforehand and then you do your scene one on one with the CD or sometimes with a partner if the CD passes out sides upon arrival. Some CDs have you prepare something to bring in. They are located in West Hollywood and it’s a nice cozy area with street parking. They also bring in both commercial and theatrical CDs, agents and managers. Occasionally they have special workshops as well like fighting for film. They also do work with a dog adoption agency and if you volunteer on one of those days you can get a free workshop! A great pro is you don’t have to pay a yearly membership fee.
ACTORS CREATIVE WORKSHOP
I recently started attending workshops at ACW which is in Burbank and have had really good experiences so far. They do a variety of formats: one-on-one, group, one time workshops as well as month-long workshops. There’s something for everyone here. They also do the Q&A session and there is no yearly fee. Each month there is one free workshop which is pretty cool. I like this location because it’s close to where I live and work and street parking is pretty easy. They also tend to have sales which is great AND they do a price match guarantee-even if it’s just $1!