Casting workshops that charge actors a fee to be seen by casting directors are a “scam,” SAG-AFTRA says, and might violate California’s pay-to-play law that prohibits employers or their representatives from taking money from job seekers. The practice is under investigation by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office.

The union also says that members who pay to be seen by casting directors – even in workshop settings – might be in violation of the guild rules or even state law.

“There are certainly many legit companies that offer a chance to meet and read for casting agents and directors in a classroom setting,” the guild says on its website. “But be aware that if any fee is charged for these sessions, your participation may be in violation of SAG-AFTRA Rule 11 or California labor laws.”

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California Department of Labor

According to Section 11 of the SAG-AFTRA Rules and Regulations: “It shall be deemed conduct unbecoming a member for any member of the union, directly or indirectly, to give or offer to give any money, gift, gratuity or other thing of value to an employer, or prospective employer, to any officer, agent, representative or employee of such employer or prospective employer, or to any employment or casting agency representing an employer, or prospective employer, or to any of their officers, agents, representatives or employees as an inducement to secure employment.” This does not apply, however, to the payment of commissions to franchised agents.

The guild asks its members to call its background actors department if they are asked “to pay a fee or give any form of compensation to audition for a casting director, producer, agent, manager, or anyone else that has any input into the hiring process. … This includes workshop-style situations where a casting director watches your scene or monologue, offers no meaningful critique or feedback, and is presented as someone looking for actors for ‘current and upcoming projects.’ This becomes a paid audition, which is against SAG-AFTRA rules.”

The California Labor Code prohibits employers or potential employers from demanding payment for employment opportunities, and the union urges its members to report such violations to the state Labor Commissioner’s office. “The more people that stand up and protest these practices, the more likely it is that action will be taken,” the union says.

Pay-for-play scams are also outlawed by the 2009 Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, but casting workshops are allowed as long as they don’t offer auditions or employment as part of their services.

The Casting Society of America, meanwhile, is trying to come up with a new policy governing casting workshops.