Casting director Lindsay Chag has been convicted of aiding and abetting a casting workshop in charging for an audition or employment opportunity – a misdemeanor violation of the state’s Talent Scam Prevention Act.
The case was the first to go to trial following indictments last February against 28 defendants, including five workshops and 18 casting directors, several of whom have pleaded no contest and been placed on probation.
Chag, who has more than 200 credits as a casting director, conducted a workshop at the Actors Alley in May 2016 that was attended by an undercover operative working for the City Attorney’s office as part of its investigation into talent scams. During the weeklong trial, the undercover operative, actor James Runcorn, appeared as a witness, and his secretly recorded meeting with Chag was played for the jury.
The workshop was billed as an educational opportunity, not an audition, but Runcorn testified that he’d brought his résumé to the workshop and left it with Chag. Prosecutor Mark Lambert, a deputy city attorney who helped draft the Talent Scam Prevention Act, asked jurors to consider what kind of a teacher accepts actors’ résumés after they paid $35 to attend her class. The videotape showed Runcorn performing a two-minute scene and then having a four-minute one-on-one meeting with her. At the end of their meeting, she told him to send her an email to let her know if he’s doing a play that she could come see.
City Attorney investigator Frank Capetillo also appeared as a witness at the trial. The transcript of an interview he had with Chag shows that she told him that she never hired anybody she ever met at a casting workshop.
After Capelitto testified, the prosecution called its expert witness, Stephen Salamunovich, a Seattle-based casting director. Defense attorney Shepard Kopp questioned Salamunovich’s bona fides, arguing that someone whose casting business has been based out of state for the past 30 years couldn’t be that much of an expert on the L.A. casting scene. Kopp also produced three emails that Salamunovich had written in 2014 and 2015 complaining about L.A.’s casting workshops – emails that Kopp argued showed bias.
After the prosecution’s final witness, the defense rested without putting on any witnesses or presenting any evidence.
In the end, the jury decided that the evidence showed that the workshop was being conducted as an audition, and not just as a learning experience.
“Even though I respect the jury’s verdict, I couldn’t disagree with it more strenuously,” Kopp told Deadline. “In my opinion, this was a ginned-up prosecution where they sent an undercover informant to the workshop who had no intention of learning anything. It just doesn’t seem fair. I’m astounded that they convicted my client. The way this investigation was conducted was dirty.”
Chag was sentenced to 36 months’ probation, during which time she cannot own, operate or work for a talent training service, though she can still work as a casting director. She was also sentenced to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay $350 in fines and restitution.
The Actors Alley, which since has gone out of business, was owned by Bradley Sachs, who in June was among the first of several casting directors – including David Scott and Ricki Maslar – to plead no contest and be sentenced to probation and community service.