The state of California has reiterated its stance against “pay to audition” casting workshops, three months after warning operators of those workshops that they’re breaking the law by charging actors to audition.

An official with the Dept. of Labor’s standards enforcement division has declared the operators are continuing to violate state law by offering so-called cold reading workshops for a fee. Regional attorney Thomas Kerrigan, in a May 24 letter to Casting Society of America prexy Gary Zuckerbord, urged the org to devise guidelines under which qualified CSA members would be certified to teach.

State: Seshes break law

“There currently exist a number of single-session workshops where a group of veteran and/or aspiring actors pay a fee, submit headshots and resumes, and perform cold readings of sides for an invited casting director or his assistant representing a producer with current casting needs for film and/or television,” Kerrigan said. “As the agency authorized to interpret and enforce this statute, it is our position that these workshops are presumptively in violation of Section 450 of the Labor Code.”

The division found in January that the practice was in violation of state law banning payment in exchange for applying for employment, triggering the issuance of cease-and-desist orders to more than a dozen workshop operators. Kerrigan said in his letter that classes in how to succeed in cold-reading interviews are not necessarily illegal, but added it must be clear the session is not “a disguised paid audition.”

Projects to be scrutinized

“We intend to carefully scrutinize all such projects in the future because of the opportunity for abuse,” Kerrigan added.

He also noted some operators have been attempting to give the sessions the appearance of an educational enterprise through redefining Web sites, adding teaching staff and adopting lesson plans. “These enterprises will be scrutinized carefully, particularly where operators have violated the law in the past,” Kerrigan said.

Kerrigan gave no timetable as to when the state might take further action, but added, “We have always believed that the best way to address the abuses of the past is by discussion and negotiation rather than through the courts.”

Zuckerbrod endorsed Kerrigan’s goals and noted the CSA plans to issue voluntary guidelines within a week.

“We want to make it incredibly clear that classes are not an audition and not a guarantee of employment,” Zuckerbrod said. “But we still want to ensure that classes are offered where people can learn the dos and don’ts of the business and go through a simulation of a cold reading.”

Casting director Billy DaMota, who founded and operates Web site donotpay.org to publicize the issue of “pay-for-access,” said, “The CSA needs to take a stand on this because there’s a very serious professional and ethical line that’s being crossed.” DaMota served for three years on the CSA board.