SAG to add acting seshes

Org hoping to crack down on illegal casting classes

This article was updated on July 21, 2004.

Seeking to end casting workshops’ controversial — and illegal — practice of requiring payment from actors to attend, the Screen Actors Guild and its Foundation on Monday announced a pilot effort that will increase the number of free casting workshops available to guild members.

After a one-year run in Los Angeles, SAG hopes to expand the program nationwide.

Two years have passed since the California labor commissioner moved to clamp down on illegal “pay to audition” workshops run by casting directors. Casting workshops that demand payment are legal so long as they contain an educational component.

Commissioner Arthur Lujan’s office stunned the industry in February 2002 when it announced that more than a dozen L.A. workshops were violating state laws banning payment to apply for employment.

The CAP effort aims to build on Lujan’s rule-tightening by significantly expanding the number of no-cost workshops and other casting opportunities available to guild members while providing casting directors with modest compensation for their time.

Dubbed the Casting Access Project, pilot program aims to enhance guild member access to casting directors. It is made possible by a recent grant from the Industry Advancement and Cooperative Fund. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, through an in-kind donation, will house the workshops on its campus.

“Our goal here is to create a win-win-win,” explained Paul Petersen, chair of the SAG casting committee. “Actors have greater casting access. Producers have an easier time meeting the casting provisions of their SAG contract. And the time of casting directors also is valued.”

The SAG Foundation will administer the grant, and the guild’s member education department will work closely with the Casting Society of America to create the program’s educational content, built on the volunteer efforts of SAG’s casting committee, which has conducted no-cost workshops since the 1980s.

The Casting Access Project is scheduled to reach its first-year goal of tripling the number of free casting workshops by the fall. It is available to all SAG members in good standing. Members who wish to participate should call the hotline at (323) 549-6022.

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