CD Workshops: Tool or Tragedy?

Alright allow me to be clear about this Blog, because many reading this know my feelings about the “pay to play, paid workshop” concept, but many others do not. I’ve listed it as Tool or Tragedy because so many people will “always argue” that they “got something positive” out of it…and therefore it is a tool. Got it. Many others, who have spent hundreds to thousands of dollars since their inception in 1987 and have not gotten much out of it, may therefore likely call it…a tragedy. My purpose in presenting this Blog is not related to either one of these perspectives…because it is a useless argument. It is useless to argue with an actor when they’re dead set on “doing workshops” as a way (or more notably the ONLY way in their minds) to “be seen.” Conversely it is also useless to argue with an actor who has had a few up to several dozen lousy experiences or at least zero fruition from the fiscal investment that it has removed from their wallet.

Listen, I will always…I mean ALWAYS state that that “business model “of bringing in a rep or “currently employed” casting director…paying them to essentially do / see the very same type of material performed that they saw actors during the day “for free” is a form of discrimination and therefore a LABOR CODE violation. You’ll not ever get me to see the “model” any different than that. And with that said, has the model ever “helped” someone who was talented or had the perfect look with “some talent” and perfect timing on a role that CD needs “next week” and they happened to get called in…sure. But what are the percentages, what is the potential risk, long term potential damage and ultimate value in either side of this conversation. Is it a tool or a tragedy.

Well, at the end of the day you guys, it really isn’t much of an argument. There is NO question, just based on pure percentages that it is “more often and more likely” TRAGIC for actors and not a tool. Why? Simple, because “most actors” are not talented enough in that room, at that moment, in that environment…to impress often enough…for it to be a tool. Sure, it is a tool for the .01% of actors who CAN produce great work in that environment or come through the room on the “right day” based on type / need.

Then there is the “other side” of it and that is how YOU are perceived…even IF you happen to have a positive experience or outcome. I’d LOVE to get comments from all of the folks reading this who have received a “Top of Show” Guest Star (TV) audition or a Lead/Supporting role (legit Studio feature) audition…from a workshop? I can already tell you that it “might be” about 5 out of 10,000 workshop scenes..and no, I’m not joking. So am I saying that if you get “auditioned” for only a Co-Star role on TV…that this makes it bad or not a valuable “win” for the TOOL part of workshops? Answer: Absolutely not. However, do put it in some perspective, because that workshop CD is “highly likely” to ONLY see you as a Co-Star actor…moving forward for years…because of the stigma.

So the truth is that it can sometimes be a successful tool, that can evolve or turn into a tragedy (or just a pigeon hole) over time…but it almost NEVER recovers from being an initial tragedy and turn into a “tool.” Again, I can’t STAND the workshop process or model as I feel it has literally destroyed so many valuable “professional vehicles” for actors, but since we (as a community) are so dead set on putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into it annually…it ain’t going away. The power of the almighty dollar coupled with supply and demand. It is, however, still prostitution, without a guarantee…so at least “get that.”

You need more of a “game plan” in for whom and when you do them…to truly make it a tool. You can’t just go, pay, hope, read, guess and then expect value if that is all you put into it. The tragedy, for me, is that so many people actually destroy their careers by doing 30-40 of these in a year…and then no one will ever audition them again. That is the price for the “freedom” of being able to “choose “to pay to perform in a profession in which you might not actually be “professional grade.” The only “consistent” tool that I’ve ever been able to apply is the VALUE of “performance under pressure.” If this were really all we were doing I would be ALL for it, but it isn’t. The pressure and stress to “perform well” in that environment is GREAT (to me) but sadly it ONLY exists because the person there “watching the work” we HOPE…will consider us for their show…hence a lot of pressure.

I do feel that heavy pressure is a great teacher of humans but when it can lead to you stopping yourself, before you even get started in a marketplace, and in addition to that you’re actually PAYING to destroy your own self…it is really hard to call it…a tool.

Always on your side. @theKevinE