Hollywood's Casting Controversy: Criminal Charges for Charging Actors to Audition

By George Khoury, Esq. on February 15, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last week, criminal charges were filed against five major Hollywood casting agencies as a result of a pay to play investigation conducted by the Los Angeles City Attorney. The casting agencies/firms facing charges include: Actors Alley, The Actors Link, The Actors Key, Studio Productions, and The Casting Network.

Under the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, no casting agency, or other organization involved in casting a role, can charge the talent in order to audition. The firms and individuals charged in the action have done the casting for some recent, and some not so recent, hits including:

  • The Real O'Neals
  • Criminal Minds
  • Fresh Off the Boat
  • Jumanji
  • Bob's Burgers
  • The Apprentice
  • Two and a Half Men
  • Castle
  • Bones
  • Poltergeist
  • Transformers

Charging for Auditions

While a majority of actors and actresses are not successful in the traditional sense of the word, the sheer volume of those that aspire to one day "make it" means that open auditions and casting calls usually result in lines out the door. Although it is illegal to charge a performer for the opportunity to audition, casting agencies attempted to get around this law by casting from within workshops that performers pay to attend.

However, as highlighted by the recent criminal charges, when a workshop essentially serves as the audition, charging a performer to attend a workshop runs afoul of the rules.

California Loves Talent, Hates Talent Management

Because a majority of the TV and entertainment industry produces their content in California, there are several state laws that protect actors, artists, and entertainers that do not exist elsewhere in the country. For example, apart from the prohibition on pay to play auditions, in order to be a talent agent in California, an individual must not only be licensed, but must also post a $50,000 bond so that a claimant can be assured a recovery if the agent acts illegally.

If you're an aspiring Hollywood actor and believe you have been the victim of an illegal pay to play audition or charged for a "workshop audition," you may want to contact the LA City Attorney, or a local attorney to see if you have a legal remedy.

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