A Casting Director’s Bait & Switch with Actors? – Caution!

A NYC casting director for background and commercial casting is baiting actors.

bait and switch



Paul Russell_Headshot

Paul Russell


A NYC casting director for background and commercial casting is baiting actors.

The hook begins promising. The casting director entices actors to read for the casting director as an exploration of the actor’s abilities. The cold read lasts 30 – 60 seconds. Not too long please, there are other actors in the audition studio hallway backed-up waiting for their fleeting spotlight. Once the casting director dismisses the actor, the actor is then handed over to the assistant. The assistant gaily leads the actor to a secluded hallway. There begins what the actor believes is a one-on-one career consultation. It lasts no more than 2 minutes. And it ends with a snare.

The assistant (almost always a 20-something young woman) asks the actor for their resume. She reviews the resume with a cursory glance, and then begins the script. Having overheard the assistants for over a year the script leads the actor as follows:

The assistant to the actor: “Where do you get most of your auditions from? (Occasionally she’ll be adventurous and deviate from the script and say ‘work.’)

The actor generally replies, “Back Stage. Actors Access. Casting Networks,” and obscure websites that often have the same information as the preceding casting notice outlets.

The assistant then restates the websites the actor stated adding her casting office utilizes those website too! (There’s always a reminder from the assistant that the actor keep up-to-date membership fees to the casting notice websites.) No matter if the actor has stated one, two, or more of these sites the assistant does not deviate from her script. The assistant also emphasizes to each actor, “We cast 24 hours a day. Log-in to Casting Networks often. Submit to us if you see a project you’d like to be considered for.”

Then comes the snaring scripted question asked by the assistant of every actor in this private career consultation, “Do you have any questions?”

And as if the actor is being voiced by a ventriloquist each actor queries, “[Name of casting director] asked me to ask you about her upcoming workshops.”

The assistant always feigns surprise, “Oh! She did?” And then begins the sell for on-camera classes. And even as I watch an actor take the bait and buy into the class the assistant tells every actor before and after, “We only have two seats left.” It’s a car salesman ploy not worthy of our industry.

How do these actors get snared firstly? They’re contacted by the casting director’s office after the actor has submitted materials to the casting director. You too can have an introductory read with the casting director. There’s a nominal fee. As reported by one actor who participated, he paid $20 for the privilege of a thirty-second read for the casting director before he was pulled aside by the assistant for the bait-and-switch.

On the website ClassActOrHack.com an actor states paying $39. for the initial reading. The actor then goes on further to say of the experience: “…fraud extraordinaire… Rushed everyone. Scammer, scammer, scammer. Grade F.”

There’s nothing illegal happening here. One can state that no one is being harmed. But for the industry professionals who work as actors, casting directors, or talent representatives who also teach actors from a desire of heart not with wish of meager disposable income, what of their reputations? Sullied by the few industry players who play actors for their wallets.

The practice is stomach-turning. And the practice will continue as long as actors let themselves be the prey of the bait-and-switch.

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Elon and Wright State University. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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