Gerald Langiri
October 24 / 2011

There is a new wave of making money from actors that is spreading like wild fire and someone needs to put an end to it before it becomes an acceptable norm. I will not even beat around the bush about this and out rightly tell you that if you are going to pay someone to audition, you are being conned and it is only fair for you to know what exactly it is you are paying for.

In lay mans language, a Production house would like to make a movie or series. They draw up the proposal of the project and look for sponsors to fund the project. The sponsors can be anyone from the Television network that will air the show to corporate sponsors who have read the proposal and think the show will sell. The sponsors will then give a go ahead to the production house to shoot the movie or series. In that proposal, there is something called a casting budget. That budget is where actors fall in.The production house can either hire a casting director or get in touch with casting agents who will then send the production house the actors they require for their movie or series based on the role description that the production house have drawn up. Alternatively, the production house can choose to hold public auditions in the hope that they will get the characters that they are looking for from the 100s of actors that will show up.

They book a location and pay for a room to hold the auditions and probably hire a few people to control the crowds. The event can take a day to three days in which the production house producers and directors will require food and drinks and all that expense is catered for in their production cost.

Then here comes some production house out of the blue claiming to carry out an audition and will charge you ksh 300 to attend. You being an actor and probably not had any project for the past one year (hence abit desperate) will gladly pay for that without any questions. And probably, you are among the smart ones to actually ask, why are we paying for auditions? The answer you get will vary between “we only want serious actors showing up for the auditions” or “we do not want so many people to show up”.

Here is where my rant begins. Does my seriousness as an actor now get judged according to how much money I have in my pocket? In an article I wrote on How to kick start your acting career , I asked people to look at acting like a business. Every business needs to get invested in but also in every business, we have bad investments. Paying for auditions is a bad investment. I know you want to say “but actors for that movie paid for auditions and got roles”. Yes, you could have gotten lucky to have landed a role in a movie that you paid to audition for but what about the other 270guys out of 300 who paid for the same audition and did not get any role? Were they not serious actors? I do not think so because as a casting director as well, I know your chances of getting a role highly depend on the script and character description and not how much money you have.

Look, as you pursue your acting career, you are going to spend money. Spend money going for acting classes, in making an audition video, in making your own show reel, in taking professional headshots and pictures. Money going round production houses looking for work but the last place you would want to spend your money on is to Audition. Unless you are buying that new shirt or dress to go knock the judges off their chairs or printing out a copy of your profile or resume to go hand to the judges in order to stand out. Never ever, and I repeat never ever, should you be asked to pay to show case your talent. Never have I gone for an interview and asked to pay before I get interviewed. If anything I am offered a cup of tea as I wait to start. They know I could be their next asset and not a liability which is what it really implies when you are asked to pay for auditions. It is a Con. The money you pay is going to pay for the rent of the location where the auditions are. It is going to buy the lunch the producers will eat during auditions and it is going to cater for some of their other production costs. This speaks volumes about that production house asking people to pay for auditions in the first place. I mean, if you do not have money to hold an audition, am I to rely that you will pay me later on?

For the people charging for auditions with the excuse of looking for serious actors, come up with a better excuse. We now have actors.co.ke that has actors registering to get their profiles online for you to get in touch with them. The profiles have videos of what they can do and headshot and full body shot of them. So you can easily get your actors without holding public auditions which I know can be costly to you. It is a cheaper alternative to holding public auditions. Otherwise, give us a valid reason as to why you would want actors to pay for auditions. Yes, we are actors looking for work and at times we get so desperate we would do anything just to get an acting project kicking but please do not take advantage of that. Oh, you used ink and paper to print out an audition form and you now want to throw over that cost to actors? Oh wait, you took pictures of the actors and you want to charge them for that? Abeg, isnt that for your own use to know who you auditioned and make your shortlisitng process easier by going through your audition forms and picture/video clips?

A prepared production houses will hold an audition with forms, camera for both pictures and video. It would have sent out a casting call in good time and in some cases, scripts, in order for actors who fit the profiles of the casting brief, come when ready. Those who still show up at an audition not prepared, please chase them away. However, charging actors because you want to look for serious actors..not a good reason.

For the actors paying for auditions, please stop or sooner than later that slum kid from Mathare who has a passion for acting and would like to try this out will not get the opportunity to walk all the way from the slum to come audition because after that long walk, he has no money to pay the con artists who are trying to make money through you.

And after all this rant, the least I can ask of you is to leave your comment below. Thank you.

Written by Gerald Langiri
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