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L.A. City Attorney Files Charges Against Casting Companies For 'Pay-To-Play' System

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The L.A. City Attorney's office announced that it has filed charges against 28 individuals and five acting workshops for their ties to "pay-to-play" auditions, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

As noted in a release by the office, the act of charging actors for auditions is a direct violation of the Talent Scam Prevention Act, which was authored by then-Assemblymember Paul Krekorian and signed into law in 2009. The act makes it a misdemeanor for talent workshops to charge money for an audition or similar job opportunities.

The five workshop companies facing charges include The Actors Link, The Actor’s Key, Actors Alley, Casting Network, and Studio Productions. As noted at Variety, a number of the defendants listed in the filing have worked for some notable productions that include Criminal Minds, The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Suits, as well as Netflix's new Santa Clarita Diet. If convicted, each defendant could face up to one year in jail, as well as a $10,000 fine. Arraignment is being set for sometime in mid March.

"Aspiring performers who pursue their dreams should be treated with respect and never be exploited for profit," said L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer at a conference on Thursday.

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“Preying on the hopes and dreams of artists is one of the oldest scams in Hollywood," Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, chief operating officer and general counsel at SAG-AFTRA, said in the release. "We will continue to work with the City Attorney’s Office to help protect our members and future members."

The charges come after an investigation that was launched in January of 2016. In the operation, a professional actor serving as an undercover informant went to 13 casting workshops that were hosted by five different companies.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that the act is "a rarely enforced state labor law." It has, however, led to a number of busts since 2009. In 2011, one talent manager was charged after it was discovered that he'd advised clients to move to Southern California and enroll their children in an acting camp that cost $3,000 per person. Another agent had convinced a family in Mexico to pay nearly $3,000 for photoshoots and acting lessons. The agent had allegedly promised to represent the family's child once the lessons and photos were done, but never returned their calls afterward.

Speaking on his own reasons for authoring the bill, Krekorian said at a 2015 press conference that his family had a revealing confrontation with a stranger who'd claimed to be a casting agent, according to the L.A. Times. "[My wife] was in a shopping mall and was approached by somebody when my little son Andrew was with her, and was asked: ‘Would you like your son to be in movies? We can help you make that happen.’ It happens again and again to families throughout Los Angeles,” Krekorian said.