While not all casting directors conduct generals exactly the same way, the intent and purpose of a general interview is the same for all of casting professionals and for the actors who ask for them as well. Here is a complete examination of the intention of, and the form a general interview can take as taken from my expert witness reports for the L.A. City Attorney’s office during their Landmark Casting Workshop Scam Prosecutions in 2018.
A general interview or general audition or “general” is a meeting between a casting director or any one of their assistants or associates and an actor, where there is NOT a specific role at hand to be auditioned or cast at the meeting. This meeting serves a double purpose for both the casting professional and the actor. For the casting director, this meeting allows them to establish an actual face-to-face assessment of what may be obscured in a headshot that may or may not be altered in some way to improve or obscure any deficits in the actor’s in-person appearance. Size and shape are also ascertained along with pitch and timbre of speech and an actor’s general demeanor. Also assessed is the actor’s resume’ and experience which may require a more in-depth questioning of that experience to more clearly assess an actor’s experience level. Frequently, a casting director may either see a prepared scene of the actor’s choosing or hand them some sides (script section) for what is known as a “cold read” which is a spontaneous performance, minimally rehearsed and prepared on-site for the CD at the present moment. However, even if an actor does not read or perform during this “meeting,” it still qualifies as an “audition,” given the illustrated purposes and intents of this meeting because such a meeting serves as a pre-vetting for the casting director and a job interview for the actor. The purpose of all the foregoing explorations by the casting director is specifically directed at making a more informed decision about whether or not to invite that performer in for a subsequent audition in the future and if so, for what kinds of roles. Since a working casting director’s scheduled audition slots are far more efficiently utilized if they are filled with already known and vetted actors, this previous meeting allows the CD to narrow the field and make those actors known to them. From the actor’s standpoint, a “General” serves the purpose of allowing them the face-to-face opportunity to make a positive impression on the casting director in order to encourage the invitation of that actor to come in for those roles the casting person may be casting in the future. Because this first audition does indeed inform the casting director more specifically about an actor’s ability and provides pertinent information that allows that casting director to determine under what circumstances and for which roles that actor is best suited for future potential roles they may be casting, it is my opinion that the use and purpose of such a performance, meets the standard as defined in Section 1701, Paragraph (c) of the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, which defines the term “Employment Opportunity.” It is routine for actors to ask the casting person questions about the way they prefer to do business in order to be more efficient and “low-maintenance” to better navigate such a potential business relationship. Also routinely asked are questions about a casting director’s individual tastes regarding performance standards and preferences and feedback regarding an actor’s headshot, the format and construction of their resume’ and their level of experience. Actors also routinely ask for feedback about how they are seen and assessed by the casting person visa vie whether they are seen as a “character type,” “leading man or ingenue” etc….Literally, anything regarding the business of acting that an actor wants to know is usually fair game for such an interview and vice versa. Personal questions are seldom asked and are only dealt with if germane to something that ultimately leads to a business discussion. The time length of such an interview can last anywhere from around 10 minutes including a performance/cold read, to over an hour depending on how generous a casting director wishes to be with their time and advice. It should also be noted that while it may seem magnanimous for a casting director to give of their time and advice in a general, it is also decidedly to their advantage that the actors who come in are as prepared, seasoned and “low-maintenance” as possible in order to facilitate more efficient auditions during their projects. So their explanations about “do’s and don’ts,” “pet-peeves” and other tips, work in support of and benefit both the casting director AND the actor in order to facilitate a smoother and more efficient working relationship between them. And while an actor or a casting director may indeed “learn” something as a result of this interview, it’s unqualified purpose is not to educate any more than would be the case for any information gleaned by the participants during a standard job interview. And just as in a standard job interview, there is never a charge for this meeting since requiring one would be unethical and illegal. Furthermore, the assimilation of information that routinely occurs at such a meeting does not qualify it as a “class” or primarily pedagogical or educational scenario any more than a standard job interview would. It should also be noted that such “generals” have been the standard and essential vehicle for casting directors to better scrutinize potential new actors and for actors to make themselves known to CD’s and market their skills in the pursuit of their careers, since the demise of the studio system made actors, independent contractors, and casting directors a valued vetting and artistic component of the industry. This has been true whether such a meeting is done ethically as a casting director’s schedule permits and free of charge to the actor or in a paid “workshop”/audition situation. In addition to this information, I believe the current, historical ignorance of the tradition and format of a general interview that now pervades the industry, plays an enormous part in the mistaken perception that many participants have of the workshop situation. Since this newer, paid audition system has now been operating well over twenty years, there are very few actors or casting directors left who remember the ethically-performed, free generals of the past. Because of this fact, there are a great number of casting directors and actors who have come up not knowing any other system than the paid generals. And because these paid ones are happily consensual to a large portion of the actors and virtually all the CD’s and CA’s who do them, it has the appearance to both parties as being a perfectly normal occurrence. And to those who actually realize its illegality, the general consensus is that it’s a “victimless” crime since the actors seem to want to fill the many workshops that have sprung up to satisfy their demand to pay to audition. Also contributory is that most of these actors have no idea that it is incumbent on casting directors to meet with and be aware of actors out of the mainstream, as a critical responsibility to their clients and as a personal advantage when competing with each other for casting projects. Since casting directors are expected to lay out casting strategies when meeting with prospective clients, it is common for those perspective clients want to know whether that CD has extensive, intimate knowledge of good but otherwise unknown, available talent. And attaining this necessary information, normally requires the use of meetings (generals) with actors and scouting plays and showcases for that talent that wouldn’t otherwise be known to them. Since most actors are ignorant of this dynamic and they believe the CD’s are in essence, doing them a favor by meeting with them, this misperception further induces actors to be willing to pay casting professionals for these workshop, general meetings. However, if they could be allowed to engage in this necessary activity of meeting with and marketing themselves to CD’s free of charge, even a basic knowledge of human nature could be used to expect them to prefer this route to the paid one, given both options.