Actors Sue Popular Online Casting Platforms for Alleged Unfair Business Practices

Actors Sue Popular Online Casting Platforms for Alleged Unfair Business Practices

The Hollywood sign is pictured near the Dolby Theatre, the site of Sunday's 96th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on March 6, 2024. (Chris Pizzello/AP Photo)

Juliette Fairley

Juliette Fairley

5/15/2024

Updated: 5/15/2024

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Amid increasing scrutiny of business practices in the entertainment industry in recent years, five actors and actresses sued a popular online casting platform in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Kate Bond, Christian Jenkins, Robert Fisher, Amber Coyle, and Donald Smith are alleging that Breakdown Services engaged in false advertising, unjust enrichment, and unfair business practices under California labor law.
“The digital age introduced new platforms that promised to democratize access to opportunities in Hollywood,” the complaint states. “But rather than level the playing field and inject transparency, these platforms have replicated traditional patterns of exploitation under the guise of technology and innovation.”
Ms. Bond and Ms. Jenkins are local Screen Actors Guild board members in California. The guild did not respond to requests for comment.
“If the plaintiffs win, it could lead to increased scrutiny of online audition platforms and potentially result in stricter regulations to protect actors from predatory practices,” attorney Mike Schmidt told The Epoch Times via email. Mr. Schmidt is not a legal party to the case.

About the Company

Breakdown Services operates Actors Access, a talent listing and casting platform which provides a fee-based subscription service for actors to upload their headshots and demo reels for review by casting directors who are looking to fill roles in television and film projects.
The lawsuit alleges the service has hidden fees and that actors who pay to upload more photos and performance videos of their work rank higher in the sorting algorithm that displays candidates to casting directors.
“It surprises me that the actors were willing to take on the industry in a very public lawsuit and risk being blackballed as litigious,” attorney Don Worley told The Epoch Times via email. Mr. Worley is not a legal party to the case.
Currently, a subscription to Actors Access costs $54.40 per year, uploading a headshot costs $10 per photo, attaching a seven-second introductory video is priced at $5, and performance videos or audio files attached to an actor’s profile require a one-time charge of $22 for every minute.
The average length of an actor’s performance reel varies from one minute to four minutes.
“Cloaked in promises of modernization and efficiency, artists find themselves in a continuous cycle of upgrading and paying for additional features, all while lacking a clear understanding of the true costs involved in getting their submissions even to reach casting directors,” the lawsuit states. “This lack of transparency results in an ongoing burden of unlawful costs.”

Other Lawsuit

Breakdown Services isn’t the only talent casting platform being sued.
Casting Networks, a commercial talent casting platform, was also slapped with a lawsuit by the same law firm. The Clarkson Law Firm sued Casting Networks on behalf of actors Nicole Kreuzer, Marco Martinez, and Brady Waller, alleging false advertising, unjust enrichment, and unfair business practices.
Both lawsuits accuse the platforms of operating pay-to-play systems where users must pay to gain access to opportunities or advantages.
Attorney Donald Worley. (Marlo Wise/Courtesy of Donald Worley)

Attorney Donald Worley. (Marlo Wise/Courtesy of Donald Worley)

Unlike Breakdown Services, Casting Networks offers a free membership, but the free membership does not allow actors to submit to casting opportunities. They are only allowed to browse the listings until they purchase a membership.
Memberships are priced at the “Essential” level for $9.99 a month and “Premium” for $29.99 a month.
“Casting Networks could contend that the premium tiers offer additional features and benefits beyond the basic audition functionality provided in the free tier,” Mr. Schmidt said. “This argument would hinge on whether the court interprets the law as prohibiting any form of payment for auditions or only direct charges for auditions.”
Under California’s Fee-Related Talent Services Law (FRTS), actors must have a no-cost method to submit themselves for commercial casting jobs that are union.
As a result, Casting Networks’ business model creates a coercive environment, according to the complaint.
“Artists feel pressured to pay for what the statute intends to protect as a free and fair opportunity,” the lawsuit states. “The limitation imposed on Free Membership artists, restricting their submissions until fees are paid, has directly harmed the class by placing a financial gate between them and potential employment opportunities. This model has coerced artists into purchasing Paid Subscriptions under the pressure of missing out on valuable auditions, leading to unnecessary financial expenditures based on a false premise of increased opportunity.”
Attorney Mike Schmidt. (Lara Grauer of laragrauerphotography.com/Courtesy of Mike Schmidt)

Attorney Mike Schmidt. (Lara Grauer of laragrauerphotography.com/Courtesy of Mike Schmidt)

The Clarkson firm did not respond to requests for comment.
The fact that there are other talent listing and casting platforms to choose from could mean the plaintiffs face an uphill battle, Mr. Worley said.
“Casting Networks and Actors Access are not the sole sources of employment for actors but provide a valuable service to those who wish to promote themselves instead of waiting around for their phone to ring from a call from their agent,” he said. “Actors can hire an agent who submits them for roles and the agent pays the breakdown services fee if the agent uses that platform for submissions.”
Other popular talent listing platforms include Backstage, NYCastings, LA Castings, and Casting Frontier.
“Also, class certification could be difficult because each actor’s damages are different,” Mr. Worley added.
Neither Breakdown Services nor Casting Networks responded to requests for comment.
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Juliette Fairley

Juliette Fairley

Author

Juliette Fairley is a freelance reporter for The Epoch Times and a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Born in Chateauroux, France, and raised outside of Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Juliette is a well-adjusted military brat. She has written for many publications across the country. Send Juliette story ideas at JulietteFairley@gmail.com

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