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The Working Actor

To Name Names or Not

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To Name Names or Not
DEAR MICHAEL:

Thanks for your response to NP in NYC ["Turn Down That Racket!," May 17, 2012].

I'm sure you're aware that many read your column for concrete and practical advice. Why didn't you print the name of the casting director who is "dangling the casting carrot?" I think that you have an ethical responsibility to help us avoid this jerk. Calling the union is one thing. Knowing who is perpetuating this scam is something else.

You're asking readers to "spread the word." How can we spread the word if you won't man up and tell us who is creating this problem for actors? Grow balls, Michael.

Taking Names, Brooklyn, N.Y.

DEAR TAKING NAMES:

Wow. Well ... I certainly appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. I think I can shed some light on your complaint.

As you'll recall, NP in NYC asked my advice on how to respond to a casting director who was directly soliciting actors with invitations to attend paid workshops under the guise of personal interest in the actors' work.

There were several reasons why you didn't see the name of that casting director in my column. The first is that the letter writer, NP, never shared that information. True, I could have poked around and gotten a name. But in journalism, statements have to be carefully vetted. Without having personally received or seen the email in question, I'm obliged to treat the story as hearsay, so it would have been journalistically unethical for me to fill in the omitted name.

But I have another reason for not sharing specifics in cases like this. To render these columns relevant to as many readers as possible, I aim to address broader issues that reach beyond the individual incidents. In this case, for example, I'd much rather tell you not to fall for scams than tell you to avoid this one specific solicitor.

My suggestion to report this casting director's behavior to authorities was meant for those who'd been approached. There's little to be gained by stirring up a witch hunt in which actors call in complaints about a scam they've never encountered. My thinking was that readers who've received emails like the one described can take the actions I encouraged. Those who haven't received the emails don't need to worry about their source.

Now, if you absolutely must have the name of the casting office, that information is easy enough to find, given the specifics provided by NP (an invitation to "participate in a very special opportunity" for $39). Just ask around -- among your friends, on message boards. I'm sure you'll find someone with firsthand experience. Still, I question the value of that information.

I know you're frustrated. We're all frustrated. But don't shoot the messenger. The real culprit here is the pay-to-meet racket. That's what leads to the kind of scam we're discussing. So instead of naming names, I'm going to keep encouraging my fellow actors to have enough dignity to decline to participate.

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