Central Casting Halts Background Performer Photo Fees

In a separate development, a 'Hawaii Five-0' casting director also stops charging fees to background performers seeking work.

Bowing to pressure from state and city officials, Central Casting in Burbank, Calif., will stop charging a $25 photo-processing fee to performers applying for background work, effective immediately. The company announced its decision Wednesday in a written response to a letter sent Tuesday by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office and the California state labor commissioner demanding an end to the practice. Central Casting insisted, however, that it had not violated state labor laws.

"Central Casting has not charged its background actors any improper photograph fees," the company said. "The government's references to the California talent service laws are misplaced. As an employer of background actors, Central is not covered by these laws."

Citing the 2009 Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, officials told Central Casting that the company risked prosecution on civil charges if it failed to stop charging photo-registration fees within 10 days.

Central Casting's argument that it is an employer rather than a representation service and thus not subject to regulation under the Krekorian Act could have negative consequences for the company should prosecutors press charges. Deputy City Attorney Mark Lambert told Back Stage on Tuesday that if his office determined that Central is an employer instead of—or in addition to—a representation service, it could be subject to criminal counts. However, Lambert also said that his office was unlikely to prosecute if the practice were ended.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists voiced support Wednesday for the government's actions. "AFTRA applauds the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office for its action yesterday in upholding California state labor law protecting the public, and specifically AFTRA background actors, from unfair, unlawful, and deceptive business practices," union spokesperson Chris de Haan said. "AFTRA members actively supported the 2009 passage of A.B. 1319," the Krekorian Act.

Screen Actors Guild executive director David White on Tuesday praised the government action, saying that the move addressed "a persistent area of concern" for guild members. Terri Becherer, director of SAG's National Background Actors Department, reiterated that support.

"Screen Actors Guild does not feel like anyone should ever have to pay anything for the opportunity to apply for work," she said. "We are thrilled that there are laws out there to protect actors, and that the city attorney is going to pursue those who are not following the laws."

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The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists announced Wednesday that it has forced a Hawaii casting director who works on the CBS series "Hawaii Five-0" to end her practice of charging fees to performers seeking background work.

In a notice to members, AFTRA said it had been assured by Rachel Sutton of Rachel Sutton Casting that the company would stop charging registration and photo-processing fees in exchange for representation. AFTRA's television contracts prohibit the practice.

"Please be advised that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES may a fee be required by a casting director or any other agent of the employer in exchange for employment," the union told its members in a written notice. "Charging performers such a fee is NOT PERMITTED under the terms of the AFTRA Code."

Sutton has worked on such shows as "Lost" and "ER." She told AFTRA that she had been unaware of the no-fee provision and would comply with it in the future.

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