Multiple Class-Action Lawsuits Loom Over Pay-to-Play Audition Scandal

Casting Workshops 2- H 2017
Courtesy of Gary Baum

Trial lawyers seek to cast actors as plaintiffs while the L.A. City Attorney begins a court battle.

As criminal court proceedings continue against dozens of individuals charged with violating California’s Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, civil class action filings are being explored to recoup money lost by actors in what many consider a predatory labor practice.

Among those weighing such a move is Roman Silberfeld, a veteran partner at the big Century City-based law office Robins Kaplan. The heavy-hitting trial attorney responsible for one of Hollywood’s largest jury verdicts — he won $319 million from Disney in a 2010 case over Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? profits — says his firm has been looking into the issue for “more than a year.”

“I've spoken to friends inside studios and network television,” Silberfeld told The Hollywood Reporter via e-mail. “They have encouraged us to proceed with this, too." He added, "Our investigation at studios and networks (usually with officer level individuals) about these workshops reveals that the problem is real, that it is perceived by some studios and network individuals as a scam that preys on vulnerable young people and that putting an end to the practice would benefit all legitimate stakeholders in the entertainment industry.”

Regarding the status of the case, Silberfeld continued: “We remain interested in pursuing this case and need a cross section of plaintiffs who have attended different workshops at different times in order to meet the legal tests of standing, typicality and adequacy. Robins Kaplan has a long history of representing only talent in the film, television and music industries. We continue to gather evidence in support of claims for violations of the Krekorian Act that we intend to file." (Silberfeld noted that anyone interested in sharing their experience should contact his associate, Kevin Meek.)

Robins Kaplan isn't the only L.A. legal office to be considering a class-action filing. “We are gathering evidence,” says attorney Daniel Srourian, head of an eponymous Westwood-based firm that specializes in litigating unfair competition cases of employment law. “Beyond that, there’s nothing I can offer at the moment.”

The website of Srourian's firm explains that “individuals who were scammed are entitled to receive back three times the amount they paid to offenders for ‘educational’ or ‘workshop’ classes, a guise to cover up the ‘pay to play’ scheme. Individuals are also entitled to receive their attorney’s fees.” It goes on to list the five workshop firms identified by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer in his February indictment — Actors’ Alley, Your Studio Productions, The Actor’s Key, The Actors Link (since rebranded Ace Studios) and The Casting Network — and asks that those who “took a class or workshop within the last year” be in touch.