If you aren’t an actor, you’ve probably never heard of Backstage West. It’s an expensive little newspaper that survives feeding off the meager resources of acting hopefuls all through Southern California. They aren’t alone in this; there are a lot of pilot fish around the feeding shark that is “working actors” in L.A. Photographers, videographers, acting coaches, agents, managers, audition sites, workshops… It’s an entire cottage industry, really.

Backstage West was originally largely devoted to theater, the L.A. analog to Backstage, it’s New York City big brother. An actor can make a living doing stage work in new York, but if that’s your goal, L.A. is the wrong place for you. Beginning years ago, Backstage West began pushing to get film auditions as well, first in the newspaper, then on the website (once they finally got one). Unfortunately, most of these were tiny little independents and short films. This is because there’s a very elaborate, legally-sanctioned system in place to keep actors from finding out about real auditions. This system is called Breakdown Services. Every real part being cast in a movie or TV show or commercial is posted in these listings, and in order to get them (legitimately) and use them, you have to be a licensed, registered, tagged agent or manager or casting professional who’s had blood drawn, genitals cuffed and a barcode tattooed on your tongue.

Or something.

The point is, actors never know about genuine auditions, or at least, that’s what the system aspires to. Why? Because actors are needy, grasping, niggling, annoying, egotistical, self-centered douchebags (trust me. I am one) who everyone in the entertainment industry despises. Casting directors only want to see the actors they’ve asked for, and then, only out of dire necessity.

But here’s the thing; to put your project in the breakdowns, so that it goes across the desk of literally every agent & talent-hustling pro in Hollywood? $50. That’s it. Once we get our SAG contract in place? It’s free. Yup. Nada dinero.

And there are a hundred other casting sites that actors can access to submit themselves for stuff. Now Casting, LA Casting, etc. To post there? Yeah. Free.

Now, Backstage West does have some… content… in it’s print publication. It has reviews of plays that no one who wasn’t in the cast reads. It has advice columns with actors you’ve never seen or heard of explaining how to be a working actor no one has ever seen or heard of. And it has casting notices in the back that are so stale by the time they see print, you might find out how you could have submitted yourself for DeMille’s Ben-Hur. The original, silent one.

The institution itself is a dinosaur, so I was a bit surprised to learn that, to post a casting notice on the website to be seen in SoCal, you have to print it in the newspaper and magazine. Which costs $140 per week.

Suffice it to say, we’ll live without the handful of submissions we might have gotten solely from Backstage Online, because those fucking idiots can blow me. We’ll settle for Breakdown Services.

Whatcha think?

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