Class Action Lawsuit Accuses Top Actor Membership Service of Deceptive Bait and Switch Tactics

By: Alex | Published: Apr 25, 2024

California law firm Clarkson Law has filed a lawsuit against Actors Access, a top actor casting site, where it alleges that the company’s “pay-to-play” service is engaged in bait-and-switch tactics. Plaintiffs in the suit say the service has made them endure hidden fees, long hours, financial insecurity, and burdens on their personal lives.

This latest suit follows another similar one filed last week by the same law firm against audition management software company Casting Networks.

What is Actors Access?

Actors Access is a subscription membership site that acts as a middleman, connecting actors and casting directors by allowing the actors to submit casting breakdowns directly posted by these directors.

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Source: ActorsAccessLawsuit/Wikimedia

According to Variety, Actors Access is operated by Breakdown Services and the company claims that over 97% of scripted productions in North America use its casting platform.

Lawfirm Statement

Ryan Clarkson, managing partner at Clarkson Law Firm, gave comments summarizing the feelings of his clients about the entertainment industry relying so heavily on these “pay-to-play” services and the motivation behind the two recent lawsuits.

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“Following the daily outpour of support from actors, industry insiders, and the public, after our filing against Casting Networks, we realized exactly how widespread this problem is throughout the online audition industry,” said Clarkson.

Actors Access’ Role

In his comments, Clarkson asserted that the Actors Access service has made a business out of exploiting the vulnerable dreams of aspiring actors.

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“Actors Access, a massive Hollywood institution that even predates the internet, is guilty of the same deception — scamming actors and taking advantage of their career dreams. It is time they are held accountable.,” Clarkson said.

Bait and Switch

Christina Le, a partner at Clarkson Law, described the mechanism behind the bait-and-switch models the suit alleges these services are using to defraud desperate actors with hidden fees.

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“Similar to the deceptive bit and switch model used by Casting Networks, Actors Access’ fraud of choice is hidden fees, revealing myriad up-charges only after enticing actors to pay a smaller upfront cost,” Christina Le said. “Both platforms leverage illegal fraud tactics to unlawfully line their pockets and chisel a financially vulnerable community of performers who are already providing their labor for free throughout the audition process.”

Inserting Itself

The lawsuit accuses Actors Access of using its platform to insert itself between hard-working actors and casting directors to the point that actors feel they have to pay just to have a job. All the while the service is allegedly using deceptive practices to underdeliver on the dreams of actors.

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“Defendant has inserted itself between actors and casting directors, forcing hardworking actors into paying simply for the opportunity to apply for a job. Skillfully masking extra costs, Defendant collects hundreds of dollars from actors every year just to have a reel viewed by someone who might hire them through Defendant’s platform, “Actors Access,” the lawsuit says.


Dominant Force

In the lawsuit, the case is made that Actors Access is such a dominant force in the industry that it has increased responsibility for the control it has over actors who use its service.

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“Actors Access is a dominant force in the entertainment industry. Many casting calls are only viewable through the platform, and actors, especially those without representation, have no other avenues to apply for jobs. Indeed, Defendant claims that “97% of all scripted projects in North America” rely on the platform,” says the lawsuit.


Predatory Practices

More than just accusing Actors Access of harming actors’ job experience, the lawsuit also alleges the company is violating California labor laws through predatory practices.

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“Defendant’s market share aggravates the harm caused by its predatory practices, which unfairly burden working actors who already navigate an unstable and competitive industry. By charging actors just to be considered for roles, Defendant has created a pay-to-play system that violates California labor laws,” the lawsuit reads.


Actors Access Services

While Actors Access does have a paid subscription service, it also offers a free tier. The difference between the free and subscription tiers is that several features are locked behind the paywall.

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For example, the site charges $2 per submission, but paid subscribers are granted the perk of unlimited submissions.


Misleading Claim

The lawsuit against Actors Access alleges that the claim of unlimited submissions is misleading because although they aren’t charged a submission fee, there are other additional fees to upload media they have to deal with.

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“Through falsely, misleadingly, and deceptively labeling, advertising and marketing the Products, Defendant has sought to take advantage of artists’ desire, perceived value, and willingness to pay more for the freedom to cater their audition materials to the wide range of roles available on the platform. Defendant then denies them that freedom and asks for hundreds of dollars a year to unlock it,” the lawsuit says.


Media Algorithm

In the suit, the case is made that actors who upload more media into their profile can achieve higher ranking and visibility through a sorting algorithm than those who don’t. The suit argues that this creates an unfair system that rewards paying for playing.

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Source: Markus Spiske/Wikimedia

“Thus, even for those actors able to pay their way onto the platform, a significant casting factor becomes have they paid enough,” says the suit.


Financial Strain and Emotional Distress

In addition to the rest of the charges levied against Actors Access, the lawsuit accuses the company of inflicting emotional distress on actors who use its service.

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“The resultant financial strain and the emotional distress from navigating this pay-to-play system have diminished the fair chance of talent discovery, effectively prioritizing those who can afford to pay over equally or more talented individuals facing financial constraints,” states the lawsuit.