I was just with a fellow talent manager friend discussing the whole issue and after an eye roll she said “it's just really buyer beware.” Which I suppose is true.
Acting and audition technique workshops being run by casting directors are being accused of double dipping. Actors sign up to attend workshops with CDs then later hiring the actor for parts on projects that they cast, hence the “pay for play” moniker sort of like payola in radio. While this exchange is illegal (Krekorian Act) I can also say it is not very common. In my experience, a casting person is not going to risk their reputation with producers, studios, etc., on an actor that they don’t believe in.
Workshops have existed for years and while the industry landscape has changed, so too has the workshop system.
While not a fan of the process, I understand an actor's need to do everything they can to get in front of casting people. I straddle the fence between the benefits and the cost of such a process. I have heard from actors that they have been to several workshops or classes with X CD and yet they never get brought in to an actual audition. That is the risk for the actor, some CDs will respond to you professionally in a workshop others won’t. It is an educational exchange. Attending a workshop is not a guarantee of work.
The opponents of this process say it is damaging to the talent pool and the art that is acting. Proponents say that workshops provide a much needed service which helps actors fine tune skills. My middling opinion is that some workshops are helpful and some predatory but it is up to the actor to do their research and make sure that they are getting an education and not looking for a short cut. If you are going to attend a workshop, any workshop, do your homework. Know what to expect in the process, these people are not doing you a favor by having you there…you are paying them to provide a service.