“... are they a good way of networking and finding jobs?”
This is an excellent question. I am very concerned about some of these places that promise to help actors find auditions- namely, because there are plenty of fully legit resources that actors can use directly (that is, they don’t require a “personal representative” to help you find auditions to submit to.)
There are a select few audition websites that ARE worth investing time/money/energy into. These are:
Actors Equity Casting Call
Let It Cast
Cast It Talent
You can even find notices on Craigslist - just be careful to research the projects before you submit your information. One good rule of thumb is to pay attention to the amount of information posted in the notice. If the Craigslist notice lists only basic information like, "Actors needed for a feature film. Send headshot & resume..." you probably want to stay away. But if the notice has more information, like dates for the project or character breakdown, or even a description of the project, you can feel more confident in submitting.
Any of the others not listed here typically have the same notices that are on the above sites. I would NOT pay to use any website other than these listed- it probably wouldn't be worth the money. Of course, there are exceptions and I am sure a new website will come along and blow away the competition. But as of now, the above sites are the most reputable.
The links above are either national sites, or those geared towards NY actors. Here are some casting sites for other parts of the country:
San Diego/Los Angeles:
Actors Alliance of San Diego
And here are some sites suggested by readers:
Kyle recommends TheCastingWorkshops.com
Emma Kate recommends PerformInk.com
Emma Kate recommends League of Chicago Theatres/
(Readers- if you know of other WEBSITES where you have gotten good audition notices, email the links to me or post them in the comments section, and I can adjust this post to list them above...)
To address the last part of your question- I don’t really think websites like these are useful for networking, per se. Certainly, any website where you can post your information could be of use to your career, but sometimes it is best to choose 3-4 sites and work hard to keep those updated, rather than using 10-12 sites and barely having enough time to look at them daily. But you are a business owner- you have to decide what is best for YOUR business.
A side note...: Any website that claims to have notices for principal roles on TV and Studio film projects is probably not being truthful. I notice these sites all the time, saying things like, “Find auditions for Game of Thrones here!”; “Breakdowns for Scandal just posted!” only to find out that they are simply posting the general address for the casting directors (who accept submissions via mail EVERY DAY.)
Occasionally, Actors Access, Backstage and CastIt will show roles for feature films/TV but these are usually roles that are very hard to cast, like 70 year old Filipino twins. Principal roles for TV and studio features almost exclusively go through Breakdown Services, which are not accessible to actors OR these above casting sites.
I hope this information helps. Let me know if you need anything else.
Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.