Actors Beware: How to Uncover a Scam
Scams, unfortunately, are abundant within the entertainment industry. This is especially true when it comes to young performers. Unscrupulous talent agents, service providers, and other so-called industry professionals are focused more on collecting their fees than they are in helping your child succeed.
There are, however, easy ways to avoid these scams. With eyes open and the right information, you’ll be able to spot these con artists from a mile away.
It’s important to keep in mind that many of these scams are not illegal; rather, they are unscrupulous business practices or sleazy sales schemes. These are often the worst kind of situations, since the results are identical to scams, but you have no recourse against the perpetrators.
Here are some tips on identifying a scam:
• Fee for Representation. No legitimate agent will ask you for money up front. And no legitimate casting agent will ever require a fee to audition or to have “their people” take an actor's head shot.
Do your research to identify reputable agencies. Those with the best track records will be very selective, and their websites will convey that. If you meet with an agency and the representatives are too eager to sign you, take a step back and evaluate the opportunity.
• This is not the age of discovery at the soda shop. Legitimate talent scouts and casting directors will hardly ever travel to a small town, mall or business in search of the perfect person for a part or the "right" look for a job.
As the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If someone in a kiosk stops you in a mall claiming your child has the perfect look for commercials, don’t buy it. They are preying on your natural admiration of your child’s looks and talents. They are hoping that once you hear a stranger validate your own impressions of your child, then you will gladly open your checkbook to make him a star. Don't buy it. Go shopping instead.
• Be wary of vague open casting calls. Casting needs are usually specific.
If you go to an audition and end up in a room filled with young actors of a wide variety of ages, looks, and special talents, it may be an indication that it’s not a legitimate casting call.
Usually these sorts of calls are designed to get a large captive audience of vulnerable wannabes in a room who are most susceptible to empty promises of fame and fortune. The goal, in most cases, is to get them to pay dearly with no guarantee of a part or contract with an agency.
• Quality agencies will never sign an actor based on whether or not they use their photographer or acting coach or teacher. Also, they do not ask to involve the actor in a "contest" and get any sort of kick-back from the associated fees.
Professional agents sign actors because they know they can get them work. Their fee is based on a commission, or percentage, of what the actor makes when hired for a job. That's their only compensation.
So, remember that any sort of up-front payment in exchange for a promise of work is the clearest sign of a scam. Don't sign anything. Don't pay. As a parent, it is up to you to become educated to protect your young performer from unethical con artists. Not only can they cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars, but they can also sour you or your child on what could otherwise be an exciting and rewarding career in the entertainment industry.