Editions by Frederick News

How to Spot a Talent or Model Agency Scam

There are few industries that are more alluring than the modeling and acting industries. Dreams of being famous and rich doing glamorous and exciting work are common and attract thousands of new people every month who have decided to chase this dream. The fact that this dream is actually attainable and has made tens of thousands of people incredibly successful raises this dream to more than fantasy, but a tangible possibility of reality.


But wherever there is fame and money, you will find corruption. Soulless individuals who seek only to feather their own nest at the expense of the dreams, hopes and aspirations of naive hopefuls who have put their trust in these parasites. They will suck from you what they can and toss the lifeless husk aside.

By Frederick Potter

There are few industries that are more alluring than the modeling and acting industries. Dreams of being famous and rich doing glamorous and exciting work are common and attract thousands of new people every month who have decided to chase this dream. The fact that this dream is actually attainable and has made tens of thousands of people incredibly successful raises this dream to more than fantasy, but a tangible possibility of reality.

But wherever there is fame and money, you will find corruption. Soulless individuals who seek only to feather their own nest at the expense of the dreams, hopes and aspirations of naive hopefuls who have put their trust in these parasites. They will suck from you what they can and toss the lifeless husk aside.

But there are also sincere, hard working people who love the industry and who have helped hundreds of people reach their goals and achieve their dreams. People who are well known and respected in the industry and who work closely with casting directors, producers, industry marketing executives and others who are in a position to hire and who are constantly looking for new faces.

But how do you tell the difference between the bottom-feeder parasites and the truly professional industry experts? Like many predators, the con artists in this industry are experts at disguise. But here are some sure fire ways to flush these vermin out of hiding!

CLUE NUMBER ONE - They want your money before they do any work: So you walk into your pre-arranged meeting to meet the smiling "agent" behind the desk. Without spending much time looking at what you have brought, they immediately begin to smother you with compliments and suggest that "You could go far" in this business. They may drop hints of famous names or stories of rich clients who have realized their dreams through them. Once they have sufficiently greased your wheels and enflamed your hopes, they will then suggest that they sign you up immediately, that is, if you are really serious about pursuing your dreams. All it will take is a "small" agency registration fee and the magic will begin!

But if they really believe in you and really believe that you will be successful, why would they need this fee? Wouldn't their industry standard 15% commission more than compensate them for their efforts? After all, if what they say is really true, their "small agency registration fee" would be nothing compared to what they could make if they actually promoted you the way they said they would.

ACTRA (the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) is the official union for performers in Canada. If there are any productions of any significance, ACTRA will be providing the talent and technical expertise to make it happen. They want to protect their members from scams. This is what they have to say about it:

Avoiding Scams

"Talent Agencies & Modeling and Talent Scouts While we won’t come outright and say that these activities are all scams, think about how many people out there actually paid the fees for entering these scout competitions, then paid the fees to go and visit their far-off headquarters to receive training, etc. And now think about how many stories you have heard from either celebrities or local performers who ‘made it’ or got their ‘big break’ due to these types of activities? If these really had the type of impact on peoples’ careers that many of them claim, don’t you think that recognizable celebrities would be endorsing them…? Save your money and your time, get a reputable talent agent and earn your chops working and making money rather than funding these types of organizations.

Talent Agencies, Workshop Providers and Film Schools
If a Talent Agency charges an exhorbident sign-up or administration fee, they are already making money without having to actually find work for performers. Talent Agents should make their money by charging only the industry standard commission rate, 15% plus GST, on work they procure for you in the film and television industry. Also, an Agent should help you with your resume and give you pointers on headshots; you should not be required to use a particular photographer, make-up artist, etc. If they force services on you, the Agent is likely making more money off of an unsuspecting performer. If an agency guarantees you work, or tells you that they are working with a particular production, these are likely false claims. If an agency forces you to take workshops through them or their partners as a condition of representation, that is also a reason for you to seek out other representation opportunities.If a Talent Agency charges an exhorbident sign-up or administration fee, they are already making money without having to actually find work for performers. Talent Agents should make their money by charging only the industry standard commission rate, 15% plus GST, on work they procure for you in the film and television industry. Also, an Agent should help you with your resume and give you pointers on headshots; you should not be required to use a particular photographer, make-up artist, etc. If they force services on you, the Agent is likely making more money off of an unsuspecting performer. If an agency guarantees you work, or tells you that they are working with a particular production, these are likely false claims. If an agency forces you to take workshops through them or their partners as a condition of representation, that is also a reason for you to seek out other representation opportunities.

If you are going to invest your valuable time and money on improving your resume and developing as a professional performer, take the time to investigate the providers of these workshops and film schools first. Does the person providing the workshop have a professional reputation in the industry? Are their credentials real? Have they ever actually worked as a professional in the film and television industry? Questionable activities by workshop providers include the “one-stop shop” mentality; that is, providing workshops as well as casting services as well as production services (ie. “We not only teach you about film, we make them!".

One of the more notorious scams goes something like this: You hear a radio ad for a local workshop provider who is bringing up a Casting Director from Los Angeles or New York to tap into the local talent base. You are asked to attend an open call where someone will ‘assess’ your look and your abilities. Based on what they see and hear, they will offer you a ‘call back’, or a ‘Second Call’. For your call back, you will be asked to visit the office of the workshop provider, who will tell you how wonderful you are and that by enrolling in $2,000 to $6,000 worth of courses with their organization, you will get work in the film and television industry. If this story sounds familiar to you, protect your hard-earned money! The reality is that scam artists see performers as an easy target; and since the film and television industry is so alluring, they have virtually a never-ending wellspring of victims. ACTRA hopes to help curb some of this activity by bringing the issue to light."


Reference: http://www.actraalberta.com/avoiding-scams/

CLUE NUMBER TWO - They do not follow the industry code of ethical practices: Because these scammers have become so prolific, the industry has set up a code of ethics that all real and ethical agents and agencies are expected to follow. Read these carefully. If your current or potential agency breaks any of these rules, then run like hell!

The Entertainment Code of Ethics

  • An agent will be truthful in his or her statements to the client
  • An agent will not advertise to the general public for the purpose of soliciting clients through advertising placed in any form of printed or electronic media (newspapers, flyers, magazines, telephones, the Internet, fax, CD-ROM or mailings, etc.)
  • It is not a condition of representation that an agent stipulates the photographer, printer, school or any other service provider for the client. Should an agent have any financial interest in above named businesses, full disclosure about said interest must be provided.
  • If an agent recommends a service provider in which they have a financial interest, it must be disclosed to the client at the time of recommendation.
  • An agent will make no claims or guarantees of employment to prospective clients that cannot be immediately substantiated.
  • An agent will use all reasonable efforts to assist the client in procuring employment in the legitimate entertainment industry.
  • An agent will not commingle monies belonging to clients with monies belonging to the agent, but will keep such monies in a separate account, which may be known as the client’s account or trust account.
  • An agent will pay each client his or her share of all monies received on behalf of the client in a timely manner. All monies belonging to the client received by the agent shall be faithfully accounted for by the agent and promptly paid over to the client.
  • An agent will tell the client at the time of signing a representation agreement which deductions from the client’s share of money the agent may make for expenses such as materials, photos, voice tapes, commissions and so on. However, the agent will make clear the client’s option to undertake the management of any or all of his own materials.
  • An agent will, upon request, make available to a client or prospective client a complete current list of clients represented by the agency.
  • An agent will represent all clients in good faith and recognize the uniqueness of the client’s abilities. An agent will maintain an office, records and such materials necessary to conduct business normally deemed necessary to function as an agent.
  • An agent will agree to be equipped and to continue to be equipped to represent the client ably and diligently in the legitimate entertainment industry and to so represent the client.
  • And agent will maintain the confidentiality of all dealings on behalf of the client both during representation and after the representation has terminated.
  • An agent will not accept employment as an actor.
  • An agent will maintain an accessible office and telephone during all reasonable business hours.
  • An agent or designate will be available, at all reasonable hours, for consultation with the client.
  • An agent will inform the client, upon request, of any all activities undertaken on the client’s behalf.
  • An agent will maintain proper financial books and records.
  • An agent will make all books and records pertaining to a client available to the client on a regular business day upon forty-eight hours notice.
  • An agent will inform a new client that commission due to a former agent be kept current.
  • An agent will accept no employment on the client’s behalf without informing the client of his or her obligations, such as details of fees, performance credit, working conditions and so on.
  • An agent will negotiate terms and conditions of any employment opportunities offered in consultation with the client.
  • An agent will recognize and uphold the client’s prerogative to refuse any and all employment opportunities offered.

Reference: http://www.canadianactor.com/actors/avoid_fraud.html

CLUE NUMBER THREE - They want you to use their own photographer, acting or modeling class or other service: - As noted in the referenced material above, you are not required to use any services of the agency other than their representation of you as an actor or model. If they pressure you to do so, it is likely that they have a financial interest in these services and will encourage you to use them "if you want to be successful". They may even imply that if you do not, it will damage your ability to get work as "only their photographer knows how to shoot for this industry". Often the costs for these sessions are extremely inflated and the results are no better than the average amateur photographer.


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