Whether you’re new to the entertainment industry or you’re a seasoned pro with hundreds of shows on your IMDb page, you may be in the market for a new talent agent. While there are many wonderful agents out there, we in the industry also must face those unscrupulous people who work hard to scam unsuspecting actors and models who just want to find a good agent to help submit them for work.
If you’re a parent who wants to help your child on the road to acting or modeling, you should be aware that there are many scammers in the industry who prey on you. One day you’re perusing Facebook to see if you can find a talent agent for your child when suddenly, you come across an ad like this:
| ATTENTION MODELS AND ACTORS! |
Seeking new faces!
Talent Pros can make you a star!
THIS WEEKEND ONLY!
At Crossgate Mall
If only it worked that way! Everyone would be a movie star or model. When people want something so bad that they can taste it, they unfortunately fall prey to these types of scams.
What To Expect At A Scam Audition!
When you arrive for your “audition,” you will usually be told that you have the exact “look” that the “agency” is looking for. They will go on to tell you that since you’ve never acted or modeled professionally or since you don’t have a hefty talent resume you will need to take modeling and acting classes before they can represent you. You’ll also need to have professional headshots taken.
The catch to this is; You must take your acting and modeling classes at their agency and you will need to have your headshots taken by their photographer. On average, these classes along with the “professional” headshots usually cost around $2500 or more. You will also be required to pay a fee to be listed on their website, often as a model or actress “in development” while you take the required classes. Your headshots often come at the end of your classes and guess what? They may be good photos, but they’re not going to be up to par with a great headshot photographer.
You’re an intelligent person, right? It would take a lot for someone to scam you out of $2500 and you feel this is something that you would never fall for. Wrong! These scam agencies are pros at what they do, and they will prey on every dream you have about acting or modeling so they can draw you in.
They’re professionals at getting parents to pay the fees and schedule classes with their business and they’re great at what they do. Once a parent hears the “agent” talking about how beautiful their child is or how they could be a top star with a little training, they just don’t often have a chance to gather their thoughts and say no.
The “agent” will often tell you that they’ll be making calls to those they choose from the audition later that night or by early the next afternoon. This is after filling your child as well as you full of dreams of being a celebrity. How can you back down when your child has now been led on and told how beautiful, talented and special they are?
While many real talent agents, especially in the southern United States and Midwest will require a one time listing fee for their website, they will never require you to take classes at their place of business or with their personal instructors and they will never require headshots be taken with their own photographer.
Here are some of the top signs that a talent agency is working to scam actors and models:
- They ask for money upfront
A real talent agent is not going to require any money upfront or to submit you for a casting call or to represent you. Agents get paid when their talent is paid, and a real agent is going to work hard to get you submitted for roles you fit. They are not going to demand that you pay $2500 or more for classes at their “agency.” They often call the required fee an “administrative” fee, or a “registration” fee.
- You must take classes at their agency
All actors need to take acting classes. This is a no-brainer. They do not need to take classes at the agents’ office however, and a real agent will never tell their talent that they must take their classes. Models do not need to take classes. It does not hurt to take a class on your own to determine the basics of modeling, but to get work as a model, all that you need to have is a great headshot and the body type or look that the client is looking for. Clients pay models and actors, and a model or actor should never pay to join a talent agency!
- You must have headshots taken by their photographer
A real talent agent might recommend a good headshot photographer if you ask about them, but they will never require you to have your headshots taken with a specific photographer for them to represent you. There are scam agencies out there who will go as far as to tell a parent that they require a certain photographer and printing because the printing press used by their photographer produces higher quality prints than anywhere else in the nation. There is a talent agent in Atlanta who claims the printing press his agency uses is a rare printer that no one else has because it’s so expensive. This is rubbish and if you ever hear someone make claims like this, run away!
- Their business name is similar to a real agency
Many of these scam businesses will use names that sound similar to real agencies that are well-known. They do this solely so it will appear they are affiliated with the well-known agency.
Even the best companies will have a complaint here and there, but when you’re searching for a talent agent, be sure to check online to see whether the company has a great number of complaints and see how they have responded or if they have responded. Check websites including the Better Business Bureau, Yelp and even Ripoff Report. It’s also a good idea to check their social media pages to see if they have removed the review section or if they have complaints in their review section.
- Offering high wages for extra work
Working as an extra on a film or television show can be a fun experience, but if a company is posting that they will pay several hundreds of dollars for a day of work as an extra, it is just not a legitimate ad. Even major productions will not pay an extra above the SAG-AFTRA rate which is just under $160 per day. Smaller productions often pay as little as $50 a day for extras.
While there may be a few valid ads for roles in student films, theatre roles or smaller productions, watch out for ads found on Craigslist for auditions or talent agents seeking new talent. Chances are, the talent agent seeking new faces is a lonely person who just wants to collect information or photographs for nefarious reasons. AMC and CBS and other major networks will never post an ad on Craigslist. The Ford Agency or East Coast Talent and other legitimate agencies will never seek new talent on Craigslist.
- Your deposit if refundable
If a talent agency tells you that in order to represent you, you must make a deposit that is fully refundable if you decide to go with another agency, you better read the fine print upfront because chances are, you’ll never see a dime once you realize you’ve been scammed and they have your money already.
- They only accept a few people
Scam agencies will accept anyone willing to pay them, but they will never tell you that! They tell everyone the same line, that they are special and they believe your chance for overall success in the talent industry is great. This is also where they will pitch their classes for $2500 or more and require a deposit to represent you.
- Your child has the right look
If you have ever watched a television show, movie, commercial or other acting gig, you should know there is no “look” that is just right. Everyone of every shape, size, hair and eye color, ethnicity, race and other physically identifying trait has the “right look” for acting and modeling. Your child may be a beautiful blonde or a have an exotic island look, but if a role calls for a redhaired child with curly hair, then that redhaired child is the one with the right look. Don’t fall for anyone telling you that your child has the right look.
How to Prevent Being Scammed
Again, check reviews online and take time to research the company as deeply as possible. Don’t be fooled by positive reviews online. While many great companies have positive reviews, you will also find positive reviews for scam companies. Whether they pay for the reviews, have friends post them or actually have a few people who trust them, these companies will still have people standing up for them. Check the negative reviews to see what people are saying about the company. If a company has more negative than positive reviews, steer clear.
Go to the company website (If they have a site) and check to see if they have their company info and terms of service listed on the website. Note that many scam companies won’t have a website at all, but some will and if you are lucky, the site will have in writing that they are not an agency. This will most likely be included as a small line in a large sea of fine print.
Find a Real Agent
There are some truly incredible talent agents all across the country, and it isn’t as difficult as it may seem to find one. Check on the SAG-AFTRA website for SAG Franchised Agents and you can find a list of SAG registered agents in states all across the United States.
Most agencies will not accept unsolicited submissions, so be sure to check their websites to see when and how they accept talent submissions. Some will accept online submissions and will then schedule an in-person meeting if they are interested while others require talent to use postal mail to mail headshots in to them for consideration.
Have you been scammed by a fake talent agency? If so, let us know in the comments below!