Saturday, January 18, 2020

Seven Tips to Talent Agency Scams

Rip-off Talent Agencies Can Cost You More Than Money

You want success and you want it now!  The scam acting agency knows your mind set, and that is how he is going to be able to exploit you, grab your cash, max out your credit card, suck up your time, and leave you wondering "what the heck just happened?"

Almost any profession requires years of dues paying and hard work before there is a payoff.  Acting is no different, except that, as an actor you are constantly exposing your emotions to total strangers who are judging the quality of your work.  Day after day you are opening yourself up for rejection, which no matter how many times you are told that the rejection isn't about you, there is no way you can keep from questioning your skills, your auditioning style, your looks, and everything else that might be going into those rejections.

When people are vulnerable, they are the best targets for cons.  Who could be more vulnerable than an artist who believes they have a gift to share with the world, but who has been beaten up by rejection.  You may indeed have those gifts, but try to stay real.  The first thing the scammer is going to tell you is that you are amazing.  You need to hear that.  He knows you need to hear that.  The con is going to paint a beautiful picture of your future with him.  The two of you are going to get rich and famous together.  Right away, red lights should be going off in your head.  Let's break it down.

7 Telltale Signs that an Talent Agency Cares More About Your Wallet than Your Talent

1.  Who pursued who? - Established, legit talent agencies don't need to advertise, run free classes, or hang out around the exit doors of casting calls.  That is not to say that legitimate agencies are not showing up in venues to scout talent, or never notice a great face at the deli.  But if an agent is pursuing you, make sure that the pass every other test on this list.  In most cases, you will be working just as hard or even harder to get an agency to take you as you do to get a role.

2.  Money - If the agency requires up front fees to sign you, put you on their lists, add you to their website, or provide you with various other services, they are very likely scammers.  Legitimate agencies work on a commission based on finding you work.  There should not be other fees.  Publicizing you is their investment in you.  You do need to spend your own money on head shots and resume's.

3.  Use my guy - Scam artists usually hang out in packs.  They will have a photographer, resume writer, acting class set up, publicist, mailing house, and any other racket they can think of to add to the total payoff.  Legit agents may have relationships with photographers and other service providers, but they will not be pushy about sending you to their guy.  They may have a list of trusted companies for any materials you'll need.

4.  Past successes - In order to establish credibility with you, the con will typically tell you all about their past success with this actor or actress.  Ask to see the letters of recommendation from those clients.  How long ago did this success take place?  Are they still handling that actor?  Why not?  In most cases the entire send up is just that, and totally a figment of the agents imagination.

5.  Office at Starbucks - Not to say that there aren't plenty of folks who work out of their homes today that are running totally legit businesses.  And meetings with home businesses might commonly be held at a coffee shop.  If this is the case for the agent in question, or if they are in shared office space, or the offices are shoddy, this should be a cautionary sign.  How are they doing on the other elements of this list?

6.  Listed? - Where can you learn more about this company.  Amazingly a simple Google search may be all you need today to expose the phonies.  Yelp, Google+, or other online review sites may tell you in detail about the quality of the agency, good or bad.  Check with the Better Business Bureau.  They should be listed with one or more unions such as SAG or Actors Equity Association (Equity).

7.  Charm first - Con artists are charming.  Right?  They will have an answer, story, excuse, or pitch to cover their scheme.  And the good ones are very, very good at closing the deal.  Never, never sign or give them money under pressure of time, "we have others waiting," or other hard ball approaches.  Thank the person for being a fan, then go do your homework.

Even when you go home and do your homework, beware of the temptation to ignore all the warning signs.  If something is too good to be true, it probably isn't.  Call your friends in the business, teachers, other agencies, and find out what is and isn't real.  Remember, you have more to lose than money.  Even time wasted may not be the hardest part of this lesson.  The toughest part might be the emotional setback when it all turns to nothing.  The last thing you need is another emotional stress point.

MARK STOLZENBERG, Founder and Director of the New York Acting School for Film and Television has been in the business for a very long time and can help you find the scammers.

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