5/21/08

More information and resources to help you figure out if you getting scammed by a talent agency

In an effort to continually help inform you on so called talent managers trying to take your hard earned money I found this helpful article

http://www.bizparentz.org/gettingstarted/avoidingscams.html

So how does a parent spot a scam?

  1. LISTEN. One step is to really listen to your instincts. What seems too good to be true, usually is.
  2. RESEARCH. Researching every company and person you are going to work with is of paramount importance. Use Google and check the names of the businesses as well as the names of the people you meet. Ask other parents. Email us. Look for common red flags. Some red flags of a scam or rip-off include:
    1. being approached in a mall, family store or other public place
    2. name dropping such as “a casting director from shows LIKE Hannah Montana and Nickelodeon” or naming famous alumni (which rarely turn out to be supporters of the program)
    3. promising work or access to breakdowns
    4. using several different names for their business or they change the name frequently
    5. seeing an ad on Craigslist or in the newspaper, or hearing it on the radio,
    6. the term “open call”,
    7. use of the words “star”, “fame”, “you have the look”, “boot camp”, “Hollywood University”
    8. putting pressure or time limits on the offer such as “we only bring back 10% of the kids we see, not everyone makes it”, “we can only hold the spot for 3 days”, etc.
    9. use of the terms “top Hollywood talent agent/manager/casting director”
    10. charging upfront fees for representation. In California, this practice falls under the Advance Fee Talent Service Act (*insert link*). This is why many scammers travel the country. Hollywood recognizes the scam artists so they can’t do business as easily here.
  3. WAIT. Leave your checkbook at home. Sometimes the best way to spot a scam is to separate yourself from the situation and sleep on it. Talk to your spouse. Run it by a friend. And if you don’t have your checkbook/credit cards, it forces you to think about it without that pressure.

But some people say it is OK….. Of course every story has 2 sides, and you may find another person ‘vouching’ for
someone else. One very common example of these discussions revolves around talent competitions and talent/modeling schools. Consider this perspective as posted on Backstage:


"If we view a child's entertainment career as a business (because it is) - families who go the competition/convention route entering the business start off thousands of dollars in the hole - to "hopefully" get an agent and manager. For the people who really like their individual situation – ask them what's the success rate of ALL the children in their child’s classes? Never mind their little budding star... what about the others?"


Getting an agent or manager can be accomplished for under $100 via picture submissions. Really. Honest. Your child doesn't have to be at a convention to have an agent notice them and see if they might fill a hole in their roster. Signing with an agent (and perhaps manager) is the very basic cornerstone of the industry. It's not a guarantee of success. A good percentage of represented child actors never, ever work.


A child is going to need to book about $30,000 of work (at least) to even make up for the cost of the classes - depending on how many other people (agent, manager, trust account, and taxes) they are paying. It puts a tremendous strain on the child’s “business” to start out so much in the hole. The finances are often the source of many difficulties within a family.


The "awards" and training - will be the first thing to LEAVE the professional resume. The industry does not afford any respect to participation in talent competitions. Winning ‘Child Actor of the Year” isn’t going to bring you employment or success in the industry.


We understand why parents want to see it otherwise - but after hearing thousands of stories from people who experienced this, they describe that it's a lot like a slick boyfriend. They say all the right things to get you interested, but later, looking back, you sort of regret the time you spent with them. There are many people who have learned a lesson - and /or really don't appreciate how these businesses take advantage of families and their love for their children. Yet, good news for competitions - there are still people willing to believe that it's the best choice they can make to get their child an agent, when it's really the only option they ever even considered.

I’ve been scammed, what now?

First, don’t be embarrassed. MANY, many of us stumbled our way into this industry in ways we would rather forget. But you can recover. Perhaps the scammer did you a favor, and made your realize that A. your child really has a gift, and B. you need to get your business in order if you are going to support them the way they deserve.


There are legal remedies to getting scammed. Please email BizParentz and we can point you in the right direction if you feel like that is a route you want to pursue. Many families just count the experience as a very expensive lesson learned. Others choose to tell their story and prevent others from making the same mistakes. We applaud them! Next, re-group. You can find an agent/manager without spending any more money.


Read our article entitled “Just Getting Started".

There are respected and standard websites that exist for marketing and casting in the industry. There’s no need to seek out untested and dangerous alternatives. See also articles on this website – Online Casting and All Roles Aren’t Created Equal (PDF). Even if you are fortunate enough to find someone that is ‘safe” to work with from these alternative methods – there certainly won’t be the level of pay you might expect to receive for your work.


Remember – a child’s professional career is a business – and to give away their time, energy, and talent is unnecessary and unfair to them.

1 comment:

BizParentz Foundation said...

Hello,
Just wanted to say that we are thrilled that you chose to repost our information, and include our website links along with it. Hopefully others will see it and learn how to analyze their situation and make their own decisions. That's what our organization is all about--sharing information so people can make good business decisions.

I have no personal knowledge of Karon Shea, John Wood or any of the others mentioned in your blog. But I do have personal experience with IMTA.

FYI, the ONLY people who go to IMTA (or it's stepsister competition, iPop, which is about double the price) are expensive modeling schools. NO ONE ELSE. It is NOT the way professional actors enter the industry. 99% of the actors who attend never get a paying job in Los Angeles, because the training they have received is so horrible. AGENCIES do not send their clients there...why would they? So their clients could be stolen by a larger agency? Of course not! They send their acting school students (they are not really agencies) because conventions are big business..between paying for MORE classes, NEW pictures, and the convention itself, you would have dished out $10,000 or so. And don't think it stops there...you will get "callbacks" (a misuse of the industry term) alright. But the result will be that you were "almost there" and "just need a little more training". And back into the school cycle you go, so they can suck more money out of you.

BTW, if you want to compare Los Angeles prices, a great headshot photographer charges about $250 and 100 copies are about $75. The average cost for a top acting class is less than $50 per hour.

Another reality of Hollywood: AGENCIES are not legally allowed to advertise in CA. They cannot charge ANY fees upfront for photography, classes or anything else--that is a violation of the Advanced Fee Talent Service Law. Legit Hollywood companies do not post on craigslist--ever.

I think you must be a pretty savvy guy. From what I have read here, looks like you have spotted a scam, and managed to save yourself another $10,000 or so by NOT attending IMTA. $800 is ridiculous for professional headshots. Bravo for saying, "Stop the Madness!" and for speaking out.

Tip of the day: Google
"IMTA scam", "John Robert Powers scam" and "iPop scam". Just adding that little word to the end of your searches will bring up thousands of websites, including pretty much every consumer protection site in the nation. You are not alone!