You work hard trying to be an actor and often, things don’t go your way… You’re bummed because you’re not getting enough auditions, you didn’t book that commercial or get that agent then suddenly… you see something like this….
Because you want to be an actor so badly (trust me I’ve been there!) you think “this is my big break” and off you go!
When you get to your audition they tell you your ‘look’ is just what they’ve been searching for! They tell you they need you to sign right away so you can be seen for a ‘big’ audition coming up. But, to secure ‘representation’ with their ‘agency,’ you must pay for photos with their photographer and take their expert acting/modeling classes so you’re ready to meet their casting director connections. This usually costs around $2500 but sometimes a lot more! Or maybe they sign you on the spot but require you to pay a monthly fee of $30-$70 to set up a profile on their ‘agency’ site. Excited to finally have an agent, you pay the fee and wait for auditions that never come because (surprise!) you’ve been scammed.
If you think this can’t happen to you, think again. Scam agencies can be very persuasive because they prey on actors dreams of success! Lately I’ve received several direct messages and emails from actors and concerned parents of kids in the business about this subject so this article is for you.
If you get ANYTHING out of this article I want you to remember….
An audition is a job interview. If you’re a waitress, doctor, lawyer, secretary, or accountant you would NEVER be asked to pay for an interview, right? You would turn and run the other direction! It is no different in the acting world!
Here are my 10 Signs the Agency is an Acting Scam!
1. They ask for $$$!
A ‘real’ agent will never ask for ANY money upfront to get you an audition or to secure representation! An agent doesn’t receive money upfront they receive commissions on the jobs you book!
2. They have a monthly fee!
A required monthly fee for a profile on their agency’s site is a big red flag. No legitimate agent will ever ask you to pay an upfront charge or ask you to pay for photocopies or mailing costs.
3. They require you use their photographer and their acting classes.
‘Real’ agents may suggest headshot photographers or acting coaches whose work they’re familiar with but they will never require you use them as a condition of signing you! Agents find their clients auditions (that’s how they make money) NOT trying to sell you classes, photos or products!
4. Asking for a Background Check
Although it may be customary for a 9 to 5 job to run a background check for employment it’s not the case in the acting world! If a so-called agency sends you an email with a link to a background check (especially after just talking to you over the phone). STOP! No agent would ever ask you to do this. They are trying to get your information so they can sell it some other low life.
5. Sending you a check in advance of your work.
A recent scam tells actors they are signed and soon after they get an email saying they booked a job! Then a few days later the very happy actor receives a large check for the gig in advance of the shoot (fake of course) that they are supposed to cash and pay the ‘agency’ a commission on. Guess what? The check is fake! No job ever happens!
5. Vague casting calls!
A casting notice should never read like this….
Seeking fresh, new faces, ages 2-80 (any ethnicity), no experience necessary, pays $1000/day.
….unless of course it is a scam! Think about it! Everyone has a fresh, new face! No agent or casting director would put a call out for ages 2 to 80 (except possibly for extra work) and they certainly would not pay anyone with NO experience $1000 a day. There are experienced union actors not making $1000 a day on set! If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
6. Online Auditions
More and more auditions are being sent digitally and Skype auditions are becoming more of the norm. However, women and parents beware if your so-called ‘agency’ only gets you or your child online auditions- there are a lot of ‘predators’ out there. Parents should always be right off camera for these ‘auditions’ and for adults- no one should ever ask you to wear lingerie or do any nudity for an audition.
7. Be An Extra For (insert the hottest show on TV right now)– $400/day!!!
No joke… I saw this the other day. If you are an extra you will never be paid more than the union rate to work on set. The current Background SAG-AFTRA rate for actors is $178/a day.
8. Ads on Craigslist
I do know actors that have secured work in student films, small theatre companies and community theatre through CraigsList so not every audition on CraigsList is a scam. However, auditions for major roles on major networks are not posted on CraigsList. The same goes for telephone poles- NBC will not find their next series star through an ad on a telephone pole.
9. You must sign right now!
If an ‘agent’ says their contract for representation must be signed right then it’s definitely not for real! One of the biggest signs of a scam is immediacy! If a ‘real’ agent is interested in you they will understand your need to think over it. The decision to enter a relationship with an agent is a big deal and should not be rushed!
10. Discovered at a shopping mall?
If anyone approaches you at a shopping mall telling you to sign up for an audition for the Disney Channel, ABC Family or Nickelodeon (especially if they say they like your look!) don’t give them your information!!! Casting directors and agents don’t hang out at the mall looking for new talent. To some actors this may seem obvious, however the idea of being ‘discovered’ sometimes clouds our good judgement when something like this actually happens to us.
So….. What to do if you think a talent or model ‘agency’ might be a scam…
Do your research! Although the internet has given rise to more scams, there are ways we can see them for what they are before we become victims!
1. “Google” the company’s name and any agents from the ‘agency.’ Many times you can stop wasting your time right here.
2. If the agency has a website check their Terms of Service or Disclaimer if they have one. Many of these so-called agents actually have terms of service clauses that say they are not agencies and cannot get you work but they are in very small print on the last page of their site. They include this clause so they can’t be sued after they steal your money!
3. Find out more information by looking up the website at whoishostingthis.com. Match up the names and contact information with the info they are giving you over the phone. If they tell you they’ve been in business over 10 years and the site was created a week ago it’s a scam! You may also find other information (including names/business names/addresses). Run another google search for those.
4. If you do a google search don’t believe EVERYTHING you read. I’ve seen great articles calling out scam agencies. Unfortunately, many of the comments below the articles defended the scam agency. Don’t be fooled by these. They were obviously written by the scam agency trying to manage their online reputation. Often they’ll post comments as happy parents saying ‘my son or daughter booked 3 jobs with this agency, they’re great!” Remember, many scam artists have NO connection to the business at all! They’ve never been actors and probably don’t even know any legitimate casting directors or agents. They are sales people and are very good at selling you on their non-existent product!
On a happier note…..There are plenty of AMAZING, completely legitimate agents out there!
To find them search reputable sources like:
Backstage (online directory or their CallSheet)
You can also find directories at Samuel French (in LA) or the Drama Book Shop (in NY)
If you found this helpful please share this with another actor below! The more actors that know these signs, the less successful these scams will be!
6 replies to "How to Spot A Modeling or Acting Scam!"