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Avoiding Hollywood Scams

June 03, 2015

How to Identify Legitimate Talent Agents and Talent Managers - by Robert Pafundi
Published in: LVLten Magazine Issue 3 * March/April 2015

From 2006 to 2008, the Better Business Bureau received approximately 1,000 complaints and 143,000 questions related to acting and modeling scams. And that was just in Southern California alone! These scams often target kids and their families, so it’s important that you learn to protect yourself. Very sadly, this serious problem still exists today!

The Talent Scam Prevention Act affects all service industries related to actors and performers, including acting schools, casting workshops, and website listing services. It targets those people who mislead parents into thinking their children are engaging in a casting process, frequently with promises of roles on TV shows or movies, and often promising stardom.

A typical scam involves charging parents outrageous amounts of money for acting classes, headshots, and industry advice and counsel. The scammers typically lure the families in by focusing on the child’s dreams and selling the parents on the child’s chance at Hollywood fame. The sales pitch and incentive is often so strong and so well presented that even the brightest of kids and parents often become victims.

5 Tips to Identifying Legitimate Talent Agents

Doing a little bit of online research before meeting with a potential Talent Agent, and asking the following questions, will help you ensure that you are dealing with someone who is legitimate.

Here are some things you can ask:
  • Is the Agency licensed and bonded by the California Labor Commissioner?
  • Have the Talent Agency contracts been approved by the California Labor Commissioner?
  • Is the Talent Agency associated with the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG), or is it a Member of the Association of Talent Agents (ATA)?
  • Does the Talent Agency charge any advance fees or upfront costs? It’s a huge “red flag” if they do!
  • Does the Agency require actors to go to certain photographers, or attend acting classes taught by people with who the Agency has a financial interest?
If a Talent Agent does not answer these questions to your satisfaction, you should seriously consider interviewing with another one.

5 Tips to Identifying Legitimate Talent Managers

There are a few telltale signs that will help you identify a legitimate Talent Manager in California—possibly anywhere.
  • Good Talent Managers will advise actors on their image, resumé format and content, headshots, acting classes, demo reels, websites, personal appearance and overall career direction. They also help an actor find a talent agency when the time is right, and work closely with the Talent Agent.
  • The best Talent Managers determine an actor’s most marketable type and the kinds of projects for which an actor is most likely to find work.
  • Legitimate Talent Managers will never sell acting classes, workshops or coaching sessions, although they will likely recommend classes, coaches, and workshops and various options for you.
  • Legitimate Talent Managers will never refer you to classes, workshops, or photographers, in which they have a financial interest.
  • Legitimate Talent Managers will only charge a fee based on a percentage of what you or your child actually earn.
If a Talent Manager is violating any of these guidelines you should be very suspicious and look for someone else immediately.

Play it smart and play it safe. If you suspect that you or a child you know may have been cheated by anyone in the entertainment attorney as soon as possible and talk it over with him or her.

LVLten is a bi-monthly publication available in both print and digital versions, geared towards young performers and their parents.

LVLten is packed full of great celebrity features which include full page fashion editorials , Exclusive LVLten interviews with top teen celebrities where they talk freely about their craft, giving insight into their careers and things they have learned along the way. PLUS Industry-Pro interviews, Q&As and articles with today's top agents, casting directors and more where they discuss everything from dos and don'ts when submitting, how to keep a great agent/client relationship, what to do when you get into the audition room, and much, much more! From acting teachers and other industry veterans, you'll learn the  secrets of the trade from the very best.