How to Avoid Scams
Every day, I see sales pitches directed at actors, so I've decided to post these warnings. I think new actors who dream of success can be an easy target for less-than-altruistic businesses.
Lots of folks have businesses that charge actors for services. Before you give your money to a school, a photographer, a web site or a talent scout, do some research. Talk to an experienced actor about the company or service. Is the school a good one? Do they help actors prepare, or do they exist to sell expensive classes? Is the photographer respected in the area and worth the fee they charge?
Anyone who gives you a hard sell, or tells you that you are stupid if you do not buy their product, or an amateur if you do not buy their product, is not someone to do business with. No one ever got work from one of these fly-by-night talent scouts that seem to be everywhere. No matter how expensive the classes are, they won't make you a star.
Actors don't get discovered by having a snazzy website. Acting is a business that resists technology. You can't telecommute in theater - auditions are in person. Even for film, auditions are almost always in person. Don't be dazzled by the technology. As cool as it is, casting folks don't visit random actors' websites.
A website is good as an instant, electronic headshot. Having a simple, quick-loading website is a good way to get your picture and resume into someone's hands quickly. If you see a call for actors, you can send them your link - no need to wait on the mail. But you will need to send the link. Don't expect anyone to discover you through your website.
Acting is hard work - go ahead and resign yourself to that now. You will need to work on your craft, and learn to market yourself, and stay up all night in the cold for an overnight shoot outdoors in December. Most folks who make a living as an actor do lots of commercials and training videos and other distinctly un-glamorous acting jobs.
There are services that an actor needs, which will help you -- if you work hard and have talent. But a legit school or photographer will not pressure you. If they have a good reputation, they will have plenty of customers, whether you use them or not.
If someone tells you to buy from them and you'll be a big star, keep your money in your pocket. There are no shortcuts. Take classes, act in local theater, get experience.
An agency charges actors a percentage of the money you get from acting. If someone says they want to "sign" you, are calling themselves an agency, and ask for money up front, stay away.
Texas Rules for talent agencies include this:
78.75 Responsibilities of the Registrant - Prohibited Acts.
(a) Regardless of its refund policy, a talent agency may not charge an artist any fee or charge, other than reimbursement of amounts actually paid by the talent agency on behalf of the artist, before the artist has accepted an offer of employment obtained through a referral made by the talent agency.
In short - agents are not allowed to take any money from you until they've found a job for you. (Well, ok - if they buy you a plane ticket to go to an audition in LA, they can pass on the expense. Let me know if this happens to you ;) )
Be suspicious of any agent that REQUIRES you to use a particular photographer, or take a particular class. Some photographers provide kickbacks to the "agent" for doing this. (This is not the same as an agent recommending a few good photographers or classes.)
Talent agents are required to be licensed by the State of Texas. If you want a list of current talent agents, visit here.
Under "Inquire by License Type" select Talent Agencies. You can leave the rest of the fields blank. The three pages of results list ALL the agents in Texas. If they are not listed, they are not a talent agency.
I try to post only legitimate audition notices. I reject every notice that lists fees. For example, there are some very well respected classes that I do not list, because I don't want the job of deciding which classes are worthwhile, and which ones are rip-offs.
I do sometimes reject notices that seem particularly suspicious. I do not research notices, and sometimes I may unwittingly pass bad notices on to you.
If you go to any "auditions" posted on the list, and they turn out to be sales pitches, please let me know.
As always, be wary of people or organizations you do not know who are trying to get your money. Use your head - there are lots of folks out there who'll make grand promises to get into your wallet.
Don't let dreams of stardom cloud your judgment. Don't sign up for anything without checking around first. If someone gives you a high-pressure sales pitch, and tells you they are selling your one big chance, and they need a check right then -- pass.
If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Some of you may be new to acting, and don't know lots of other actors (directors, agents, etc) to check with. If you think you've run into a scam, you can send me a message at Elizabeth@DFWTheater.com. I'll tell you what I think.
EXPENSIVE, USELESS ACTORS SERVICES
There are lots of businesses and individuals who will tell you what you want to hear, and charge you lots of money. There are "Talent Scouts" And "Marketing Websites" and even some "Actors Training Schools" that are in the business of getting you to write a big fat check - not in the business of providing useful services.
Do not give in to high pressure sales pitches. Research any business that wants your money. Slick brochures and slick technology are all well and good - unless they are smoke and mirrors, designed to make you all starry-eyed so you'll write a check.
Ask around. Talk to other actors, directors and trusted teachers. Find out if anyone who has hired a particular scout has ever gotten work through them. Don't trust the testimonials on the websites or in the brochures. Call casting director's offices to find out if they ever visit a particular website to cast actors.
LA and NY are not going to send folks to Texas to find great unknown talent. There is plenty of great unknown talent already in NY & LA.
In the meantime, work on your craft, and go to auditions, and cross examine all Fairy Godmothers very thoroughly.