This is just a quickie post (I actually have lots to say on the subject in my former online course), but since I noticed an ad on my very own blog for an acting/modeling school that purports to also be an agency, I just wanted to pipe up and mention that I am not a fan of these types of establishments.
Here are a few red flags to look out for when vetting talent agencies:
1. Bona fide talent agencies are not schools; bona fide acting schools are not agencies.
Scammy acting/modeling schools sell their prospective students on the dream that they can submit them for paid acting or modeling jobs…IF they sign up for their (very expensive) classes.
News flash: They usually can’t. Most industry professionals don’t work with these kinds of establishments.
Now, it’s rare, but I have known excellent acting teachers in smaller markets who manage a select roster of actors. The ones who do sell their acting courses for a reasonable price, do not engage prospects in hard sales pitches and only agree to represent the very best of their students. No guarantees, no hype.
This is a tricky area, though. Larger markets typically frown on the practice of representing and teaching at the same time, because of the potential conflict of interest. Some smaller markets have to be slightly more flexible, due to economic factors. The key will be to find out if the teacher is respected in the local community (I’ll talk more about teachers in a bit).
2. Bona fide talent agencies don’t have offices in shopping malls.
Scammy acting/modeling schools often open up shop where there are a high number of young, gullible prospects: At the mall.
Respectable talent agencies have proper offices, in the parts of town where other industry professionals work (production companies, casting offices, etc.) and they don’t need to send their employees out on the streets trolling for actors or models.
3. Beware of anyone who calls himself/herself a “talent scout.”
In my 20-odd years in the industry, I’ve never met a so-called “talent scout”…except scam artists.
It’s possible you might get noticed one day in passing by a talent agent, a modeling agent, a casting director or a producer (and likely all they’ll do is give you a business card; no hype involved).
But a talent scout? The ones I’ve met were usually trying to round up starry-eyed prospects to sell them expensive classes or portfolios…or worse. Be careful.
4. Good talent agencies normally don’t advertise for actors.
They don’t need to. Trained, professional actors are banging at their doors for representation. Be cautious if an agency needs to run ads to lure actors in: It’s usually not a good sign.
I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but it bears reminding: Real agents make their money by representing strong actors and earning a commission off the work they find for them. Agency/schools make their money off selling classes and portfolios.
5. There should be no hard sales pitch at a real talent agency.
A bona fide agent is interested in finding out if your skills, experience and looks would add to his roster and help him earn more money off the jobs he helps you find.
A scammy agency/school will lure you in, purportedly to see if you “have what it takes to make it in the business,” but soon, you’ll find yourself in a room with dozens of other hopefuls, listening to a long sales pitch about how they can make you a star. Warning: Their smooth talk can be very seductive and you may start to believe it.
But soon, you’ll be taken into a private room with a “talent scout” who will “assess your potential” (inevitably telling you that you’re destined to be the next big thing) then pressure you or your parents to pay up for the classes or photo shoots immediately. RUN AWAY FAST!!
6. Agency/Schools usually don’t have the best teachers.
At all. In fact, I know of only ONE dubious agency/school in my area that for a while had some good teachers, but they all ended up leaving, I think because they felt slimy about the company’s recruitment tactics.
The best teachers tend to work in acting conservatories, universities or as private coaches. Not in shopping malls. Not in schools that double as acting/modeling agencies. Save your money and avoid learning bad habits that will have to be unlearned: Only work with respected acting coaches.
If you’re not sure who is respected, do the rounds of all the theatres in your area (you can usually watch shows for free, if you volunteer to usher). When you see a really great show with fantastic actors, stick around afterward and ask the actors whom they study with.
Note: It’s a good idea in general to start networking in the acting world; you’ll learn a lot from your fellow actors.
FTC AND BBB
Read this excellent article on the US Federal Trade Commission‘s website:
What could be more flattering? Someone approaches you at the mall and says, “You could be a model. You’ve got the ‘look’ we’re after. Here’s my card. Give me a call to set up an appointment.” People have always said you’re good looking. Now, visions of glamour, travel and money flash before your eyes.
It’s true that some successful models have been discovered in everyday places like malls, boutiques, clubs, and airports. But the vast majority of would-be models knock on door after agency door before work comes their way.
It’s also not a bad idea to check with the Better Business Bureau, before doing business with an agency, just to make sure there aren’t hundreds of complaints.
BBB’s mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. BBB accomplishes this mission by:
* Creating a community of trustworthy businesses
* Setting standards for marketplace trust
* Encouraging and supporting best practices
* Celebrating marketplace role models, and;
* Denouncing substandard marketplace behavior
Hope this helps!
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
PS: Have any of you ever been the victim of an agency scam?