We recently received this message from an aspiring actor:
Okay, so I auditioned for [Talent Agency], and they’re a legit agency and part of the Better Business Bureau. They called me back and said they sent my headshot to three of the “best” casting directors in [City]. They said they like my look a lot; however, I need more experience and have to take this class and get a headshot and together it all costs $1,800. Sounds fishy to me. What do you think? I do need more training, but I’ve never been told I have to take specific classes and get headshots from a specific photographer to be accepted by a casting director.
There’s a lot to be said about gut instincts. It sounds fishy to you, and it sounds fishy to us, too, at least from the details we see here.
Do some research beyond the Better Business Bureau.
While the BBB is a great resource, it shouldn’t be the only indication of a business’s practices or an agency’s legitimacy. Is the agency franchised by a union? Screen Actors Guild (SAG) maintains a list of franchised talent agencies. That’s a good place to start. Do you know other actors in your area represented by the agency? Ask them about their experiences.
A bona fide agency only earns money when you do.
They don’t try to sell you classes or photographs, or charge you exorbitant registration fees. You will need training and headshots, but real talent agencies don’t sell those. They may give you a list of recommended acting coaches and photographers, but they shouldn’t try to coerce you to hire a specific one (that may mean they’re getting kickbacks; not good).
Also, we’ve never heard of an agency running photos of actors under the noses of casting directors before making up their minds whether or not to represent them. What a waste of the CDs’ and agents’ time!
If you lack experience, a respected agency has no reason to want to represent you. They want professionals who will earn them commissions by booking work.
They might recommend that you go off and get more training or experience, but they shouldn’t require you to take their classes or use their photographer. That indicates they’re making money out of your pocket, instead of out of the pockets of the producers who hire you for their productions.