So you think your kid is talented and destined for stardom. Don’t be so desperate for fame that you fall prey to scammers.
It happens every day, parents who are trying to help their child achieve their dream get taken for thousands of dollars by companies that promise auditions with Disney and other big names but in the end just take the family’s money and don’t deliver on their promises.
I remember the first time I heard about one of these scams in our area. My kids had done a musical with a boy who at that time was about 12. The boy was a nice enough kid but had zero acting training and struggled to sing in key. This was his first show and with it being a community theater production in desperate need for boys, he was cast in a named role. His grandmother thought he was destined for stardom.
A few months later, I saw the boy post on Facebook that he had a callback audition for Disney. I was shocked. How on earth did this kid who had no training or experience get a callback for the holy grail of child acting. Now I know there are those children who have “IT” that natural talent and charisma that can get them discovered and then get the training they need to help them along. I know these kids. I can spot one out of a stage of 70. Unfortunately, this boy was not one of those kids so I knew something just wasn’t right.
I remember how the boy was crushed when he and his family realized it was a scam. This company and others like it, go to city’s all across the country and run radio ads for an open casting call at a local hotel offering auditions for Disney. They lure these kids and their parents in with the promise of getting in front of top TV and movie casting directors. When the kids come back for their “callback,” they are told about how they really see the potential in them and if they pay them large amounts of money, they will train them and help them get the stardom they seek.
Lucky for this boy and his family they realized it was a scam and did not loose money on the deal. Many others get taken for thousands of dollars every year by this company that 6-7 years later I still hear advertise when they come into our city.
Here are a few ways to avoid being taken by one of these scams:
- NEVER pay to audition or for an agent or manager to work for you before they book you a job. If you are asked to pay up front to audition it is a scam! Agents and managers make a commission off of what you earn if you book a job. That is they way they make their money. Casting Directors get paid by the production company for finding them talent.
- Even if they guarantee a refund it is a scam and or they are not reputable. You might be told that talent experts will evaluate your child’s chances at success in the field and that they accept only a few people into the program, and give refunds to those not selected. What they don’t tell you is that the program takes virtually everyone.
- Beware of agents that insist you pay them for headshots or use a specific photographer. If you know of a professional photographer that is used by other professional actors and the agent or manager is not okay with you using them and insists on you using their photographer, that is a red flag.
- The same goes for agents that insist you pay them for acting training, Some legitimate agents and casting directors do offer classes through their companies that are reputable. The key is are they insisting that you take classes with their people and implying if you don’t you won’t work? That is a red flag.
- If the agent insists you pay a monthly or yearly fee to be listed on their website, it might be a scam. Now that being said, there are agents and casting agents that offer services similar to this. The difference is it is optional. If the agent says you must do it or you won’t get work, go elsewhere.
- A standard agency or manager commission is 10 – 15% if the contract for the agent is higher, that is a red flag.
- If you’re told the opportunity could disappear if you don’t act now, let it. Take the time to check out a company before you give them any money or personal information. If an offer is good today, it should be good tomorrow.
- If they only accept payment in cash or by money order it’s a sure sign that they’re more interested in your money than your career.
- Most states require talent agents and or managers to be licensed. If the company is not, walk away. If you or your child have true talent another reputable agency will be interested.
- If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. If they talk about big salaries or guarantee you’ll get work, put your guard up. Even for successful actors, work can be irregular and no acting job is ever guaranteed.
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Linda Harkcom is a freelance writer whose writing has appeared in most newspapers in South Western Pennsylvania. She has covered the theatre seen in Westmoreland and Fayette County for almost 10 years. Having raised two actors, she is the author of DearTheaterMom.com where she gives advice to parents who have children in or thinking of entering the entertainment field. She is also the editor of WPAEntertainmentnews.com a new blog focusing on entertainment in Western Pennsylvania.