How to spot and separate a child acting / modeling scam from real opportunities.
The showbiz industry is filled with unscrupulous companies that pray on unsuspecting parents. The scammers know their targets well. They know that ALL parents think their children are talented, beautiful and smart. They know that proud parents want their children to be happy and succeed. They also know that all parents think their child has that “something special” quality to be the next big child star.
The truth is… we all have kids. They are all great and cute. There are millions of them and millions of parents who can be taken by sales pitches that feed the need to hear “Your kid should be a star”.
Here is how the scam works…
You answer a casting notice, get approached in a mall, or even get a phone call after filling something out online. The sales person pretending to be in the industry and posing as a casting director, agent or some other title tells you your child is “perfect” and would like you to audition for some part.
Excited you go to the audition with your kid in tow. Once there you realize that there are 100′s of others there and that it is not a “real” audition. There is no part to fill, script to memorize or production company there. It is a sales meeting and you are in the audience. Someone goes up and reads a pitch to all the excited kids and parents. They tell you your kids were chosen to be a part of the showbiz industry. They go into how much fame and fortune the kids will achieve. Every word spoken is meant to excite your child to a point where it would break their heart if you said “no” at the end.
Sometimes, they pull you and your child into a room and make your child read a couple lines for them. They do this to make the entire experience seem more legit. The reading is meaningless because there is no real part you are reading for…. it’s all an act.
Now comes the end… What do you need to do to make your child’s dreams come true? Pay up. What else. This entire sales session was meant to pump you guys up to pay for expensive, inferior classes, worthless acting workshops and poor quality portfolios. They have now convinced your child that “if only” their parents would cough up the 1000′s, they would be stars. They tell you that there are tons of companies who need “new faces”… and miraculously, can’t find them in the sea of over population outside. “New faces” and cute kids are hard to come by and companies will pay fortunes, they stop short of trying to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. You and your child MUST buy their services or their dreams of stardom can never be.
At this point, the scammers expect proud parents to fold into the pressures of “mom, please” and pay the cash. And, luckily for them, many do.
How to protect yourself and your child
Do not believe anyone who approaches you out of the blue. The scammers pay people to hang out at malls and shopping centers to sign up kids for these things… It’s all fake.
Be very careful when answering open call and auditions. When a real production company needs someone, they need someone specific, as in 8-9 year old Indian girl who can ride a horse. If you go to a casting and see tons of kids with nothing in common of different age groups, then it’s most likely a scam and be very skeptical.
If it turns out to be a sales meeting, run. DO NOT allow your child to sit in.
NEVER pay up front fees for anything. This is supposed to be a job — meaning YOU get paid.
ALWAYS do your research. Google company names, agent names, etc. If you find nothing at all then it may be fake. Legit companies have tons of info available about them and their employees. Many companies that operate in the gray change names and locations often. Finding very little or no information at all should be a red flag.
Learn to read between the lines.
Their commissions depend on making you feel special and selected for something special. They have honed their sales pitch and know how to pull heart strings.
this is from the ftc
Unscrupulous model and talent scouts have their acts down. Take a look at what is said and what it means.
“We’re scouting for people with your ‘look’ to model
and act.” – I need to sign up as many people as possible. My commission depends on it.
“Your deposit is totally refundable.” – Your deposit is refundable only if you meet very strict refund conditions.
“You must be specially selected for our program. Our talent experts will carefully evaluate your chances at success in the field and will only accept a few people into our program.” – We take everyone with money.
“There’s a guaranteed refund if you’re not accepted into the program.” - Everyone’s accepted so you can forget the refund.
“You can’t afford our fees? No problem. You can work them off with the high-paying jobs we’ll get you.” - We demand payment, whether or not you get work.
“Commissions from our clients are our major source of income.” – Our income comes from the fees we charge suckers like you.
“I saw your child’s photo and think she is perfect for ‘fill in blank’. the job pays $800 a day, I would like to submit her to the job “ – for a fee I will forward her info to the other scammer I found in a free CraigsList ad for kid auditions.
It is up to you to protect your child! All the above is unethical but NOT illegal. Authorities will not help you when you lose your money and your child gets no work.
These days there is little work for kids with years of training living in large markets whose families are in the business. The last thing a legit casting director for an ad campaign will do is travel small town malls seeking talent. Stay grounded in reality and never allow high pressure sales tactics to sway your judgement.
The Nigerian 419 scam and the acting twist.
If you think it’s unscrupulous sales people praying on dreams of fame and fortune, think again. The Nigerians entered the act as well. They are posting fake casting calls, trolling online profiles and contacting wanna bees with checks in hand.
How it works is they contact you through a submission through CraigsList, any online casting call, an email or a contact on a acting profile. They tell you they are casting directors and have cast you for a high paying role in your city. They love you so much from your pic that they will pre-pay you for the shoot… COOL! right? ahhh, wrong!
They send you a fake cashier’s check from an international bank. You are requested to keep your pay and forward the remainder to their crew for the shoot via western union. Your bank cashes the check and you forward the rest as told. 2 days later your bank holds you accountable for the thousands of dollars you withdrew against a fake check.
Authorities can not help you and you are left holding the bag. You cashed a check from a bad source against your account! These people are in Africa, US authorities can not touch them and they know it!
How to Get your child into Acting for “real”
Forget about fame and fortune and concentrate on your kid having fun with it and improving their skills.
Get your child involved in school plays, local theater groups and local student film projects. None of these will pay a dime but will give your child the experience needed to get an agent. In small markets, agents may not always be required.
Find out what is being filmed in your area and contact the legit casting companies. Join their lists. Most cities have a few background agencies that allow anyone to register for a small fee and many casting directors hold monthly open auditions for new talent.
Many states have websites dedicated to the film industry and production in the state. They are a good source of local info for small markets.
Check with Union sites. SAG, AFTRA, Actors Equity, all have lists of licensed agents and other valuable information.
The only real way into the industry is with a resume, training, hard work and an agent. An agent will not see your child unless they have some experience and training. Send your child to community acting classes and local workshops. Network with other families that are involved within your community.
Once you get an agent, it will be up to you to get your child to the auditions your agent sends you on. Be ready for lots of disappointment. This is not easy work. For every small gig your child lands there will be dozens he didn’t. If your child enjoys it and has a true passion for the art, he will succeed.
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