I can't even write about this subject without seeing red. Predators in the entertainment industry have devised so many ways to bilk money out of the poorest people in the business - new and struggling actors. Everywhere I turn, there are people selling snake oil to actors promising them stardom or at least a leg up for a mere $49, $99, or $249.
It makes me sick.
One popular scam is for self-styled "agents" to offer to represent new talent. Most new actors are only too happy to get their first agent and will sign on any dotted line they are told to. The agent then tells the actor that he or she needs multiple new headshots (photographers charge for each "look" so the more looks an actor does, the more expensive the session). The actor is then steered to a photographer the "agent" has a relationship with for these new headshots. What the actor doesn't realize is that the "agent" gets a kickback for the referral and the agent has no intention of ever actually representing this actor.
Last week, I got an email from a scam artist who tried to get me to pay for a headshot/resume submission service. The email suggested that many of my audition submissions had not been received and that I was missing out on blockbuster work. For $50, I could sign up for this "service" and get my materials to all the right people. Of course I deleted it immediately. A few days later I received a follow-up email regarding this same service in which the sender claimed the previous email was unauthorized spam. The sender apologized and offered the same service for only $10 to make up for it. The gall of these people is unbelievable!
And then there are workshops. Workshops are pay-to-play "opportunities" for actors to perform once in front of casting directors for a fee (normally ranging from $49-$99). Workshops are always sold to actors with anecdotes of how some actor or other was "discovered" in a workshop. Not all workshops are scams, and some people have gotten their break from a workshop. But if you look at the sheer volume of workshops offered (you could easily do one or two per day if you wanted) versus the number of actors who've "made it" due to a workshop, it's clear the numbers don't add up. Oftentimes, the "casting director" who comes to these workshops is not a casting director at all - many workshops are attended by casting assistants who have little or no say in who gets called in for auditions. And of course the people who advertise and host these workshops always get a cut of the ticket sales.
Not even acting classes are insulated from these scammers. Obviously there are tons of worthwhile acting classes being offered at reasonable prices, but not all of them are legit. This is especially true here in LA where it seems everyone with access to a "performance space" offers acting classes for a fee. A few months ago, a purported casting director contacted me out of the blue for what I thought was an audition opportunity. When I responded, she directed me to an acting teacher she knew who was having a "special" on classes. She offered to "get me in for a free class," so I took her up on it. The class was bogus. It was a former actor who had the students do breathing exercises for 25 minutes and then had everyone perform a scene. His critiques on the performances were meandering, discombobulated, and contradictory. I got the distinct feeling he was making it up as he went along.
An actor friend of mine told me about a class she attended where the acting "teacher" (another former actor) regularly performed in front of the class in his underwear and would assign improv situations based on stripping. During some of those improvs, some of the actresses would actually take their tops off. This isn't a class. It's a vainglorious pervert charging others to fulfill his own fantasies. It's despicable.
And the scams don't stop there. There are new ones devised every year and they always target the most vulnerable group - new and aspiring actors. Often these actors have limited budgets which makes the scams that much more vile. The parasites who profit off these naive actors are no better than the loan officers who marketed subprime mortgages to vulnerable borrowers who could not possibly afford them. They are sharks in dolphins clothing.
What are some of the acting scams that you've seen or fallen victim to? How would you deal with these con artists?
(Photos are my own. First is what rock climbing can do to your hands, second is what duct tape can do for your plumbing)
-- Gabriel Voss