Michigan Actors Studio
How to Spot a Scam
Scams in the entertainment industry are, unfortunately, not rare.
There are all kinds of people out there who prey on hopefuls who are new to the business.
If you haven’t heard this before, please let me be the first to tell you: It’s not easy to break into show business. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible (far from it) but you have to pay your dues and there’s no way around that.
If you’re thinking you’re going to be “discovered”... think again. That almost NEVER happens. In fact those stories you heard about some movie star who just happened to be walking down the street are most likely crafted by an ambitious public relations team.
Most actors who appear out of nowhere as the star of a hit television series or movie have been toiling away in obscurity for years doing indie films, showcases, plays for next to no money and waiting tables.
That’s just the reality of the business.
Scam artists know this. But they also know that most people don’t want to pay their dues. I mean really, given the choice would YOU want to? Who wouldn’t want to start at the top?
So how do you recognize a scam?
Someone tells you they’re going to make you a star. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that. Not many people have the power to make that happen, and the ones who do have that power - how likely are they to be at the Radison in Dearborn? I’m just saying…
They ask you for money. Real agents DO NOT CHARGE UP FRONT TO REPRESENT YOU. EVER. If they ask you for money, they are not a real agent. Agents take a fee (between 10-20%) of jobs you book. If you don’t book a job, you don’t pay them anything. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever pay an agent to rep you. Ever. No exceptions. I’ve heard about some agents who are asking for fees to put you on their website. Nope. Nope. Nope.
Some of the more sophisticated scams will “audition” you, and then tell you that you have potential but that you need to take some classes. There’s nothing wrong with taking an acting class, obviously. But it’s when the classes are tied directly to a perceived opportunity that there is the opportunity to be scammed. It’s perfectly legit for an agent to say to you “I like your look, but you need some more training. Here are some schools I recommend.” What is HIGHLY SUSPECT is if they recommend a specific class, and that class costs a lot of money. Usually, what this means is that the “agent” is getting a kickback. Just to give you an idea, $500 would be a lot to pay for one class, but there could be a circumstance where that would be worth it (highly specialized training, or working with an in-demand professional). Sometimes these scam artists offer classes costing $1500 or more. For one class! This is a huge red flag.
Another variation on the class scam is the headshot scam. “You’re great, but you just need these headshots from *this specific* photographer who happens to cost $2000 per session, but it’s worth it.” Spoiler alert: it’s not. Headshots really shouldn’t ever cost more than $300 and most are less expensive than that. Guess who is getting a kick back?
Do not pay to audition. There are rare exceptions to this rule, and it usually involves a large general audition for theatre where several companies are in attendance or auditions for graduate school programs. I would never pay to audition for a movie. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t pay to audition for a theatre either.
Real agencies don’t advertise. They don’t have spots on the radio. They don’t have scouts walking around looking for people. Real agencies have actors and models coming to THEM. In fact, so many that they turn them away every single day. So if someone approaches you for representation, there’s a pretty good chance they’re not legit. The exception would be if they have just finished seeing your work; say at a play or a movie screening. But walking down the street? Not likely.
In the entertainment industry, you’ve got to learn to watch your back. Not everyone is out to get you, but there are some people trying to drain your wallet by telling you what you want to hear.
This is another reason why training is so important. Once you start to understand the craft of acting, the business starts to make more sense. Training also reminds us that sometimes things that are worth having take time. There is a process to the business as well as the art of acting. We can’t skip steps if we really want to make a go of this crazy business.
Summer Semester Starts Soon!
Join us for a fun semester of acting and voice over classes! Head on over to the classed menu to check out all the classes.
Are you ready for representation?
If you’re at that point in your training where you feel ready to get out there and start auditioning, SAG-franchised agency The iGroup located in Metro-Detroit is always accepting submissions.
Check out this link for explicit instructions on how to submit for representation:
Check out this article about one of our Alumni!