The Harman Agency - Query Letters


To Whom It May Concern:

I was wondering if there are any reports of scams by The Harman Agency located in PA.

Their web address is: http://www.milleniamodels.com/

I searched everywhere and so far they look good from BBB site, and there are no reports of them on the modeling scam sites.

They seem up front on all their fees, and they do state that they are not a modeling school.

The thing that concerns me is they are going to the Millie Lewis convention. I am not forced to go, but I was wondering if this company might be a scam.

Thank you for your time.

Y.L.


Y.,

There has been a lot of discussion about the Millie Lewis convention (see letters page for AMTC/Millie Lewis).

The website you mentioned says it is more than the Harman Agency goes to the convention; Kelli Harman, owner of The Harmany Agency, is the "Pennsylvania Director for the American Model and Talent convention (AMTC)."

Competent agents don't need conventions. If you are not in a major modeling market, and not prepared or able to move to one easily, conventions are often a bad gamble.

People go to them and only then find out they need to live in NY/LA to get sent on go-sees. If you had to fly in for every go-see, you would waste a lot of money.

Just because an agency reps you, doesn't mean a client will choose you. Unless you have a contract with a client, you have to compete for each job. It's just not practical to do that if you are nowhere near the clients.

I recently saw a San Francisco modeling company mention a convention, saying one of their participants was scouted by a New York agency, but signed with a San Francisco agency. No doubt.

You said: "They seem upfront on all their fees, and they do state that they are not a modeling school." Not being a modeling school is nice, and being up front about fees is good, but are their fees upfront fees?

If your agent is lazy, incompetent, or has no connections, he might recommend you go to a Millie Lewis convention. That way they don't have to do any work. It's one way to pass the buck. However, you would have to spend as much as $5,000.

Your agent instead should be promoting you to the same agents who attend the convention on the phone and by sending your pictures. This is the job of the mother agent. That would save you a lot of money, and it's most logical thing to do.

Did the Harman Agency provide any of the information about the agent's role, responsibility, convention prices and location?

Redacted Info


The Harmon Agency did mention that I would have to pay half of the fees upfront. (You can pay by credit card or check.)

It includes:

  • $95 administration fee
  • $395 photoshoot (including hair stylist, makeup, 2 rolls of color slide film - 3 outfit changes)
  • $150 - 100 composite cards (which they say is optional)
  • $55 - annual website fee to be included on the Harmon Agency website
  • $50 - 9 X 12 Portfolio Book (optional)
  • $300 - agency book fee (by invite only)

Is this reasonable?

As for the role of the Harmon Agency, they did mention that they will send all our comp cards out to different clients. They also send out an Agency Book to all their clients.

They mention that the convention is optional and it costs a lot of money (they said if we wanted to go, the best thing would be to get sponsors from small business).

They also sent out a newspaper article on a local girl who got a job in Italy through the Harmon Agency.

I am not sure if all this is a scam or not.

The whole process went like this...

I attended an open call. Went to the open call, gave them a picture. They called me to let me know that I was 1 of the 35 people who were picked out of 200 people.

They then had another session that discussed the next step to become a model. This is where they told me about the fees and that half of it is due up front. They also talked about their commission being 20%. They talked about different kinds of work in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York. (I live about 1 to 2 hours away.)

Then they said that they would call the first 10-15 people they thought had more potential. Recently they called me and let me know that the agency would be happy to represent me, and that the first step is the photoshoot. (I guess I was 1 of the 10-15 people.)

So I guess I am caught up in the middle. I wish it was simple. If they had people complain on the BBB, it would be easy. But little things like 1/2 upfront fees cause me to worry.

Thank you for your advice and your website is awesome place to visit for people who need information on modeling.

Y.L.


Y.,

About the prices you asked: "Is this reasonable?"

In the state of Pennsylvania it is/was illegal for modeling agencies to charge registration fees. How is the "administration" fee not a registration fee?

The $55 annual website fee to be included on the Harmon Agency website is questionable. It doesn't cost $55 to put your pictures on a website or host them for a year. It costs next to nothing; therefore it should be free.

If it costs them almost nothing to have your picture(s) on their website, are they making a profit by online advertising? Agencies are only supposed to make profit from commission.

The commission they get (20%) is not uncommon. But it could be illegal. It may be twice what they are allowed to take.

The Glam Scam book has a legal reference section which said this for PA: "Agencies cannot charge advance registration fees. Agencies cannot exceed a 10% commission for temporary placement."

You would have to check with the PA authorities to see if the law currently says the most an agency can take is 10%.

There are a few questionable prices, but most of the prices are not extreme, their selection rate is not ridiculous, and they will meet you half way. There are no red flags I can see. They are not selecting almost everyone, charging extreme prices, and do not require everything upfront.

Still, you could contact other local agencies, and shop around, comparing prices and interest. Then you can get a clearer picture of your potential and how much work is available, and how likely or how soon you could expect to recoup upfront fees.

Also in some markets where there is less work it is better to be represented by more than one agency, to improve your chances of getting work, or reducing the risks of your initial investment. The option is of course dependent on whether you sign an exclusive contract. Did the Harman Agency say anything about a contract? Is it exclusive?

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P.S. The story of a model going to Italy is nice but don't read too much into it. "The exception does not prove the rule."


To Whom It May Concern:

I am responding to a letter I saw on your website. The letter asked questions regarding a modeling agency in Pennsylvania called "The Harman Agency."

The letter also stated the BBB report looked good. However, I know that the owner of The Harman Agency used to be the owner of two other agencies in Pennsylvania called "Excel Model Management" and "Millenia Models" both of which declared bankruptcy and closed due to the Pennsylvania Attorney General forcing restitution for scammed model victims and also fining Kelli Harman over $2,000 in investigation costs.

The restitution totaled a little over $15,000.

The BBB of Pittsburgh has a report about this (Excel and Millenia); however, I don't believe the BBB in Harrisburg which covers the jurisdiction that The Harman Agency is in mentions anything about Kelli Harman's experiences in the past with the other two agencies she started.

You can call the BBB in Pittsburgh (sorry, I don't know the number), and you can call the Attorney General for Consumer Protection at 814-471-1831 and ask for Margie Anderson.

After verifying my information here with the appropriate government officials, please see to it that it is put on your site under the Harman Agency to warn others of the past of the owner at The Harman Agency.

D.D.

Member of Screen Actors' Guild


D.,

Thanks for writing.

Can you provide details about the nature of the previous scam? What type of modeling scam was it? Do you believe she or her agency is now involved in similar fraud to what the AG investigated and prosecuted?

The BBB record for her agency, The Harman Agency, is satisfactory. Can you explain why the BBB record would not include legal action by the AG if she is involved in the same type of business in the same state?

You said: "The BBB of Pittsburgh has a report about this (Excel and Millenia)." The reports were not found online. Can you please provide links to these reports to which you are referring?

http://www.bbb.org

Finally, was the scam covered by the media? Is there a published news report about it?

On her website she offered: "ADVICE FOR NEW MODELS & ACTORS":

"Models and actors need to understand that this is a huge industry but a small business. Everyone knows everyone and YOU should never burn your bridges along the way. If you do, it will come back to you at some point, guaranteed. Treat everyone you work for with respect and consideration and you will be a well liked and sought after model and actor."

Is the same true for agency owners?

That comment was on milleniamodels.com. However, the website seems to be identical to another website, theharmanagency.com. Can you explain that? How many agencies does she own? Why isn't there one agency and one name with different offices or branches? That is how Ford et al do it.

Were you a victim of the previous scam?

Redacted Info


The nature was basically false advertising. Kelli advertised in classified ads that work was available, when many of her clients were not working. Then those new ones coming in were charged $400 to $1,200 (each varied), and then the ads continued to run while everyone who already took the "training" were unemployed.

I don't know what she is doing now. If she is charging fees and offering training to models as a requirement to get work, I know that's illegal, but I know nothing of what her new company is doing now.

I sent a letter to the BBB asking them to include the previous info about Excel and Millenia in with The Harman Agency since it's run by the same person.

Also, this all happened in 1998, so I don't know how long the BBB holds info in their records before they erase it permanently.

The whole ordeal was published in a local newspaper called The Centre Daily Times. You'll have to call them for the date. I think it was dated May '98.

Kelli closed her Excel office and Millenia offices due to the bankruptcy she filed.

There used to be a second Excel office in Johnsontown, but it closed long ago.

You should call the Attorney General in Pennsylvania about any other information you need to know. They can verify everything.

Kelli only owns one agency now to my knowledge.

I was never a victim. I know the ropes of this business. (Thank God.)

I appreciate you trying to help other models keep their money safe, and I hope you can find out more about what all happened in 1997 with these agencies. I know only what was published in the Centre Daily Times and some court documents that were public information.

Take care,

D.D.


D.,

The Centre Daily Times website has archives as far back as 1998 when the Attorney General investigated. All three published news reports were reviewed. Each one cost $2.95 (or $6.95 for all three). It is a fascinating story.

Here is part of the first story.

Modeling firm to Make Refunds in Job-Offer Deal

Centre Daily Times (State College, PA)

By LISA HAARLANDER

March 14, 1998
Page: 7B

Excel Model Management will give refunds to people who responded to its help-wanted ads and paid for the agency's training, but never got the promised jobs.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher announced Friday that Excel, 300 S. Pugh St., State College, signed an agreement with his office to settle the alleged violations and paid $2,045.50 in civil fines and investigation costs.

The company's agreement to settle the complaints does not necessarily indicate an admission of wrongdoing.

"It appears the help-wanted ads were being used to bring people into a training program rather than providing them with employment," said Deputy Attorney General Barry Creany in Ebensburg, who investigated 22 complaints against the agency.

For instance, he alleges a brochure from the agency cited a 95 percent job placement record, yet the majority of people never got paying jobs. Instead, they were offered training that could cost up to $835, Creany said.

Part of that training involved charging aspiring models a $350 fee to take their pictures. The photographer got $200 and the agency got $150, he said.

"Legitimate agencies make money from models' commissions," Creany said. "It's not common practice for an agency to charge the consumers for the photographers or receive a commission from the photographers."

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