Proscout (Proscouts) (proscout.com)

a/k/a

PRO SCOUT MODELING;
PRO SCOUT, INC.;
PRO-SCOUT CORPORATION;
PROSCOUT CORPORATION OF NORTH AMERICA, INC.;
PROSCOUT MODELING and
PROSCOUTS CORPORATION.

The comments by the leadership of Proscout, as recorded in a published news report, cast doubt over the entire company, and raise serious questions about the value of Proscout, an advance-fee modeling company.

Other scouting companies, some with dubious histories, pass through area hotels frequently. For instance, ProScout of Scottsdale, Ariz., recently held an open call at the Radisson.
 
A man who introduced himself as Aaron, the director of scouting, told those gathered how ProScout came into being.
 
"The top agencies, like Ford, Wilhelmina, IMG, Karin... got together because they needed to get a way to find new talent. They chose three top scouts to head the project—Brian Marcus, Mel McFarland, and Greg Hartman," he said.
 
The problem is, both Ford and Wilhelmina say their agencies had nothing to do with ProScout's creation.
 
"That [ProScout's assertion] I would say is a little sketchy," Wilhelmina Models director of women's modeling Ray Lata says.
 
Tamar Wilner, " A Model Profession: The Hard Realities of The Modeling Biz," Metro Pulse, Jan. 15, 2002.
[Aug. 11, 2004].

Can Proscout substantiate their claim with a written statement from Ford, Wilhelmina, IMG, Karin that they got together and chose Marcus, McFarland, and Hartman to start Proscout?

The top modeling agencies already have their own model searches, and they don't need Proscout. (If they needed Proscout, wouldn't Proscout have a scouting contract with them?) For example, Elite has the Look of the Year competition, and Ford has Supermodel of the World competition. Both are annual competitions. The fact the top agencies have their competitions only once a year should make people realize the reality is top agencies are not in short supply of new faces.

Furthermore, the top agents whom Proscout claims attend their conventions, do not advise potential models to go the Proscout modeling conventions; rather, they tell them to contact their agency directly. Ford, for example, tells aspiring models to submit their pictures DIRECTLY to Ford, not Proscout:

Top agents, as the above example clearly illustrates, screen potential models using pictures before they meet them in person. Note they don't say, "You have to see us in person before we see your pictures." Obviously this saves everyone's time and money.

One way to test if Proscout is legitimate is to find out if they let the top agents screen potential models using pictures before they meet in person, before any payment is made, before anyone travels, so nobody's time and money is wasted.

Proscout is known to focus on "top agents" -- that is the heart of their sales pitch -- be seen by top agents. Consumers need to know, however, most models start locally, then, if and when they become successful locally, get promoted to New York agencies.

Exposure, Inc., is an example of a local modeling agency which promotes local talent to New York agencies:

A new model should not have to spend thousands of dollars traveling to outrageously expensive "modeling conventions" in order to be "seen" by national agencies. It is a placement agent’s job to promote a model and get her placed nationally. If a model has the potential to work in a national or international market, his or her local mother agency should be able to do the placement, or get them seen by the best agencies worldwide.*
 
*"About the Exposure Agency," Exposure Model & Talent Agency. http://www.exposureinc.com/exposure.htm [July 21, 2004].

Proscout tells people their company's service is actually a deal, because the alternative is the fly to New York at vast expense and meet with agents. But models do not have to pay or go to New York to be discovered by New York agencies. Local agents can travel there, promote them, and get them contracts. Actually, if they are competent and connected, they don't even need to travel anywhere to successfully promote models.

Proscout may work for some people, but it makes more sense when all simpler, conventional, and cheaper options have been exhausted. If pictures submitted by mail to New York agents did not get anyone's attention, if local agents were not interested or too weak to promote to larger markets...

Proscout previously made the following statements on their website, proscout.com:

How to get discovered

Getting discovered in the real world requires meeting established agencies
from one of the "major market cities". Basically, there [are] just three ways this
can happen: 1. Pure luck, 2. Hard work on your own, and 3. ProScout. Here's
what you can expect from each.

1. Pure Luck: For luck to get you discovered, small miracles must happen.
First, you must bump into a legitimate "major city" agent. Anyone else other
than a major agency is likely to end up pitching you classes, pictures,
etc..

2. Hard Work on your own: This takes more money, knowledge, and persistence
than most people have patience for. First, you must know what specific
agents your type should pursue. Next you must invest time and expense to get
the right materials to them to get noticed. Whatever route you take, you are
"doing it yourself" and classes, photo's, phone calls, and follow up
mailings can easily cost you $500 to $5,000. After all this work, you'll
still have to meet these agents in person, so cap it off with travel
expenses (it all comes down to meeting them in person - there's no other way
around it).

3. ProScout: Simply put, ProScout is designed to bring the agent interviews
to you, while providing help and guidance throughout the process. Our expert
scouts are there each step of the way to enlighten, guide, and assist you in
maximizing your contacts. Think of us as your "agent to the agents". Our
track record proves it - our process is extremely effective. To begin your
discovery process, simply show up at a ProScout free Open Call Interview, or
submit your photo to be scouted online. To begin your discovery process,
simply show up at a ProScout free Open Call Interview, or submit your photo
to be scouted online.
 
(http://www.proscout.com/index.cfm?section=process) [February 03, 2002].

The statement "Getting discovered in the real world requires meeting established agencies from one of the "major market cities" is not true. Cindy Crawford, for example, was discovered by a newspaper photographer in an Illinois corn field. It was not in meeting an established agency, and it was not in a major market city.

The statement "Basically, there [are] just three ways this can happen: 1. Pure luck, 2. Hard work on your own, and 3. ProScout" is not true. While there was luck in the previous example where Cindy Crawford was discovered, there are not only three ways to get discovered. It does not have to be "pure luck" or "hard work"; it can be common sense.

Common sense is finding an agency close to where you live, close enough to where you can drive to work, calling them and asking what type of models they want, arranging a meeting, going to visit them, having an interview, and signing a contract. Doing this does not require pure luck or hard work.

The third part of the Proscout formula, Proscout, is not true. It does not have to be Proscout; Proscout is not the only search company out there; there are several other similar companies.

Proscout said: "Anyone else other than a major agency is likely to end up pitching you classes, pictures, etc." In a public forum, a person who said he went to a Proscout convention, reported in a long letter to the president of Proscout that after he went to Proscout, he was contacted by a company which pitches classes and pictures: "I was also refered [sic] to John Casablancas Modeling Academy by your people. John Casablancas recruiters called my house and said they were given my information by Proscout." (http://www.modelnews.com/) [March 7, 2004]. John Casablancas modeling schools are infamous for pitching expensive classes and expensive pictures.

Proscout said: ". . . you must invest time and expense to get the right materials to them to get noticed. Whatever route you take, you are "doing it yourself" and classes, photo's [sic], phone calls, and follow up mailings can easily cost you $500 to $5,000."

This statement is false and/or misleading. You do not have to take expensive classes, nor any classes, and you do not have to get expensive photographs. You don't have to spend $500 or $5,000. If you go to a local agency, you do not have to spend any money on classes to get discovered. You also don't have to spend any money on photography to get discovered. You just show up. The cost is zero dollars.

Furthermore, the legitimate agencies advise prospective models who want to send their pictures instead of attending an open call to send snapshots, and not professional pictures. This is very inexpensive. Snapshots plus stamps plus envelopes. They said the expenses of getting discovered "can easily cost you $500 to $5,000." The truth is they can more easily cost you nothing.

Proscout: "After all this work, you'll still have to meet these agents in person, so cap it off with travel expenses (it all comes down to meeting them in person -- there's no other way around it)."

The travel expenses from your home or office to a local agency are insignificant. The price of gas.

Nowhere in the above "guidance" did Proscout ever make any reference to the modeling industry standard discovery opportunity: the free open call. Why is that? Because if you follow the standard advice, instead of Proscout's pitch, you may never need Proscout.

Proscout teaching potential models how to get discovered is similar to the photographers teaching you how much money you should spend on photography. There is an inherent conflict of interest and unavoidable bias.

Model Search America, a company which was similar to Proscout, had a failure rate of about 90%, according to BBB records. MSA's records showed about 80% of those they screened and advised to attend their convention did not get modeling contracts. About 90% did not get modeling jobs. They never provided the percentage who earned more than they paid MSA or more than they paid in total (MSA+travel expenses, etc.).

Since MSA had the records, it is possible for a model search company to create and maintain records of interest and value to consumers. Therefore the questions that consumers should ask Proscout are basic:

1. How many people attend Proscout conventions?
2. How many of them got contracts with agencies?
3. How many of the signed models earned more than $595?

Consumer Inquiry

I went to a Proscout open call in Hollywood today, where they want to charge $595 for us to meet the world's top agencies all in one weekend. I think they are legitimate in their reasoning, as they don't guarantee you anything, but to bring you to these people. However, the fee seems quite outlandish to me. Especially when I read on a website that it apparently used to be $300.

I don't know much about the industry . . . is there any truth to what Brian Marcus (the scout there) has said about it being difficult, timely, and expensive to find and contact these top agencies on your own? Is it true that you would have a better chance attracting their attention attending this seminar, as opposed to sending a picture of yourself?

He actually said that sending a picture, especially a professional one, was amateur, and that it just didn't work all that well. While I believe the agencies are also busy, I don't know that they are too busy to take a look at attempts people make to contact the agency outside of something like Proscout.

Answer

Since you are in Hollywood, you are near or in a major modeling market, LA. Since it is a major modeling market, there are many modeling agencies in LA.

The argument about sending pictures is moot, because you don't have to send pictures. You can visit the LA agencies in person. Unlike with mailed pictures, you will know if you are seen. Why would you send a picture if you can visit? Especially when the larger agencies have free, regular open calls?

You said: "He actually said that sending a picture, especially a professional one, was amateur, and that it just didn't work all that well."

That's funny. The agencies themselves say you should send good amateur pictures. You can read it on their websites. He says they don't work all that well. Who are you going to believe? The agency which is not asking for money but can actually get you work, or the company which is asking for money but can't actually get you work?

The standard is for a model to find a local agency. Get signed with the local agency and find local work, work that is within driving distance. Just like any other job, you need to be able to get to work easily and reliably. After success locally, the local agent promotes the model to larger markets. They don't have to send them off to some convention to get noticed by agents.

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