Fraudulent Modeling Agencies and Talent Scout Scams Involving Model and Child Actor Searches for Casting Director Conventions
We'll Just Powder His Snout
Promoted via television, radio, newspaper, direct mail and the internet, Screen Tests Inc. advertises that they seek children to appear in TV commercials and magazines.
They say that they have created more stars than any other company and that their clients appear in national advertising campaigns.
Hoping to make a movie star of your child you respond by calling the number in the ad. They tell you that for a prepaid fee of $45 you will receive an objective, selective evaluation, called a "screen test" to determine whether your child will be one of the select few likely to obtain paid work as an actor or model.
The screen test consists of a ten minute session taped with a video camera, conducted at a local hotel. Beforehand, they encourage you to buy a copy of the test for an additional $20, but do not discuss any further fees.
The talent director, who claims to have many years of professional experience in talent evaluation, fills out a form printed on letterhead of the American Child Actor and Modeling Association, showing that your child has passed the screen test and can begin to earn money right away.
He then pressures you to spend $795 for their "agency introduction program" which they claim includes the type of photographs your child needs to interest agents or casting directors and help finding agency representation.
During this initial visit, the talent director claims that those who buy and complete their program have a high rate of success and are likely to obtain agency representation with acting or modeling jobs and guarantee that at least one agency will offer to represent your child.
To boost their claims they tell you they are members of the American Child Actor and Modeling Association ("ACAMA") which they say is an independent, objective, charitable, educational organization formed to protect you from unethical business practices in the performing arts, and that the ACAMA has recognized and endorsed Screen Tests Inc.
They encourage you to check out Screen Tests Inc.'s reputation by contacting ACAMA so you call and visit its web site, "http://www.acama.com," where it is indeed shown that Screen Tests is an ACAMA-endorsed company.
About two weeks after you buy the agency introduction program and have your child attend a photo shoot, you receive only 100 color portrait-type photos of your child along with envelopes and address labels for a few model and talent agents.
When you complain to them and demand a refund of your $795, they refuse. They claim you waived the right to a refund when you signed receipts that state they have fully explained the program, that you understood the program, and that you agreed that no refunds were available.
So it turns out that the screen test was not an experienced person's professional, objective, selective, reliable evaluation of whether your child will obtain work as an actor or model. In fact, the screen test was a marketing ploy designed solely to induce the purchase of agency introduction programs.
The talent directors have no professional experience or basis for talent evaluation. Even if your child bore a startling resemblance to a pot-belly pig they would pass their screen test.
Your child is not likely to obtain agency representation or modeling jobs as the result of buying their introduction program. The type of photographs they sell are neither necessary nor likely to secure agency representation or a modeling or acting job primarily because an infant's looks change so quickly the photos become outdated.
Legitimate agents, advertising agencies, casting directors and producers generally ask for casual snapshots of infants that have been taken by family members or friends.
Another big surprise, the ACAMA is not an objective, charitable organization, and is not at all independent because the owner of Screen Tests formed ACAMA, shares an address and telephone number with them and is the registered owner of ACAMA's web site.
Getting Looks From Crooks
You are approached at the mall by a talent scout who states that you have just been selected to interview with Model Search Inc. because "you have the look" that could get you work as a model or actor.
He gives you his card with a flyer and suggests you give him a call to set up an appointment.
The promotional brochure contains the following:
The hunt is on for new faces. MODEL Search Inc., one of the largest talent management and scouting companies in the country, is looking for new faces. With offices in major cities we have everything you need to enter the industry . . . .
Visions of glamour, travel and money flash before your eyes so you attend the interview where you find yourself in an office filled with lots of other model and actor hopefuls. The Vice President of Talent Management informs you that he will likely recommend you for talent management services but that a committee of industry experts will make the final selection.
The Vice President also tells you that, as a prerequisite for agency representation, you must take modeling and acting training from them. He states that their modeling and acting workshops have a limited enrollment and that only 10% of people interviewed are accepted for this training.
He then indicates that you must pay a deposit for the workshops which is fully refundable if you're not accepted by the review committee.
He also says that you are likely to obtain substantial paid employment if selected for their management services and that they have numerous well-known client businesses, organizations and entertainment entities who hire the models and actors they manage.
You are told that the way they get paid is by a percentage of the money paid by their clients to the models and actors they represent. They also claim to have provided casting services on numerous film productions, including, but not limited to, True Lies and Dave.
Excited about your future career in acting you agree to purchase the expensive talent management services sold by their agency.
In fact, their talent management services are not selective in scouting, screening and reviewing consumers for marketability as models or actors. Their principal source of income is not client-paid commissions but fees paid by consumers for their talent management services, including modeling and acting training.
It is highly unlikely that you will ever be able to obtain substantial paid employment as a model or actor through their efforts.
Just Sign Here and Here
One Los Angeles modeling scam operation which targeted small towns in Oregon ran ads in the local newspaper saying they were looking for models for TV commercials. You were to send in your bio and a couple of snapshots.
After you sent in your info they would contact you and tell you that you had the look they needed and promptly signed you up for a high-paying commercial.
They would need to do a test shoot before the actual commercial, but they said all of it was paid for, except the makeup artist.
They would send along contracts, airline vouchers, and lots of official looking paperwork. The catch was that the model had to pay for her own make-up artist for which they needed $500, up front.
The small town dreamers, not knowing how the industry worked and having a contract in hand, sent in the $500, but once the check was cashed the scam artist vanished and the commercial contracts, airline vouchers and the guarantees were all found to be bogus.
Talent management services shall mean the offer and sale of modeling and acting training classes, separately or in combination with other services for aspiring actors and models, including, but not limited to, referrals for representation, job placement and photographic services.
Modeling (or talent) agencies secure employment for experienced models and actors.Someagents require that you sign up exclusively with them; others may allow you to register with them as well as with other agencies in town. Fees for the agency’s services are limited to 10% by law, in most instances.
Model/talent managers differ from agencies because managers are in the business of overseeing the careers of their clients. Arranging for employment is only an incidental, or minor, part of the working relationship between manager and client. Thus, managers advise their clients on appearance, style, portfolio layout and direction of their career and generally charge fees ranging from 15% to 20%.
Modeling and acting schools claim to provide instruction, for a fee, in poise, posture, diction, skin care, make-up application, the proper walk, and more. Modeling schools do not necessarily act as agents or find work for you. After you take their classes, you may be on your own.
|Beware of any newspaper classified or display ad looking for any kind of model or talent. Modeling agencies have plenty of hopefuls coming to them so they don't have to advertise for models.|
|To avoid being ripped off, aspiring models should look for and attend “open calls”at reputable modeling agencies. Well-known agencies in large cities usually have open calls on a weekly basis.|
|Do not respond to subway, bus or classified ads that promise modeling and acting jobs to people with no experience, or of all ages and sizes, etc. They are come-ons.|
|If an agency has to charge money up front it usually means they do not have enough modeling work for either the agency or the model to survive on.|
|You should be free to go to any photographer you want to. Legitimate agencies will provide you with a list of photographers that you could go to.|
|Modeling agencies are not employers. So, while they may try to get you work while representing you, there is no way a legitimate agency can guarantee you work.|
|The hours of a model are uneven and sporadic. You will not have the flexibility to choose your own hours, so beware of claims that you will be able to "Work full or part time."|
|All photographs may be shot in one session by one photographer, but you should still look different in all your photographs by wearing a variety of cosmetics, clothes, and hairstyles. Beware if it's the salesman snapping off a few shots like for a passport photo.|
To break into the business, you need professional photos of which there are two standard types, a "head shot" and a "composite card."
The head shot usually is an 8" x 10" black and white photo of the face, with your resume printed on the back. A "comp card" usually features several shots on the same sheet, showing off poses in different attire or settings.
|Be sure to get all verbal promises in writing.|
|Be leery of companies that only accept payment in cash or by money order. Read it as a strong signal that the company is more interested in your money than your career.|
|Often, what you thought was a legitimate job interview with a talent agency turns into a high-pressure sales pitch for modeling or acting classes, or for "screen tests" or "photo shoots" that can range in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars.|
|Any professional casting director, agent, or manager has an office and regular business hours. There is no reason to discuss employment opportunities or negotiate contracts late at night or in someone’s apartment.|
Unscrupulous model and talent scouts have their acts down pat. Listen carefully to read between their lines.
"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.
IMTA is over once again and the mail pours in and continues to get worse. I got a letter from a kid this morning about his experiences including watching kids rip off their clothes at the dance and (my personal favorite), with several agents holding a pot party with some "contestants" in the bathroom of his hotel room!!!
He said he just invited some agents and kids up to his room for a final party and had no idea that the agents brought their own entertainment. He said he left until he thought they would be gone but when he got back to his room one of the agents asked him to be sure that one of the girls made her plane because she was too wasted to get there by herself!
Something has to be done and I don't know who else to contact.
With some companies the process is first of all to advertise a modeling & talent search called an open call. At the open call there is a brief interview and an on camera evaluation. Those of school age or older are also provided a script to read while infants and small children are just filmed.
Participants in the open call who are deemed by "industry professionals" as having potential are sent an acknowledgment letter inviting them back for a meeting ( call back ) reviewing the company's offer to participate in their "annual event" held in one or several major cities around the country.
To participate in the event, consumers are required to pay a non refundable registration fee as well as all expenses to and from the event.
The search companies will insist they do not offer employment nor do they provide representation or agent services. Their business could best be described as an event organizer where profits are generated from merely having hopefuls show up to the event. Talent and opportunity may or may not play a role in their business formula.
Subject: modeling / acting scams
Date: 28 Aug 2001
Recently my daughter was given a "call back" by a talent search by the name of NYC Fame. I was just wondering if you know any thing about them or if you have been alerted by another consumer of anything negative about this company. Please let me know as soon as possible. Thanks for the info.
Model Search Mom
My daughter and several of her friends recently attended a preliminary MGM Talent Showcase meeting.
While the representatives convincingly insisted that only 150 of the participants would receive a second interview, she and most of her friends have received a postcard inviting them to second "evaluation". From that meeting only 45 will be selected to participate in the Las Vegas Convention to meet with major casting directors.
We must be prepared to pay $495 for the entry fee, dinner and various other fees at the end of this second meeting. We fully support her desires to become an actress as long as she remains focused on a well rounded education. Do you have any information about the:
MGM Talent Showcase Convention
|MTS - Casting
590 Madison Ave, 21st Floor
New York, New York 10022
|MTS - Casting
859 North Hollywood Way
Burbank, CA 91505
Mark W. Gorman
My daughter and I recently attended an open-call put on by a company called Proscout that says they provide fresh talent to the top modeling and talent agencies around the world. They selected my child to attend an "event" up in San Francisco at a cost to us of $465.00 plus hotel, food, and airfare.
Can you tell me if they are reputable? Are they always scams? 04/16/02
I have been invited to attend an invitational by Proscout International. I was told I had to pay $460 to attend along with airfare, food and lodging. All the modeling agencies say they know of them but could you tell me if they are legitimate.
Lisa Rice 08/02/02
I'm afraid that I have no information on these operations but ask that viewers with any good or bad experiences to please write in. Visitors are urged to check out any company's record with the BBB. Inclusion of corporate info within this section by no means indicates any wrongdoing on the part of those mentioned. No allegations are intended or implied.
All industry participants are invited to submit their business model for clarification, along with any words of caution for parents who have children seeking such a career. Surely they must know that there are bad apples within their ranks and should be happy to enlighten the public on the pitfalls.
If you still feel it is worth the expense of attending such an event for the possibility that an actual casting director will attend with the honorable intent of seeking employment for your child without any strings attached, which might incur additional but unneeded expenses, then by all means verify their track record and pack your bags.
Were it my daughter, I would try to overcome the enormous amount of peer pressure from her friends who will insist it is the chance of a lifetime, to both be famous and see the big city, and suggest an alternative option which might cost the same but have more lasting results such as acting or singing lessons.
Good luck using logic against emotions though. You might just be branded a demon for squashing her hopes and dreams; forever.
Trolling for Talent
I received an email from Options Talent Group ( now Trans Continental Talent ) saying that I needed to hurry to a last minute interview with them. Well, since being registered on several internet job hunting sites, I have received many responses to my resume but not all are worth the follow up.
I was a bit skeptical, so I ran a query on MSN which led me to your site and very helpful information.. I politely turned them down. This present volatile economy is discouraging enough without ending up at an interview like that.
Jeanna S. 07/29/02
1200 Times $285 Equals $342,000
I'm currently a working model and actress who responded to a radio ad a few years back and attended a "free try-out" for ProScout which represents modeling agencies throughout the world.
Gathered in a large hotel banquet room, they had everyone who responded walk up to the tables where they would either hand you a card (which meant you were accepted) or not. Most did NOT get the card and had to leave while the rest of us sat and listened to a long promotional pitch for their annual convention in Minneapolis which cost $285 at that time. Thinking this was my big chance, I paid it and went.
Following introductions, and a few motivational speeches containing affirmations like "You can achieve anything you dream", or "I didn't think I could do it, but here I am now!", we were tagged and sent to walk a cat-walk before the agents.
We were all ages, guys, girls, and kids; but mostly young, hopeful girls. When they asked how many seeking representation had been to it before, about twenty raised their hands.
With a number clipped to our shirts, we then passed the agent's tables holding our modeling pictures for them to view. It's not voting. They viewed you and wrote down numbers of those who they were interested in. There were approx. 25-30 agencies represented by 1-2 agents (not judges) each.
About an hour later they came back to their seats this time on a stage/platform. All the models either sat or stood at the rear of the room as two people from ProScout announced the numbers from each agency over a loud speaker. E.G., "Acme Talent Agency"; 123, 78, 34, 992, etc., etc.
Most of the BIG agencies accepted very few people (less than 10 people each), and most of the agents present were from those agencies. Of the 1200 hopefuls there, only about 300 had their numbers called.
If your number WASN'T called, you were plum out of luck and asked to leave the hall. The people selected stayed and moved closer to the platform where the agents sat and waited as all the rejects filed out, many of whom were girls were in tears.
They spoke to us a bit, and afterwards we filed out to met with the agents who picked us. I saw two agencies. One was a local one who, like the other, picked almost everyone left standing.
The Kimberly Franson agency held a meeting a week later for all those accepted by her for which she not only required us to send her $25 to attend but expected everyone there to shoot new photographs with her at a cost of $500. One mother took her child and left in disgust but the rest of us were mesmerized by the possibilities she promised.
To keep your pictures on file she also required $165 for her techs to "put them on a special card" for her clients to view. So far she has cost me a lot of time and money and provided me absolutely zero in return.
The other agency I met as a result of my ProScout experience has gotten me three jobs to date, but it turns out I didn't need ProScout to get represented by them. All one has to do is send your pics to an agent and based on that alone, they will take it from there.
Since my experience I've met and talked to a few other models who described a similar experience. None had kind words to say. My opinion is that while it's not as bad as many modeling/talent come-ons, I think the methods they use are unethical and I would not recommend it.
They even had the nerve to sent a letter the following year ('99) saying I could come back for just $200 since I already been!
Do They Warrant Exposure?
Recently I went to a model/talent search for X-posure International, happened to make the 2 cuts and was invited to the Millie Lewis Modeling & Talent convention in Orlando, Florida taking place July 1-7, 2003.
I was told only 40 people from my province were picked to go to this convention, but they said they were scouting all over the world for talent. To go, the "Conference Package" is $2895. This does not include any other costs whatsoever such as a; plane ticket, hotel, photos, hair, makeup or food.
When all these costs are added in the total is around $5000. They also asked for a $500 deposit which must be made within the first week and is non-refundable. I was wondering if you have received any complaints about this organization or know anything about this? I want to make sure that it is not a scam should I decide to invest a large amount of money.
Recently, I attended an "open call" with a company called Manhatten Model Search www.manhattenmodelsearch.com which was advertised on TV and radio, etc.
About 100 people attended and it appeared that about 40 got "selected" to stay and hear more. When we first got there, two men introduced themselves as professional scouts and said that while there were many other companies similar to theirs, Manhatten Model Search was the first and the only one that was for real.
We were all invited to attend a one day event call in Washington, D.C. which had been chosen as the meeting spot for our region. He said there would be representatives from 50 or so talent and modeling agencies and everyone there would be treated to lunch and lectures on what the business is about.
Each person is given the chance to walk a runway in front of the reps and afterwards everyone gets into a single file line where you get to meet the reps face to face to hand over two good pictures of yourself.
The scout told us we should probably just get a disposable camera, go to our backyard, use the entire camera, choose the best headshot and full body shot and make some copies.
After walking by the reps they may do call backs for an interview and from there you either are turned away or given an agency contract.
The catch is this day costs $450 though the scout told us that if we were to take this on ourselves it would cost much more because we would have to go to open calls in NYC, LA, Chicago, Miami, or Atlanta.
We would also have to pay for our hotel and food while we were there and all of this would be rather pricey. He said that they cannot do this for free because it costs a lot of money to advertise for their open calls and to fly in all the agency representatives.
If you could please write back and tell me what you think it would be greatly appreciated.
Too Young For Disappointment 08/02/02
Malcolm In The Middle East
My daughters and I were approached by a lady who introduced herself as a talent scout and asked to take my daughter to a "talent" screening stating that Debonair Marketing has helped many children get on the following shows: Stuart Little, Lizzy McGuire, E.R., Sabrina the Teenage Witch & so on.
They represent themselves as an independent firm of "Hollywood Group". Raquel also told me they were planning to take the show "Malcolm in the Middle" to the Middle East and were looking for children with the proper looks and accents.
We were enthusiastic since my almost 16 year old daughter and her friend wanted to start working, against our wishes.
While most parents naturally think of their children as being beautiful and worthy of becoming a star, both of our daughters are actually very striking, tall, slender and proportionate. So it did not seem unlikely that someone from the entertainment industry might notice them. I therefore took them all, with their 16 year old friend, to the screening but was surprised to find there were well over a hundred children waiting in line.
We were asked to provide a snapshot picture at the screening though they also filmed them for a few seconds while asking a few general questions. Parents were asked to complete a form indicating our occupations, phone #'s, addresses and annual income. Although I completed the forms I did feel uneasy that I provided all that info.
All of the children, regardless of their looks, were screened, even my 15 year old son who is experiencing the joy of acne.
Before we left they collected the business card I was given in the mall. My oldest daughter is enthusiastic but I am so concerned that I do not even plan to take her to the interview which I anticipate will be scheduled soon.
Rosie Tatulian 09/08/02
Drawing Offers Like Flies
This is the third time, while in a public place with my children, that I have been approached by someone with a business card and a screening time saying that my child has "the look". It's also the third company and location.
Are there any legitimate companies that do get clients this way? I have never gone to any of these "meetings", but my son is now really interested and has his feelings hurt that I won't take him.
The "Malcolm in the Middle East" story is almost identical to my situation. In Target a lady named Raquel says: "Is that your son?"... "He has the look."
Same list of shows: Sabrina the Teenage Witch, E.R., Lizzy McGuire and movies of Stuart Little 1 & 2, American Pie 1&2 and music videos for Jennifer Lopez, KORN, Dixie Chicks and Janet Jackson.
Would the name of the company help? Entertainment Talent Scouting Services at www.scoutingservices.com
Any information would be greatly appreciated.
A concerned Mom,
I See Gullible People
My son and I were shopping in Target over the weekend when two women ran up to me and asked, "Is this your son?" I told them that he was.
One of them introduced herself as a talent scout from a company in Beverly Hills, California, called Debonair Marketing.
She said that my son had the looks for commercials. She handed me a card and asked me to attend a screening the next day (Sunday) at 2:00pm. She asked me to bring a picture and have him dressed in bright colors. She assured me that they were looking for children to appear on "Sabrina the Teenage Witch".
My son didn't seem to care one way or another if I brought him, but I thought it might be interesting.
While we arrived, there were a lot of children waiting for a screening. Some of them had professional pictures and some of them didn't.
While we were waiting, they had the parents fill out a form. The form asked a lot of general questions, but also asked the parents' annual income. I was very suspicious and chose not to include that information.
Each child was put on video for a short time and asked a few general questions, and then quickly moved to a table. At the table a gentleman, claiming to be a manager, took one look at my son and said: "I don't usually do this, but I would like to manage your son".
He said that he had nice eyes and was very good-looking. He asked us to move to a room where a lady was waiting to talk to us. The lady asked my son some more general questions and asked if he had had any acting lessons. She said that they would be talking to a lot of children and that if they were interested, they would call me within a few days.
I was very suspicious, did some checking, and found a similar story on your site involving the same company.
The next day, as I anticipated, the lady called saying that my son was one of four children chosen out of 311. She asked me to bring my husband and attend another meeting the following day.
I asked her to explain the process and to tell me if any money would be involved. She told me that in order for my 12 year old son to attend auditions, he would need to have their seven step course.
Each step would cost around $200.00 and was a small investment compared to what he would be making. She said each commercial would pay at least $3500.00 and that the people involved in her firm were responsible for the children who appeared on Jerry McGuire, the Sixth Sense, and many others.
I took her number but never called back after more internet research pointed out that if they ask for money it is a scam. If they really were interested in my son, they would invest in him. If I hadn't done the research and my son was really interested, I might have gone ahead!
Janet S. 10/24/02
I feel an 18 year old friend got ripped off by American Model Search in Las Vegas for $500. All she got was 48 pictures on a CD and some comp cards.
Then they wanted her to pay $800 for more.
Allan Perry 06/11/03
New York Talent Agency Agrees to Refunds
01/06 - The state of New York has reached a settlement with The New Faces Development Center, which was cited for making deceptive, and exaggerated claims about the services it provided to aspiring models and actors.
Under the settlement, New Faces will pay the state $75,000 in penalties and $2,000 in costs, and up to $500,000 in restitution to aggrieved consumers.
New Faces, based in Hicksville, claimed that it provided talent management services including industry placement and training, and that it was highly selective in scouting, screening and reviewing young people for potential as models and actors.
However, New Faces is not a modeling agency and rarely obtained modeling or acting employment for its clients.
It principally provided photographic services and for an additional fee, posted photographic images on its website, Gigacomps.com, presumably to promote its clients to industry professionals.
"This company appealed to the desires of children, teenagers and young adults to become 'stars.' Parents believed New Faces' misrepresentations that their children would have lucrative futures as working models or actors," Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said. "Model and acting development centers and photo studios should only promise what they can actually deliver."
New Faces' "talent scouts" are accused of approaching consumers, usually children, teenagers and young adults, in public places such as the Roosevelt Field shopping mall, Jones Beach and concert halls.
The scouts led youngsters to believe that they had been scouted because they have a "look" that made them likely to succeed as models and actors. They were told that they would incur no costs and should contact a "Director" at New Faces to schedule an evaluation.
According to the allegations, those who met with a director were led to believe that only a few of those interviewed were actually offered an opportunity with the company, that they must sign a "photo shoot agreement" that same day, and pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get started.
In truth, New Faces was not highly selective about whom it scouted or signed to photo shoot agreements. New Faces sometimes even extracted additional money from its clients by directing them for additional services to its affiliated companies, including Gigacomps.com, Vanique and Nijah Productions.
Prior to the settlement, the Attorney General's Office, the Better Business Bureau and the Nassau County Department of Consumer Affairs had received approximately 55 complaints against New Faces.
New Faces also has agreed make changes to its business practices and to comply fully with New York State Law. The company will retain relevant records for inspection by the Attorney General's office.