Modeling Scams

Faces West Model and Talent Convention

To Whom It May Concern:

I have an urgent request for any information on the Faces West Model and Talent Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Their website address is

I have a friend who is willing to part with her life savings in the hope of being "discovered" as an actor there.

I have given her this website address, but she believes this convention is different, because there will be some "big names" there.

It costs CDN $2,600 for this four-day convention. I'm very concerned this will be a costly mistake. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,



How urgent is this? When is the convention? Has she already made up her mind?

You said the point of her resistance (or insistence) was "there will be some 'big names' there."

This is not the issue which makes a convention a scam or not a scam. (Most conventions have big names.) The main issues are the screening process and the success rate.

How did they screen applicants? Is there the typical conflict of interest? If so how does she explain away the conflict of interest where they have a vested interest in recruiting people whom they know will not be selected because they are paid for it.

Did they tell her their success rate? If not, why not? (I didn't see it on their website, did you?)

Is she ready to move to a primary acting market at the drop of a hat if someone likes her? Just for casting calls? (Representation by an agency does not equal selection by clients.) If she is blowing her entire savings on this convention, how can she afford to move?

Recently a casting director said if you don't live in NY/LA, you're wasting your money and time going to a convention.

To add to that, if you do live in NY/LA, why do you need to go to a convention? The casting directors are in your city. Visit them.

If she is in Canada, is she in the Canadian equivalent, e.g. "Hollywood North"?

Is this the best timing for her to be discovered? If she waits a year and develops her talent, will her chances be better?

If she goes now and spends everything, will she be able to afford to go next year when her skills and chances are higher?

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Thanks for your quick reply.

The convention is being held in two weeks, but they (the modelling agency) wanted a commitment by October 29; hence my urgent concern (I have just found out about all this).

I have passed this email on to her and she is willing to check out the points you have raised.

She has been doing theatre for a few years, but has not had much luck with the casting director in our city. Mind you, there aren't a lot of tv/movies/commercials being filmed here.

I know in the end it's her decision, but I wanted it to be an informed one. I'd hate to see her lose all her money if it is not reputable.

Do you know if modelling agencies get kickbacks from these sorts of events? This one agency is trying to get as many people to go as possible. They have a fairly large contingent at each of these.

I also have concerns because on the agency's website it said last year it was CDN $2,100, and this year it's $500 more.

Once again, thanks for your help.



You asked: "Do you know if modelling agencies get kickbacks from these sorts of events?"

Interestingly enough, the person who wrote after you, who used to work at a modeling agency which sends aspiring models to modeling conventions, said they are paid.

Indeed, it looks as if they can and do markup the prices. Considerably. So in the case of the convention you asked about, after which you noted, "this year it's $500 more," that could explain the markup. ($500 is certainly higher than the inflation rate.)

The issue came up recently. You start to wonder whether agencies are paid commissions, because certain things look suspicious, and the insider has confirmed the suspicions, at least for one major agency which for a long time has had strong ties with a convention.

Why did conventions look suspicious?

Firstly, because conventions happen only once or twice a year, and what about all the other times? What do agencies do then? The modeling world does not stop and it does not wait until the next convention.

Secondly, modeling agents who send models to conventions perform the same function as the convention scouts who send models to conventions, and these scouts are paid a commission.

Thirdly, when you realize how much money the convention organizers make off each convention, it stands to reason they would be prepared to give a commission or some kind of financial kickback for every person who is recruited by anyone, not just by their model scouts, but also by any model agents.

Fourthly, there are some unusually strong ties between some modeling agencies and certain modeling conventions, yet neither the agencies not the conventions provide disclosure of the relationships. Apparently, for example, there are directors of the conventions who are also directors of agencies.

It sounds as if you already saw the same potentially clear and significant conflict of interest in recruiting. Whenever you hear or see "one agency is trying to get as many people to go as possible," as you said, it is often a clue they are being paid a commission.

If this is indeed the case with the Faces West Model and Talent Convention, there are two conflicts of interest, not only with the convention organizers recruiting people who have not been effectively screened, but also with modeling agencies being paid to recruit people who are not effectively screened.

In any case and in any event, the more you hear about modeling conventions, how people are recruited, who is being paid, and how much they are paid, the more difficult it is to trust the "opinion" of anyone from convention scouts to modeling agents et al who recommend going to them.

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I thought it incredibly odd that an aspring model/actor would have to fork out so much dough. After all, don't these "big" names have money? Of course they do. Lots. So why aren't they the ones sponsoring the event?

In actual fact, the coordinator of the event is Charles Stuart, who runs a —you guessed it —Modelling and Talent agency in Vancouver.

So really, one is not only dealing with their own modelling/talent agency, but another one as well, before they even get to the convention.

This goes a long way to explaining how some modelling agencies in small cities stay afloat.

Last year's price was listed on the modelling/talent agency website that my friend deals with. There is no stated price for this year, but she was given a quote of $500 more than last year.

As well, the Faces West website does not list any price. I emailed them and asked them, in the guise of a young aspiring actor, but have received no reply as of yet.

I checked the BBB; Charles Stuart Agency is listed as satisfactory, but the BBB have said they have repeatedly tried to get info from the Faces West Convention and have been unsuccessful.

But, the BBB label, in my opinion, doesn't guarantee anything, anyway. I just recently moved; the BBB stated my mover was in good standing, yet there were definitely questionable billing practices.

To file a complaint with the BBB is quite a process. So how many people really want to go through the hassle? Or how many people are too embarrassed to admit they've been scammed and don't speak up?

In any case, someone's making a lot of money, and I bet it isn't the poor schmucks with stars in their eyes.

Maybe a few do get signed, but again, on the Faces West website, under success stories, it states "these people (complete with photos) have 'visited' these cities." No mention of "worked" in these cities, or "signed" by this agency. Hmmm.

In my haste, I neglected to say what a wonderful and truly informative site you have. You are doing many people a great service and I can't thank you enough.



You said: "This goes a long way to explaining how some modelling agencies in small cities stay afloat."

You raised an important issue. Many scams seem to happen in the smaller cities. The fact is you can make more money without scamming in larger cities. But in the minor or virtually irrelevant cities, where there is little work, and you still only get 20% commission, that 20% commission does not go far.

Part of the reason is the minor markets not only offer little work, the little work they offer is low end, making that 20% commission even more insignificant. Models can complain they earn little, but their 80% take is a lot more than the 20% for the agency.

This is one reason why agencies in minor markets or small cities seek supplemental income with "modeling schools" (finishing schools), photography scams, modeling conventions, pageants, etc.

I totally agree with you about the BBB. After reviewing BBB files and consumer complaints as they appear on this website, and comparing the two, it appears as if there are flaws in the BBB system, or ways companies have found to beat the system.

My conclusion is if the BBB says a company is bad, that means more than the BBB saying the company is good. The unsatisfactory ratings are more accurate than the satisfactory ratings.

You wrote: "As well, the Faces West website does not list any price."

It seems odd to find a modeling convention which does not include the price on their website. I have visited the websites of several modeling conventions, and I don't recall seeing even one of them including their price. I challenged one of the conventions to be upfront, but they still have not included the price.

Why isn't the price on their website? Is it because people don't want to know? Hardly. It is one of the most basic things everyone wants to know. So the question is if it is to the advantage of the consumer to know the price through their website, but they do not provide it, is it to the advantage of the convention to not include the price? It must be or they would include it.

Do they need to work consumers into a frenzy, totally psyched out by their sales pitch, worked over by a pressure presentation, before they can even bring up the topic of the cost?

It happens time and time again with the companies which want upfront fees. They leave the price out until the end. They start the brainwashing and, by the time they are done with their promo, and they state the price, it sounds like a bargain.

The irony is ridiculous. These people want upfront fees, but they are not up front about the fees. Have you noticed how most all of them which want the upfront fees are expensive?

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