This week I heard stories of several young actors who were recently taken advantage of by individuals preying on their dreams. In one case police were called. In the other cases the families lost a fair amount of money to a scam, but their kids were safe.
The entertainment industry may be unique in its lure for the hopeful. Whenever hopeful people step into an area where they don’t understand the system, their vulnerability can attract those who would take advantage of it.
Some of these people/businesses are technically legal. They just don’t deliver what they promise. Some rely on fine print to disclaim their carefully worded marketing lines. Some technically deliver what they promise, but not in substance. And some are outright scam artists who change their names and their business names regularly, and move around to stay one step ahead of the law.
Laws vary widely from state to state, and country to country.
California, because it is the home of the entertainment industry, has the strictest laws of any state, particularly around minors. This means that many of the worst offenders operate outside of California to avoid prosecution. Families outside of LA are also less likely to know the laws that govern talent agencies, management companies, acting and modeling schools, etc.
It’s critical that young actors and their families assume nothing when they consider getting involved with any person, or any company in the realm of acting, modeling, etc.
Don’t assume that an “opportunity” is legit. Take the time to do a little research before even auditioning for something, especially if it doesn’t come through a professional agent or manager. Never go alone to an interview/audition alone if you are unfamiliar with the casting company/ photographer/ agent/ manager.
Trust your instincts. Your heart may want to believe that this is the “big break” you’ve been waiting for, or the fantastic opportunity you’ve dreamed of. But your gut usually knows the truth. Never ignore your gut instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
- If someone asks you to pay for an opportunity to be represented. Real agents and managers ONLY get paid when you do, and then they take a percentage of your income—10% for agents, 10-15% for managers
- If someone asks for big money up front and insists that you must pay/sign up NOW or lose the opportunity
- Up-front fees for agents or managers (this is illegal in most states)
- Anyone who promises to represent you and also wants you to pay THEM for classes, headshots, prints, etc., or insists you use “their” people.
- Photographers who want you to pose/dress in any way that makes you uncomfortable
- Anyone who guarantees employment. There is no guaranteed work in an industry that hires via the casting process!
Never sign a contract without reading it completely. If it involves any kind of long-term consequences, have an entertainment lawyer look at it first. Again—even though legit contracts often have a tight deadline, if you are pressured to sign something on the spot, this is a red flag too.
The entertainment industry is filled with passionate, creative, smart people, most of whom are good people too. Keep your eyes open, trust your instincts, and do your homework. Make sure that you don’t get taken by the few whose business is to prey on the hopeful and gullible.
My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey. It will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!
If you’re ready for some one-on-one help, book an hour consulting with me to come up with an individualized plan that takes your own unique needs into account. For about the cost of an hour with a professional acting coach, you can get your questions answered and a road map to help you move forward toward your dream.
Invest a little in your kid’s future today.
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