Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Actor Beware: Legimate Agents & Managers Don't Scout For Talent on Craig's List! Read Anne's Story ...

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Anne, a young actress in North Hollywood, California. Both her predicament and her question concerned me enough that I wanted to share her situation and my response with you. There is an important lesson in this for all actors.

Anne wrote:

"I recently interviewed with an agent at a modeling and print agency. The agent, Mark, (I don't know his last name) was really quick with me and gave me lots of positive feedback. He called me the next day and told me that is interested in representing me. In order for him to do so, he said that I would now have to get full body fashion shots for $750 from a photographer he will send me to. He also told me that I will have to pay the photographer in cash. I haven't signed anything yet, but I just have a sort of anxious, nervous feeling about what I may be getting myself into. Any suggestions of signs to look out for or steps I should take so I don't end up in a scam?"

I responded:

"This is a big red flag to me, Anne with SCAM written all over it. The signs are all there. Did this agent require you to go to this photographer or did he merely include this person's name on a list of other photographers he likes who you could choose from?

The price is too high. And in cash? Why? I don't like the sound of it at all.

Check this agent and this company out. Call AFTRA and SAG and see if they have any complaints registered against this person/company. Do the same with the Better Business Bureau. Also, check out the public comment board at where actors post notes about agents.

Lastly, you don't know this guy's last name? How did you get into the office? He should have given you all the time you needed to ask questions, especially in a first meeting.

Put the brakes on this, Anne, until you do your homework — and keep me posted."

The next day, Anne wrote me back:

"The agent, Mark, suggested this photographer by giving me his card at the meeting. I never got Mark's business card because the meeting was such a whirlwind. They had a posting on saying they were a licensed agency looking for new, fresh faces. I submitted my picture expecting nothing. They called me and told me about the company, saying they used to do runway in New York, but relocated to L.A. and now do print, modeling and commercials. So, I went in for just the interview and he said he loved my look and that I'd be great for the fall/Christmas season. That's when he told me to get some full body shots done and gave me the photographer's card. Then he said he'd call me to let me know if the agency was interested in me, which he did the next day saying, 'Anne! Babe! Welcome to the agency!' He's called me every day since to check on my progress with getting my shots done. I asked for his e-mail address and he wouldn't give it to me, saying 'No, Anne, e-mail is so impersonal; it's all about the phone, babe.' The more I write about this, the sketchiness is so clear.

I took your advice and called AFTRA and they aren't affiliated with them. I also checked the Backstage postings and a few people have posted that they share the same unsure feelings I'm having.

I'm going to call the agency and just ask them more questions about who they've represented and who they have marketed to."

My last response to Anne was this:

"Babe? He called you 'Babe?' Case closed, as far as I'm concerned.

It’s your call, Anne, but, I say, if this guy wants you legitimately (which I doubt), then you will have no trouble finding (another) “legit” agent who will also want you, too. Do not rush this process! This is not about the “fall/Christmas season,” this is about the entirety of your career! Let's be honest here. How many warnings do you need? Trust your gut reaction. Be a smart, not desperate, actor.

Walk away, Anne. Don't bother calling this guy again. Instead, focus your time and your energy seeking representation from an agent (or manager) who wants to work with you in developing your career and who doesn't see you as another ticket to his or her commission on a $750 photo session scam. This guy isn't interested in you or your career."

My final thoughts to all of you: Never seek representation from an ad in Craig's List or any other such source. Legitimate agents and managers, when they are seeking new clients, do it the right way. We attend showcases, we ask for referrals from colleagues, we visit professional classes, we review submissions from actors. There's a right way to do this and there is a "never" way to do this.

If you want to use Craig's List to find a place to live or to buy a bedroom set, fine, but to seek an agent or manager -- or to seek a legitmiate acting job, never, please.

Rant done.

If you have a business of acting question or story to relate, post your comment here or e-mail me at


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

SAG Foundation Seminar Rescheduled

The Business of Acting seminar for the SAG Foundation, originally scheduled for Tuesday, July 10, 2007, has been moved to Wednesday, August 8, 2007, at 7:00PM. This free event is open to current SAG, AFTRA and AEA members on a first come, first serve, advance reservation basis. Seating is limited.

For details, visit


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Two Summer Seminars in "The Business of Acting" Set for Los Angeles

L.A. Casting will be hosting a seminar in "The Business of Acting" for their members this Saturday, June 23, at 12:30PM. Space is limited. For information, call (323) 462-8200 or visit their Web site at

On Tuesday, July 10, at 7:00PM, the SAG Foundation will present "The Business of Acting" seminar for their guild members. Watch your e-mail for details from SAG or visit their Web site at

We'll talk about the ever-changing landscape that is the business of acting and answer questions. I hope to meet you at one of these two events.


Hollywood or Bust? A Commentary in Support of the International Arts

How lucky American actors are to be able to pursue their art and craft in this country. I was reminded of this last month during a visit to Australia and New Zealand where I got to meet and chat with local actors. What an education, which I shared with my students in our first class meeting of “The Business of Acting” summer session class at the Emerson College Los Angeles Center.

The pursuit, maintenance and growth of a career as a professional, working actor is tough enough, but, if where the bulk of the work is located is an ocean and government red-tape away, imagine the frustration.

Olivia Mackenzie-Smith, a young and talented actress living and working in Sydney, explained to me just how the business of acting works down under. While the film and television industry is a growing (and respected one) there, there are still limitations actors have to face all the time. There just isn’t, currently, as much work for actors there as there is in America (partly because there is less product produced there and partly because so much entertainment product from America is readily available there). Local theatre thrives where it can, yet, like in our major cities (and elsewhere) high ticket prices frequently stand in the way of many people who might seek it out being able to afford to actually do so.

What’s a non-American actor to do? There aren’t many options, unfortunately, yet. With an eye on Hollywood or New York, many “foreign” actors simply can’t conquer the U.S. immigration system to be able to obtain the credentials necessary to come here and work. While actors can come here to study (on a student visa; I have had many international students in my Emerson College classes over the years), the opportunity to stay on and work after the post-graduation grace period expires is hard, if not impossible, to come by.

There is always sponsorship (but the regulations about working for one employer can cloud the pursuit of a work for an actor whose career is filled with jobs for many employers); Olivia tells me that Australia has an (albeit highly competitive) lottery to provide (some) actors (and others) with the necessary credentials to come here and work; and then there is the U.S. government’s artists’ visa, which requires that one first have achieved some level of notoriety in one’s home country which will be of benefit to the arts in this country. Of course, there is always marriage-to-a-citizen-route – for love, money and/or the arts (but you won’t catch me publicly suggesting or endorsing that one ☺ ).

This is not meant to be a rant about immigration laws, but rather an recognition in support of how tough it is to pursue this career, with an appreciation for how relatively easier it is here, for those who do so. As the business of acting grows and thrives in other countries (with special appreciation for the longstanding work in England, whose actors have been at this long before the first stage was every built in this country) and as American actors seek opportunities for work beyond our shores (in projects that are not cast here for production elsewhere), we might begin to see a loosening of the regulations currently put on immigration for arts’ sake. The journey is always a challenge; always a learning experience. Both artists and audiences stand to benefit enormously from any creative exchange through performance and expression.

In the meantime, I think I’ll get busy on a version of The Business of Acting for my friends down under.

I welcome your comments and sharing of your related experiences.