Watching Out for Scams, Part II: Everything Else

In part one of this series, we explored some tips on how to protect yourself from getting taken advantage of when finding representation. The same sort of vigilance can go a long way when looking at casting directors, acting coaches, and workshops, as well. So, in addition to last week’s warning signs for talent agencies, please see below for some tip-offs about workshops, casting directors, and acting coaches:

1. Workshops/Industry Panels: You will often see advertisements for acting workshops or industry panels with “professional” casting directors. Sometimes these programs boast the opportunity for you to, with a large fee, individually read in front of numerous casting directors/agents (to audition to “get” an agent or book a job) or have face time with casting professionals to get “advice” about breaking into the business. You should never pay a casting director to read for a job—any job. Most legitimate casting director workshops or panels are facilitated through acting programs or acting schools, and not through the casting director directly. Never transmit cash wirelessly and always question if they list workshops as “cash only” for payments. Most often, a reputable casting director, casting website, or acting coach will have a secure way for you to pay for their workshops and one-on-one acting lessons. Know that when they ask you to wire money or request cash only to attend workshops/meetings, they may be trying minimize the paper trail to ensure you can’t get your money back.

2. Casting Notices: When answering a casting notice, always be aware of what you’re walking into. Make sure when you answer any sort of ad that you have as much information as possible: project name, casting director’s name, producers, location and even budget. Once you have an audition, if the address you’re being sent to isn’t an office space, don’t be afraid to google the address for your own safety. Also note that, when concerning nudity, most reputable projects and casting directors will explicitly state that there will be nudity involved in the project, and if nudity is required in the audition, they will state it up front. Most of all, when going into an audition, use your gut—don’t go in for anything that makes you uncomfortable or states any sort of frivolous promises up front. Usually, they don’t deliver.

3. Bottom Line: Do Your Research!: Get as much information as possible. If you’re reaching out to acting coaches, ask for referrals: from fellow actors, from your agent, or even from casting directors. Workshops and panels featuring “professionals in the entertainment industry” should be just that, so don’t be afraid to look up all the names involved to see what they’ve worked on. Don’t give any personal and/or important information over the phone (credit cards, addresses, social security numbers) or email. Also remember that most reputable agencies, casting directors, and talent agents don’t put a “guarantee” or promise anything—in this industry, nothing is guaranteed. Don’t be afraid to look up a casting director’s credits and to question the work they’ve done in the past. If you can’t find ANY information, or the last film/theatre or TV project they did was years and years ago, it may be a scam.

In the end, it’s best to go with your gut and question things when they seem “too good to be true”.  A casting director or anyone affiliated with a reputable one wouldn’t necessarily make promises to you without being familiar with your work and craft. Don’t take anything for face value and don’t be afraid to ask questions if things seem a bit questionable to you. Also be aware that if you ask those questions and they evade answering, they may have something to hide. Even if something seems completely “legit”, you shouldn’t have to spend a fortune just to be “discovered” or get representation. Even a legitimate casting director workshop with a big-time CD isn’t always worth it if they charge hundreds of dollars – see Actor Workshops: Everything You Need to Know for more details. These days, acting/performing and being able to sell yourself as professional is more in your hands than ever–social media and the internet has given us that opportunity. If you can’t afford these professional workshops (even the legit ones) don’t be discouraged!

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tara McGrath started her career in entertainment mainly because she couldn't see a life where she wasn't surrounded and inspired by actors in some way or another. After graduating from SUNY Purchase's Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film with a degree in Screenwriting, she worked for a year at Roundabout Theatre Company in New York. Interning under their casting department with casting directors Carrie Gardner and Jim Carnahan, she assisted in casting such productions as Spring Awakening, American Idiot and Fox's hit show, Glee. From there she moved 3,000 miles to Los Angeles and for the last year has been working for a well-known boutique talent agency in West Hollywood. She has also worked as a reader and marketing assistant for the Blue Cat Screenwriting Competition and has worked on independent features as both producer's assistant and P.A.

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