Reader: Recently I got a call on my pager from a "management company". They wanted me to come in for an interview and to talk to me about representing me. When I asked the lady who answered their phone where they had gotten my name, she was rather evasive, and wouldn't give me a direct answer. I finally talked to a man who said they had probably gotten it from a casting director, although he couldn't say just where. He said they were interested in representing me and would like for me to come in for an interview. After pressing him for more information he finally said that there would be a fee of about $50 to register with them. I declined the offer, as I just didn't feel quite right about it. Did I do the right thing?
Charlie: First of all, none of the legitimate casting directors ever give out names or contact information to alleged managers, agents, or anyone else, with the possible exception of another casting director who is having trouble filling a role and might ask for assistance. Since he called your pager number, my guess is that he somehow obtained your resume. The first red flag is when anyone asks you for money. REAL AGENTS NEVER CHARGE A FEE FOR ANYTHING. Neither do real casting directors, with the possible exception of a small ($10 or 15$) registration fee for non-union actors. Legitimate agents must be licensed by the state, and are paid a commission based on what the talent earns. (Agents that are franchised by the performers unions are limited to 10%.) Managers, on the other hand, are not governed by the unions that represent actors, nor are they licensed by the state. Therefore, be careful! There are many reputable managers out there, but unfortunately there are many more who's ethics are questionable at best. Watch out for people who say they are going to make you a "Star" for a fee. You become a star by becoming a good actor, and you become a good actor by studying and practicing your craft.
Reader: I saw an ad in the PennySaver looking for actors to be in a movie. When I called I was told that the movies was being shot in Sacramento and Hawaii, but that before I could be considered I would need to take some classes, which would cost about $350. They said I should send a $150 deposit, and that the balance would be due when the classes started. I was told that after the classes I would be guaranteed a role in this or one of their future productions. Is this a common way for movie producers to find new talent for their pictures?
Charlie: Think about it... why would any real producer be running an ad in the PennySaver? Producers find their talent through casting directors, who in turn find their talent through talent agents or direct submissions from actors. There are also other resources such as the Academy Players Directory and on-line services like CASTNET. The same warnings apply here as in the question from the previous reader. Beware of anyone who asks for money for anything other than pictures, acting lessons, or similar goods and services.