Getting started in the entertainment industry can feel overwhelming when you are trying to decide who to trust. It is important to connect with agencies and casting directors who have a good reputation and track record. Many people get wrapped up in the excitement of opportunities and end up involved with the wrong people because they aren’t aware of what is standard in the industry.
Newbies often assume a company is legitimate based on what they are posting online, whether it is founded or not. In the entertainment industry, connecting based on professional referrals and recommendations is key. You also want to work with companies with a strong track record. This is why it is critical to have professional representation by an agent or manager who screens clients for you, negotiates all rates and usage, and offers access to questions when you are shooting on set. They are professionals, and that is why they are paid a percentage for what they do.
Red Flags to Watch for
There are many signs that an agency may not be completely legit. Here are some examples:
- You find ads for the agency in the “help wanted” section of a newspaper or magazine.
- You receive an emailed casting that requires you to send money for flights, wardrobe, etc.
- You are asked to send personal information, such as your social security number or bank information.
- Photos of famous people are displayed on their website or office walls, but the agency doesn’t actually represent them.
- The alleged agent or scout refuses to give specific information about what type of shoots you might be used for or what they are auditioning for.
- You are asked to meet a representative at their home, or after hours at their office.
- The parent or guardian is not welcome at the audition or on the set. Any child under the age of 18 shouldn’t attend any castings or jobs without a parent or legal guardian.
- You are asked to spend time with certain men or women in a social setting or pose as their dates.
- You are asked to pose for nude or suggestive photos not originally stated in your contract.
Trafficking and Exploitation
According to Stop The Traffik, “trafficking is the act of recruiting, moving or harboring a person, either by use of force, deception or coercion for the purpose of exploitation and financial gain.”
As noted in this definition, trafficking victims are not always taken by force. They often go willingly because they have been tricked into thinking the trafficker is someone who is looking out for their best interests.
Sex trafficking is not the only danger when it comes to attempting to further your career online. Young men and women seeking to become models or actors can also be exploited in other ways. Some essentially become slave labor when they are forced to work many more hours for substantially less pay than was originally stated in the contract. Others may not be given the level of housing promised by the alleged agency.
Legitimate-looking websites and social media accounts can be created by anyone with a computer, and thousands of domain names are readily available for a small monthly fee. If your child is old enough to search the web themselves, they may be stumbling onto these sites. And even you as a parent may not be able to tell if they are legit.
How to Safely Advance a Performing Career
Thoroughly research any agency before signing a contract, and any talent agent or scout before agreeing to meet them in person anywhere. In the U.S., legitimate talent agencies are licensed and follow the requirements of the Screen Actors Guild and/or the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). Many states require modelling agencies to be licensed also.
Never be afraid to ask questions if you feel there are grey areas. And trust your gut, which is generally a good indicator.
Another way to ensure your child’s safety is to go through proven professionals when getting involved in the modeling or entertainment industry. At Discovery Spotlight, all of the agents we bring to our events have been screened and are invited based on referrals from others in the industry.
The internet has made it easier to find agencies and talent scouts, but unfortunately it has also made it easier for traffickers to find victims. Knowing how to tell if a company is legit and what red flags to watch out for can help you keep your child safe while pursuing the spotlight.