The surge in popularity of TV and local talent shows is feeding the dreams of many performers into carefully choreographed casting call scams.
The unprecedented number of amateur talent shows that just might lead participants to the big time has given this particular casting scam a major boost, often with dubious organizations describing themselves as “casting agencies.”
Local auditions for genuine shows are now held across the country, followed by regional and, finally, national selection processes — a huge scope for the tricksters.
The possibility of taking part in reality-type shows — such as Project Runway and cooking or baking contests, which draw on the public rather than professionals for participants — adds further scam opportunities.
And the never-ending demand for movie extras also increases the attraction of phony fake casting calls.
The main aim of the casting scam is to get victims to pay upfront for the chance to take part in auditions, other selection processes and even promotions associated with the shows.
The latest tricks include:
- Advertising casting calls on Craigslist and other websites, for which entrants are charged a fee. The event may or may not take place.
- Using the name of a top talent or reality show to suggest some sort of connection with the genuine event, when there is none at all.
- Promoting a “talent database,” for which potential performers must pay to register.
- They may have to pay additional sums for professional CV preparation, recording of “showreels” or audition tapes, and profile photography. These might even be genuine services but they’ll never reach the eyes of show organizers, despite the scammers’ promises. And victims may also be told they must pay an annual fee to keep their records up to date and accessible to talent scouts.
- Contacting schools and other youth organizations offering an opportunity for students to participate in a special show-related event, such as making a Christmas record.
Parents, schools and others are asked to pay a fee for each participant but the event either never takes place or the promotion is never released to the public.
It’s the shattered dreams as much as the out-of-pocket expenses that make this such a cruel scam.
So here are 10 things you can do to save your money and your heartbreak:
- Don’t pay to audition or take part in special talent show sessions. Genuine casting agencies for TV shows are paid a fee by the show producers and don’t charge for auditions.
- Avoid paying to register with a talent agency if you can. Most legit agencies don’t charge for registration but take a commission from any money you earn. And don’t fall for promises your fee will be refunded once you start earning.
- If you really feel you must pay, or if you want to register with any agency at all, carefully check out their credentials online.
- Don’t apply for “rush” or urgent casting calls, or respond to ads that invite you to “call today” before, say, up to 10pm. In the real TV world, such urgency would be highly unusual. It’s much more likely to be a scam.
- Local and regional heats of national talent competitions are usually advertised and promoted in local media. You don’t need an agent; you either have to apply directly to the organizers or just turn up for the auditions. Either way, it won’t cost you anything more than your time.
- Beware of casting call ads appearing on Craigslist. Mostly they’re phony. Sometimes they use logos of TV companies like “NBC” but the network TV companies rarely, if ever, audition directly. Production companies do their own casting.
- Likewise, be skeptical about any ad that uses inspirational terms like “follow your dreams” or “become a star.” They’re using your emotions to lure you into a fee-paying scam.
- Ignore claims you can earn up to $300 a day as a TV or movie extra. The going rate is between $75 and $125. Most extras are hired via their membership of the Screen Actors Guild. Unless large numbers of extras are needed, casting agencies generally don’t hire members of the public.
- Skills-based reality TV shows like those involving fashion design or cooking have a rigorous selection process.
- No outside company or agent can get you a place on these shows at any price. Again, you have to apply directly to the production company. If a production company offers a guaranteed place in a program or movie in return for your investment in the show, it’s because they haven’t been able to raise finance from experts who know what makes a successful show.
You may get your moment in front of the camera, but at a high price that’s unlikely to buy you fame!
Through talent and reality shows, hundreds of people get their first break on the small screen or even the silver screen every year. They may have gotten there via a casting call but, almost certainly, they didn’t pay upfront.
Share the listing of such events if you are victim of / or want to help other people.