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Is the Local Talent Search Legitimate?

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Is the local talent search advertisement I heard on the radio legitimate?

I have been asked this question many times over the years. Solicitations heard on the radio advertising talent and model searches are usually huge cattle calls to sign up as many kids as possible for costly training.  They dangle a carrot that they will sign kids to working contracts then they put them through an “elimination” process. They legitimize themselves by getting guest professionals to recruit “talent” and also by highlighting famous talent that have come through their ranks. They might have them do a guest appearance at a convention as a keynote speaker or sit on a panel. Reputable agents know you should never pay for an audition and that actors are primarily hired in two ways. They are hired through agents and authorized casting calls. Agents are very good at identifying these scams and saving their clients from wasting time and money.

Prior to a recent conversation I’ve had, I regarded these outfits as completely fraudulent. While I do not recommend them, if you have already spent the money and signed up, do not fret. Get what training you can out of the experiences offered and if it doesn’t pan out like you’d hoped, take comfort in knowing there is another way. I strongly caution you not to pay any more than you are obligated to in the ironclad contract. I recently spoke to a famous actor on set who got his start from a model search like this. He met his wife in the program while they were both on a panel. In a moment I will share more about my conversation with him.

NextBigStarSign2-500 Is the Local Talent Search Legitimate? Is the Local Talent Search Legitimate? NextBigStarSign2 500Institutions announcing big talent searches capitalize on people with pocket books, who have children who desperately want to be working professionally as an actor or model. They offer expensive training to the tune of $3,000.00 and they continue to upsell you over time until you decide to stop buying. They tout opportunities to be “signed” to top modeling and talent agencies. Most people do not know where to begin. They face so many closed doors and think this is the best or only avenue for them. These organizations put an exorbitant amount of funding behind their marketing to create an appearance of a legitimate operation. No one can blame a parent for falling for it.  Often parents, with the honorable intention of opening doors for their children, come away feeling victimized. I have a gorgeous sister in-law this happened to as a teenager. The $2500 her mother paid did not even result in the promised portfolio pictures from her training.

If you haven’t already purchased training, before going down this path, allow me to shed light on another way. There is an actual fork in the road before you. You could go left. It will be costly and you may or may not get good training. Also, you may never have a real shot at booking a job. There is no fast track to fame. Should you choose the other way, my preferred avenue, you can map out good training and practical experiences. See post: “Where can I get good training?”  Eventually, sooner than you might think, find a reputable agent to represent your child.  See post: “How do I know if an agent is reputable?”  If your child is selected for auditions, advance their training by finding an acting coach with personal acting experience and credits who can tape your auditions. They will submit the tape to your agent who then sends it onto the casting company. The casting company is hired by the production company to help the production team cast the project. It may take years but if your child has talent and you keep trying, odds are your child will eventually book a job. The question is, will they have the desire and resilience to keep at it.  An adult acquaintance of mine moved to LA and had been auditioning for fifteen years. All the while honing her acting chops with one-man shows and such. She just recently booked a small role on “The Middle”. For most, it takes incredible tenacity.

I continually remind my acting students to consider their character’s motivation so they can play to the objective rather than to the emotion or mood. All communication has a motivation so I ask you to pause and consider the objective of the salesman or talent scouts who are commissioned to sell you training versus an agent who only gets paid when you get paid. Upon considering this, one can immediately recognize which person has something to gain from being dishonest. Certainly the salesman will tell people what they want to hear about their talented children and persuade parents to pay to help them reach their “potential”.  A talent agent is also motivated to grow talent but they gain nothing from it unless your child books a job. A talent agent is motivated to generate as many opportunities as possible for your child to book something. In this way they are partners with parents in opening doors for children.  The scout and the agent both earn a living. You pay talent scouts while talent agents get paid commissions they earn from helping your child book jobs.

Aside from classes you enroll in that are independent of your talent representation, the only upfront cost should be headshots (no more than a couple hundred dollars) and minimal registration fees to list your actor on sites that your agent will use to submit your child to casting. I trusted my children’s agent immediately because she’s amazing and she came highly recommended from people I know and trust. If you don’t have that luxury, once you come to know and trust your agent take their advice about workshops and classes they recommend for your child. This is your trusted agent’s way of growing your child’s talent and depending on the type of workshop, getting them in front of people currently casting in the industry.  Such workshops are typically offered a few times a year, for a half day of instruction, and priced from $65 to $250.00. Most are in the $125 range. This covers the professional’s fee, if they have one, their travel costs and renting a space. Class sizes should be fairly small.

During my conversation with the heretofore-mentioned famous actor on set, I learned that although he went through a highly commercialized program, he never paid a dime. He explained that even with these cattle callers, if they think you will get work, they might waive their training fees. This is rare. Our candid conversation ended with him telling me that if a person were going to be successful at this career they would be either way. He said that the people who are booking roles out of these programs probably would have anyway.  I appreciate his honesty. The truth is, if your child has “it” they will most likely book a job from either path. If you go to an event like this and are selected to enroll in their program, most likely you will end up going through all of the steps I’ve outlined, as the preferred path, in addition to the expensive training.  Because of this, I say, avoid the scams, skip the financially draining training and put your child on the path that allows them to begin to grow from the long journey to a successful acting career!

2 Comments

  1. Renee Little says:

    My son is interested in acting. We have been looking for a reputable agent. No luck. How can we find a fantastic agent? He is an 8 amazing boy. BTW your friend Jandy referred me to you.

    • Melanie Prince says:

      Renee- Thanks for the inquiry. I’ll thank Jandy! Here is a link to the post about how to find a reputable agent in any market; http://www.princechronicles.com/how-do-i-know-if-an-agent-is-reputable/

      If you’re in the Raleigh area, I recommend Kids Unlimited Talent Agency. Terri Dollar knows her stuff. She’s been a professional actress and has connections to agents in larger markets for kids who can take it to the next level. She doesn’t make you sign a contract, is the mother of a successful actress and has integrity. I’ve worked with her for years and she’s a straight shooter.

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