How many times have we counseled our students and their parents about finding legitimate talent agents? Countless. Innumerable. Parents and kids likely get tired of us spouting our information. Some take the advice, others do not.
If you understand the business (and remember, they do call it 'Show Business') you can stay safe from people like this 37 year-old Ottawa man, who has been charged with human trafficking and child luring by posing as a talent agent.
Understanding the business is not hard. What is hard is understanding that it IS a business. Let that inform your thinking. Arm yourself by understanding how legitimate agents earn a living, and do a little fact-checking. Awareness can help you to avoid dangerous criminals, and scam artists.
There are two associations that provide oversight and help to ensure that there is a code of ethics for agents and talent managers in Canada: the Entertainment Industry Coalition (EIC) and TAMAC (Talent Agents and Managers Association of Canada). Membership in either of these associations is a reasonable indication of an agent's legitimacy. There is no good reason for a legitimate agent not to belong to one or both of these groups.
Three things that you can do to protect your child from fake agents are:
1. Check the list on the ACTRA website for the area that the agent works in. ACTRA is the actor's union and keeps a list of agents who have signed the Code of Ethics and are members of the EIC.
2. Beware of agents that advertise in any way. Industry professionals understand that the people who they are dealing with are a vulnerable group - easily preyed upon. This is from the Code of Ethics:
An agent will not advertise to the general public for the purpose of
soliciting clients through advertising placed in any form of printed or
electronic media (newspapers, flyers, magazines, telephones, the
Internet, fax, CD-ROM or mailings, etc.)
3. If they ask for money up front or stipulate that you must use a certain photographer or coach or they, themselves, offer classes or headshots keep your wallet in your pocket and walk away. Agents only make money when their clients make money. They work on commission. No exceptions to that rule.
Much as we would like to believe that someone is out there just waiting to offer a shot at stardom, the likelihood of it happening is miniscule. Don't be flattered by strangers who just find you on the internet, or in a cafe drinking latte. The Hollywood starlet stories are old and very likely not true. Being cautious is sensible in this industry.
You really do have to work for what you want.