SCAMS: Fact or perception?

Alright alright, let’s go ahead and get this answer out of the way. Are there scams in life? Sure. Are there, have their been and are there scams today in Hollywood? Sure, probably, most likely and yes. But ultimately the question for me, with regards to this particular subject, is “what defines a scam…really” in Hollywood terms? Because we’re constantly“on guard” as actors and I’m with you on that, I’ve seen a lot of misinterpretation of the word SCAM. Again, and always, I’m on your side…but I’m also someone who hates to see unnecessary fear and lost opportunities. Since 1987 I’m pretty sure that I’ve encountered, personally, virtually every thing Hollywood can throw at an actor. So while I could be here all day discussing situations and scenarios let us just cover a few “common” situations that we as actors like to call or point the finger and label as SCAMS!

Most common 4 I’ll use as examples are these: (1) Representatives who “recommend one photographer” so that they can get a “kick-back” on the photographer fee; (2) Representatives, mostly those under the construct of Mgmt., charge actors a fee basically to be represented but call it “consultation” costs or just charge them for actual business expenses. (3) The casting couch…and all things related to the concept; (4) Projects that have actors “pay” to be in them for a certain size role.

Now please be clear…I could spend hours and hundreds of words covering lots of others OK. I mean there are all of the people who supposedly “produce” actor showcases, hell I think that workshops are not only a scam but violate all labor codes in place, managers who teach, produce, shoot pictures, & don’t even have a business license and there is the always very popular “talent conventions” all over the U.S. that have all sorts of folks from L.A. going there and making false promises and taking money for their “time and expertise” under the guise of helping.

Now I’m not being a cynic…I’m just running it down for you man. These are some of the many elements, options and realities we face as a community. So here is the REAL question and here is the real issue: are they scams or simply red flags to avoid? If you do your own research on photographers and do your own diligence then why would you ever listen to a representative about “who” you should shoot with and if that is their prerequisite for being represented then it is just unprofessional and unethical…not a scam.

If you KNOW that agents and managers are not suppose to EVER charge you for representation and you allow yourself to believe that a “consultation fee or paying for certain business expenses” required for a rep to run their business…is that a scam or is it just a level of desperation on your part. Sure you should avoid folks like this but let us remember the phrase “fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice…shame on ME.” Folks when something seems weird, too good to be true, or simply ethically wrong…walk away. There is NO need to feel, or get scammed ever, if you don’t let your need to be “loved, liked or represented” get in the way of clear logical thought.

Paying to be in films, workshops, talent conventions, paying for opportunities like being in showcases…are all DECISIONS and AGREEMENTS you choose to make as an adult or a parent. The question, just like any other negotiation, is do you ask enough questions and get enough information to make a LEGIT business decision. What I’ve seen in my 25+ years is that “most of us” in the acting community are very hopeful, positive artists and we always want to BELIEVE in ourselves and ability and that it will override the odds. Totally get it but at the same time we can’t let that optimism blind us from asking enough questions, getting enough information and being diligent about not flying on pure hope.

I could literally spend hours discussing “all of the factors” that go into a lot of vehicles or mechanisms that actors get involved in, and then later call a SCAM, simply because they didn’t get “what was promised” when what they claim what was promised…was success. NO ONE can PROMISE YOU SUCCESS. This is a subjective art, just like, and dating is the most subjective thing in the world. Meeting someone online, via a website, can lead to a great relationship…but how often out of how many MILLIONS of dates a week? Well, I imagine the percentage, is pretty damn low. So as it is…for actors. So when you choose to partake in any of the “pay for” angles and schemes associated with our business you HAVE to accept a certain amount of unknown, NO guarantee and risk…but some of these realities are worse than others…so do your diligence.

Lastly I’ll cover “The Casting Couch” because it is one of those touchy subjects that has a LOT of grey area. Please let me be clear…I’m not discussing ANY form of illegal activity as it relates to the human body. The Casting Couch isn’t about pedophilia or rape because those are FLAT OUT actionable crimes…and you need to report it if it happens to you or anyone you know. What WE tend to discuss in Hollywood or as actors, regarding the Casting Couch, is nothing more than LEVERAGE. For hundreds of years, men mostly, but sometimes even women in the modern era…use THEIR POSITION to essentially attempt to EXTORT sex or physical favors in exchange for supposed professional help.

This has happened to me in several ways over my career…so the question is, why are you falling for it? Don’t make Hollywood out to be any different than banking, advertising, politics, sports or any other profession where someone holds a position…that someone else wants to achieve or get to…it is normal. No, it doesn’t make it right, but getting “hit on” or “being propositioned” for a professional / sexual exchange is common. YOUR choice, decision, justification etc. is up to you…and it isn’t a SCAM. Is it wrong? Sure. Is it unethical and inappropriate? ABSOLUTELY. So what do you do? Walk away. It is…that simple. It is. It is have a negative affect initially or close a door…but over the long haul both for your personally PSYCHE as well as even with them…it will repair itself, because there becomes this weird form of respect formed in their head by the fact that you said “No.”

So while yes, there are SCAMS in this world and in Hollywood, the truth is most of them are not really what we define as a SCAM…like an online or phone sales company bilking senior citizens out of their life savings. Most of the time the things we call SCAMS are just business decisions or unethical choices we’re given…that we “accept and hope for the best” and call a SCAM…when we don’t get the result we want. Be smarter, be better and know that 99.9999999% of the time…you can see it coming, and you can avoid it.

Always on your side! @TheKevinE