In the old days, people who were after your hard earned cash had the nerve to stop you in the street, face to face, and tell you how great you, or your children look, offering fame and fortune if you join their agency. Nowadays, guarded by the digital veil, and able to delete comments and block anyone that dares to question their integrity, sale or swap sites on Facebook are bombarded by offers of “free photo shoots”, “I’m looking for children for a new project” or “child modelling competition” for instance……your alarm bells should ringing already!
Now let’s be real here for a second; Every mother believes their child is the most beautiful on the planet, and quite right too, but hearing it from an industry professional, photographer or casting director has a very special effect on parents that is both understandable and terrifying in equal doses.
Firstly, there’s the obvious risk of putting your child in harm’s way by offering them up to people that may not have their best interests at heart. Parents can sometimes be completely blinded by the possibility of paid work, fame and fortune, or simply the chance to show off at the school run. You might think it wouldn’t happen to you, but it does, and there are “agencies” operating in Tameside at this very moment, taking hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of pounds from loving parents who are being sold a complete lie.
So, let’s say you have taken the bait and reacted to a Facebook post. You’ve sent a photo of your beautiful baby boy or girl (again, really – over the internet?) and you have had a lovely message from a photographer asking you to book a slot for a “free photoshoot”. You get very excited and post all over the web how someone has seen something in your ‘little un’ and how they’re going for their very first “test shoot”. STOP RIGHT THERE. They already have you….
When you arrive at the studio, you will quickly see dozens of parents, all rammed in like cattle on a conveyer belt and given just 5 or 10 minutes to have some photos taken. You probably wouldn’t register this at this point because you are full of adrenaline and making sure your little poppet isn’t nervous and that they can make a good impression. Your brought into the studio and your boy or girl is encouraged to perform for the camera. which of course they do, amazingly………and this is when the scam starts to unfold;
Following your shoot you may be surprised just how impressed the photographer was with you “natural” child and how photogenic they are. You will be told that they definitely have “something special” and could really be successful if you were to have a portfolio done. And of course, if you were to sign up for a portfolio today, their own agency would love to take your child onto their books. They would become a represented artist!!…..who could resist? Right?
The hard reality is that these people are cruelly manipulating the love you have for your children and earning a fortune from it without ever planning to represent you as an artist/model in any way. Many of these “agencies” have thousands of children on the books but only work with one or two casting directors so the chance of actually getting any work is ZERO, especially when, as in the case of a certain Tameside agency that i wont name, whos own children and friends children are on the books and are the only children ever submitted for work. That’s thousands of parents, each paying £500 to £1000 each for a photoshoot hoping to join a reputable agency. You don’t have to look far online to find one local “photographer” in particular who was seen bragging whilst drunk about making £9000 in ONE WEEK selling portfolios to parents…
Here are some signs you might be dealing with a scam:
- You have to use a specific photographer – You don’t. Any agency worth its salt will allow you to use your own photographer, or even your own photos if they are a decent quality
- They regularly invite large numbers of people for “Free shoots” on social media – remember, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
- You have to pay a large joining fee – Modelling and talent agencies get work for experienced models and actors. Some agents require that you sign up exclusively with them, (sole agents) while others allow you to also register with other agencies in town (none sole) Either way, legitimate agencies don’t charge you a large up-front fee to serve as your agent. They get paid when you get paid. Some may charge a nominal admin fee but it shouldn’t break the bank.
- They guarantee you work – They can’t. They have no idea what a casting director will be looking for in any given job and to say they can definitely get you work is a complete lie.
- They only accept payment in cash or are reluctant to take card payments – credit card companies allow you to claim money back within a certain time frame so these con artists would always prefer to deal in cash
- They name drop – whether is massive films they’ve supplied actors and models for, TV programmes they’ve worked on or how large their company is with offices in London and beyond, you should always do your homework. Call all the numbers listed for their “offices” around the country. It’s likely that they are simply other photography studios allowing them to use their name to make their agency look bigger than it is.
Remember, if a company is advertising on their Facebook page that kids have been “penciled in for jobs”, or have been “chosen to audition”, this is usually a sign that they are being dishonest. Auditions mean nothing; thousands of kids may audition for the same job and only a small number of kids actually get chosen to work.. A “pencil” or “heavy pencil” simply means that the director has not immediately dismissed your audition. You could still be in a shortlist of hundreds.
THINK! DON’T RUSH INTO ANYTHING & DON’T PAY MONEY OUT THERE AND THEN – Take the time to check the company out before you give them any money or personal information. Check its reputation online. If their Facebook page doesn’t allow reviews, ask yourself why!!
Join group forums and discuss the agency/photographer and get reviews FIRST. Here is a great support group.