Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Washington State Actors: been ripped off?

From Kristin Alexander of the Washington State Attorney General's Office:

"If you have experienced "bait and switch" activity by Emerald City Model or any other business, please file a consumer complaint with the AttorneyGeneral's Office Consumer Protection Division.

"Complaints we receive help us identify areas that require enforcement.

"In addition, if you feel that you are owed a refund for products or servicesyou purchased, we may be able to help you.

"Our complaint analysts conduct informal mediation on behalf of consumers and businesses.

"File your consumer complaint or call 1-800-551 4636 to speak to a complaint analyst and/or request a complaint form by mail. Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer with the Washington State Attorney General's Office, can be reached at 206-464-6432 or email at: kalexander@atg.wa.gov."

Several actors have come to me from places that promised them jobs and instead only charged them for taking unprofessional headshots, or been told an agency would represent them only if a certain photographer took their headshots first at considerable expense, that an agency would represent them only if they took classes through their agency, that an agency would not pay them anywhere near the time they were promised they would be paid for work done, etc.

Actors have been afraid - or even told outright (I've read the threats) that if they complain, they will be blacklisted here and in every other market as well.

This is *not true.*

Asking for a fair hearing about any concern is literally normal at well established places like the WGA, SAG, etc. People have a right to ask questions and express concerns.

The best way to handle it, however, is to go to the person you feel has "ripped you off," that is, either charged for services not delivered, asked for more money than originally agreed to be paid, said they would give you one thing and then when you showed up switched what was promised and needs money to provide it or has not come through with any promises made before money changed hands.

If the person threatens you, says that's your tough luck or dismisses your concerns, that is when you want to file a complaint.

Until then it's best to see if the office will settle it with you first

If you have a problem regarding illegal or rule-breaking activity with a business - problems you know have been going on for years? It's best to let the complaint analysts know about it to see if there is a pattern of breaking rules or ripping off "clients" over the years that continues today.


1. an agency should not require you to have a specific person take your headshots
2. an agency can ask that you pay a reasonable fee to feature your photo on their website; major agencies charge very little for this service, usually only enough to cover their web costs, and some charge nothing
3. talent agents do not take headshots themselves. They can offer you a list of people they recommend, however
4. check out the cost for photographers taking headshots in this area: they range from $250-400 for a standard stitting; makeup and hair stylist is extra - normally $75-125.
5. schools, career counselors and coaches cannot guarantee you'll get work; that's up to you

The best thing to do is be smart and professional about approaching what you need for your work and career.

Check around, talk to people with whom you're interested in working; ask other actors whom they'd recommend.

This business is expensive enough without having to fork over your hard earned dollars for something that isn't legit.

BUT! Remember it's your responsibility to research and check out who's who and what's what as well.

Part of the problem is that there are so many people who are ignorant about the business - they've only read what the media say and therefore have no idea how it really works; worse, they haven't made an earnest effort to figure it out. And so many are hungry to (they believe) become actors that it can be pretty easy to rip them off.

Because there are few talent agents in the Northwest, know that, for the most part, they represent way more people than they can attend to individually on a regular basis.

You must take responsibility for getting work on your own - and it's easy to find lots of indie work in this area (and some paid!) without an agent.

I recommend you get a bit of a resume going before you approach an agent so you both will be excited about the potential partnership.

And be *sure* to research an agent you want to approach so you'll be prepared when you meet with him or her.

If an agent takes you on the recommendation of one of their actors, that's cool, but it means you need to figure out how to do what everyone else has - skills and performances - to make their way in when it comes to working your way up the food chain.

Cold reads, improv and developing character from sides are the major means of auditioning today for camera work; monologues are still necessary though!

Casting directors are after LOOKS as well as talent. You actually do not need an official headshot to submit to them, and all of them have an online presence you can find. If you're studying acting and haven't got an official headshot? Send in a photo or shapshot that best represents your *real* look and personality.

NO ONE professionally involved in the industry is interested in "glam" shots.

For work:

http://performerscallboard.com is a good place to start seeking work-register for their daily emails (it's free) that announce performers and crew sought in the NW.

http://tpsonline.org/auditions/database.shtml Theater Puget Sound also provides audition listing.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/theater/audition.shtml The Post-Intelligencer newspaper lists auditions

http://seattleactor.com Seattle Actor lists all sorts of information, including auditions

For training:

http://seattleactingschool.com has a complete listing of teachers and coaches in this area. I really respect these folks because even though they would prefer you to attend The Seattle Acting School, they list teachers and coaches in the NW whom you can contact to discuss what you want to learn and how you want to learn it.

Meanwhile, word of mouth (and actually getting work!) is the best advertisement for any agency, coach or career counselor.

Good luck - now get to work!


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