December 19th, 2012 Agency websites: Website or web-trap.
Your first clue of whether or not a business that calls themselves a "modeling agency" or "talent agency" is going to be legitimate or a possible scam begins with their own website, current model roster and reputation around town. Chances are the first time you see a modeling agency is when you look them up online. How does their website look and feel?
THE SCAM AGENCIES WEBSITE OR FACEBOOK PAGE
Simply put, the scam agencies' website is designed to impress the general public. Their website is usually full of unverifiable testimonials of success, tons of promotion for themselves, overly-glamourous model photos, flashy graphics and the overall appearance (illusion) of their agency being very successful and in-demand. That's done on purpose. Their website is designed to lure in hopeful girls and their parents, not for getting their models booked. They want to hook you in by making up all this hype about themselves. They make it appear as if their models are being sought after by all the biggest names in the business, and that their agency is THE place to be. Now take a look at their model roster, what do you mostly see? Their roster reveals that their models are anything but in-demand.* The photos are cheesy, portrait studio-style photos that the agency sold to the model themselves at grossly over-inflated prices, or at best, test photos by amateur, weekend hobby photographers. Most of the models on their roster are obviously not working models. That's because they "sign" anyone who walks in their door with a checkbook.
*The scam agencies' SECRET WEAPONS: Now, lots of scam agencies have what I (sarcastically) call a 'secret weapon'- that is a model or two who might be semi-success stories. Yes, every scam agency knows that they have to display a couple of models who are at least semi-successful to put up front on their website for the purpose of creating the illusion of making successful models. But what you don't know is that the agency may have never had anything to do with that models' success story at all. That's right- sometimes young models find their own jobs, or are discovered by someone who actually does have the ability to put them in high places without any help from the scam agency. But because that young girl signed a contract with the scam agency at some point before she found success on her own, that agency now uses her success to lure others in thinking that they will get the same results if they sign up with the agency. Oh and the flood of lies they tell you about how they got that model the job. It's sad, but even the scam artists have their luck. They have someone they never did anything for, yet found their own way into some success, and the scam agency exploits it to the fullest. Often times these agencies will just all-out lie on their websites about what these models are doing in order to really get you in the door. But of course, what you'll never see are the hundreds of people who came through their door with the same hopes, and left months or years later in worse shape then when they arrived. Once I even read an article in a local newspaper about a new model's success story that was filled with completely false information about her contract's monetary worth and her overnight super-stardom in the industry (which of course turned out to be lies). No doubt this article was fabricated by the agency to dispense completely false information to the public for the purpose of getting more girls and their parents with the checkbooks into the agency. Think this is ruthless? This isn't even the tip of the iceberg of how immoral and driven by greed these so called agencies can be.
THE PROFESSIONAL AGENCIES WEBSITE OR FACEBOOK PAGE
Simply put, the legitimate, professional agencies' websites are designed to showcase their models to large companies, fashion designers, magazines and to be seen by professionals in the industry. Their sites are usually very simple, subdued, professional and clean, without much- if any at all- frivolous and excessive promotion for themselves. They have pages that show their model roster, and many have a page about how to be discovered with all the info you need and what to send them. That's right- you don't need a small town agency to get you to the large ones, you can follow their instructions and submit yourself. You can also walk in and visit them during open calls. Now take a look at the agencies' model roster. The pro agency has very professional photos of their models which may feature magazines they've been in, ad campaigns they've shot, or for the newer girls (called "New Faces" or "Development Board") just generally striking photos usually shot by professional or semi-professional fashion photographers. The photos are scrutinized to represent the model in the best way they see fit. There are no cheesy photos taken by weekend amateur photographers (normally). There also aren't any 'secret weapons' on the front of their website. All their models are listed in alphabetical order by name. Most all of their models are working continuously, and most of their photos are from the jobs they've done. These are called "tear sheets" (pronounced tare-sheets). That's a sign of a working model who has a real, hard-working agent behind her or him. The professional agencies' website is not based in hype, it's based in real results.
You should always inquire in as many ways as possible as to whether a small local agency is someone you can trust. Ask around town. Talk to their current and more importantly, their former talent. Is the talent agency listed with the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Franchised Talent Agencies? Here is the list for the New Mexico talent agencies that are SAG/AFTRA recommended. If an agency claims to book their talent in major movies and television but isn't on that list, you might dig deeper to find out why. SAG/AFTRA does not recommend talent agencies that have been known to pull scams. Don't ask a talent agency themselves why they aren't listed as a reputable establishment, they might already have a lie fabricated for that question. Use good judgement. Remember, scam agencies make their living by being expert liars. Always have your built-in "lie-detector" on when speaking to a talent agency. If it sounds like they are trying to sell you something, well, there ya go.
Tomorrow we'll explore visiting an agency and the biggest, most obvious clues that you are either in a place that can really bring success closer to you, or if you're entering a Black Widow's web.