Agents, Managers, & Casting v. Shopping Mall Scammers | Answers for Actors

I must be screaming in the wind. Or there are many willful deaf actors bumbling through their bank accounts seeding dead presidents to persons and ‘companies’ that are nothing more than hogs feasting on the hopes of the actor aspirants.

Paul Russell
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I must be screaming and flailing into the wind. Or there are many willfully-deaf and blind actors bumbling through their bank accounts seeding dead presidents to persons and ‘companies’ that are nothing more than hogs feasting on the hopes of the actor aspirants.

Too, too often I receive e-mails from past students who write that they received an invitation for representation but only if that actor takes classes with said ‘agency.’ And often I encounter ‘actors’ who boast they received their representation, ‘acting learnin,’ and headshots all in a one-stop shop via a mall kiosk in Paramus, NJ….

I authored numerous chapters on the subject of agents, managers, and casting in ACTING: Make It Your Business. Not wanting to irk my fingers, grey cells or the readers with redundancy pulled from that Random House title; a brief, new, reminder.

It’s time to scream once more into the gales about this.

What’s ‘this?’

Who is a talent agent? What is a talent manager? What is casting? Who and what are individuals who claim to be agents, managers and/or casting from which you should run your artisan ass away?


Casting offices represent producers. Casting does not represent talent. Every day I get e-mails from actors that read similar to: ‘I wants be reppd by you as new talunt.” (Another dose of anesthesia to the Paul Russell table please.)

Legitimate casting offices do not charge actors to audition for projects. Casting offices can and may hold classes which broaden an actor’s skill and/or perspective but those classes are never to be deemed as auditions for casting. (It’s the short-sighted actor that thinks differently and often overlooks the long-term goals gained via a casting office’s classes.)

There is no governing union for casting. So to those actors who think that sending-off a virulent missive to the Casting Society of America (C.S.A.) about how a casting director who only gave you three minutes instead of four for your cow-costumed audition… you’re wasting your time.

Casting directors don’t hire the chosen actors. Casting directors assemble the talent for our clients to cast from. Reason why I often say, “I’m glorified human resources.”

Talent Agents:

For a person to hold the title of ‘agent’ who represents an actor the agent must be:

Franchised by the unions (Screen Actors Guild, Actors’ Equity Association, and AFTRA). Once franchised the agent can then represent both union and non-union talent. If an ‘agent’ is not franchised; they’re not an agent they’re a manager or shopping mall scam. (Go to Auntie Annes for a pretzel. You’ll be much happier.)

In New York, LA and other major U.S. cities agents are required by some of the unions to have a union-approved office (meaning a SAG representative visits and gives the agent’s work space a ‘yea’ or ‘nay’) that has a waiting area for the actors and access to clean toilet facilities. If an ‘agent’ has neither an office nor toilet for the actor, or office space has not been approved by SAG; they are not an agent they’re a manager or shopping mall kiosk scam. (Visit The Piercing Pagoda for a new hole; you’ll feel not as incomplete.)

Franchised agents cannot offer classes directly to their clients as an agreement term for representation. If an ‘agent’ demands such; they’re allegedly a willful modeling ‘agency’ of Philadelphia, a manager, or a shopping mall kiosk scam. (Shuffle to the Apple store and further debt yourself by grabbing the newest I-Phone; you’ll feel superior over your CrackBerry devotees.)

Agents can only collect 10% of your salary on individual projects that are deemed commission-able by the unions. If an ‘agent’ asks you for 20% of your earnings from either performance and/or civilian wages they’re allegedly a Mary Contrary ‘agency’ of Philadelphia, a manager or a shopping mall kiosk scam. (Stroll to Nordstrom; another Jimmie or Madden pairing will keep the two dozen others in your crammed closet from feeling neglected.)

Agents can not require or request of their clients fees for:

  • Office supplies
  • Web-site inclusion
  • Yearly/Monthly membership

Agents can recommend preference of photographers but they can not insist an actor-client have headshots taken by a particular photographer. Nor can an ‘agent’ insist your headshots, which you pay for, be taken by his assistant (who happens to be a headshot photographer… isn’t that just special). Allegedly this questionable practice has been festering for far too many decades at a NY talent rep’s office named for a King.

Talent Managers:

Can do whatever they want and take whatever they will of which you sign-over in your contract with the manager. (This is where your grammar school English teacher test-trick of ‘read-the-entire-test-before-starting-to-discover-that-you-needn’t-take-the-exam-because-the-last-test-question-tells-you-not-to-take-the-test’ comes into adult play.) Read before engaging damn it.

Shopping Mall ‘You Can Be A Star’ Kiosks & Strip Center Trollers:

Pull aside parents who have children trailing and proclaim, “Your little Susie or Johnny is adorable. He/she should be on TV. I have connections to make that happen.” Some of these operators have kiosks. Others just roam the walkways or troll the cement before a Toys R Us and/or Wegmans. Some areas of the country are crawling with these cockroaches: Long Island, New Jersey, SoCal, and Florida. Anywhere there are gulable persons with gratuitous disposable income.

The operators deplete the savings of parents and/or the ‘actors’ with offering headshots no better than a Hicksville High, U.S.A. senior portrait. Also often included as a ‘representation’ requirement are acting classes taken with a teacher who may believe taffeta is appropriate audition wear for the role of a lawyer defending a homicidal ballerina.

Why do some ‘actors’ get taken in by the scammer-employed, bored looking teenage girls or middle-aged women with finger-on-chalk-board accents who flatly shout out to passersby: “You a movie star?! You a model, right?’ Because idiot is as idiot does. The people who fall for the scams are the types that would also go to the Garden State Plaza in Paramus seeking a personal injury lawyer from Johnny Rockets.

I’ve encountered stage parents bilked thousands of dollars for upfront fees for ‘representation’ and/or ‘consultation’ from cockroach shopping mall talent managers. And each time the parent says to me, “I just thought this is how the industry works. You pay $500 to be represented and submitted to casting…”

Why do so many abuses of actors exist? Because industrious interlopers of our trade know that there is a large percentage of ‘artistes’ who believe cash, instead of long term labor, can bring instant rewards. Ain’t gonna happen folks. Just ain’t. And there’s far too much ignorance among the victims who get taken by the scams.

If you believe differently; do me a favor. Stop reading this but not until you visit PayPal and transfer a thousand dollars into my coffers. My repeated advisories here, in ACTING: Make It Your Business and in person don’t seem to be enlightening the delusional. Maybe a significant loss from their savings with nothing provided in return might raise a modicum of awareness as to what and who is legitimate versus the fraudulent.

I would hope this the last of this type of advisory found here at Answers for Actors. We’ve all had enough of ‘actors’ thinking they can find fame via unscrupulous individuals who demand monies in exchange for false promises. Enough. Finis. No mas. Kaputt. ¿Comprende?

(Was that a pulmonary surgeon yesterday offering same-day procedures at his kiosk in the Willowbrook Mall? Hmmmm.)

My best,

 Get MORE of Casting Director Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book for Actors – ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes & Achieve Success as a Working Actor

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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Elon and Wright State University. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit

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