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TOMBUDSMAN: Don't Pay to Play, Reshoot Retread

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Dear Tombudsman:

I met a woman who said that she's a manager and that I should meet with her about representation. She said she had about seven girls. When I got to her office, I found out she had about 50 clients who she said she was submitting through the Breakdowns for $50 a month. I told her that was illegal, and she said she needed the money for all of her expenses-to send actors out and for limousines for parties, etc.

When I left her office nauseated, I thought that would be the end of my run-ins with bogus managers. Then I met yet another one. This one I met through my acting teacher, so I thought she'd be legitimate. She had me waiting in her hallway for two hours and when she finally brought me in, it was the exact same routine as the other one-but she needed $55 a month to submit actors and she claimed to be a publicist and a manager. That is so wrong. These scam artists are taking anyone whose money is green. I'm so exhausted from this.

S.W.

Los Angeles

Dear S.W.:

Take a deep breath and repeat after me: "Scumbag scam artists like those two have a special place in hell waiting for them." There, doesn't that feel better?

Look, S.W., we run letters all of the time about this very subject because thousands of actors are being ripped off in this fashion. Again, we repeat, this time in capital letters, NEVER PAY ANYONE TO REPRESENT YOU. Still, each month there is a whole new crop of aspiring thespians coming to town who aren't aware of this golden rule. You were smart enough to avoid these jerks, but we both know that there are a lot of desperate actors who fall for it over and over again. I don't care how sweet, how sincerely interested in you they seem to be, or what grand promises they make. If any talent representative asks you for an upfront fee, they are crooks and they are to be avoided.

The first scammer you write about sounds like a real idiot, and I can only imagine why she's piling actresses into limos for nights on the town. Perhaps she's in another business altogether. The second hag is hiding behind the publicist/manager cloak. Here's the deal: You do pay a publicist when you are getting lots of work. You don't pay the manager until you get work. She's doing both so that she doesn't get arrested for ripping off actors as a manager. How convenient it must be for her to say she's a publicist when the heat gets turned on.

Keep your antenna up, guys, because these cads can be stopped if you stop reaching for your wallets whenever someone throws you a line.

______________________________

Dear Tombudsman:

I am writing on a rather disappointing experience we had with a modeling assignment. On Mar. 8, 1999, we received a breakdown through the Photographer Express and one of our models, Yuka, was given the job at the rate of $250. To date, we have been given the run-around and no money has been forthcoming. Is there any help you can give? When we mentioned taking this thing to your paper, the producer of the event got very uncomfortable. Thank you for your time.

Lynne

Crawford Agency

Los Angeles

Dear Lynne:

The live modeling show you are referring to took place on Mar. 30 at the Club Soho in Downtown Los Angeles. Obviously, the model should have been paid for her work well before this time. The modeling industry is notoriously slow in paying non-star talent, but eight months late is something else entirely.

You supplied us with several phone numbers for the event's producer, a Mr. Lorence Philips, but every number we tried was either disconnected or the person answering had never heard of the man. We also contacted the Photographer Express, a Breakdown type of service which photographers and producers use to find models, but its records are not kept beyond a certain amount of time, so it couldn't help us contact the producer.

I'm hoping this column will get to Mr. Philips so that he might resolve this matter immediately. If there are any other models or people familiar with the event called Power 2000 International, please contact Tombudsman.

So, Lynne, for now anyway, all we can do is put this information out to our readers and hope someone can bring some help to the table. I hope we are able to get your client and your agency the money you are due-$275, which includes your commission fee.

______________________________

Dear Tombudsman:

I'm disturbed by P.C.'s letter in the Oct. 14 issue of Back Stage West regarding a photographer doing a bad job. I am 34 years a working actor and 29 years a headshot photographer. As you wrote, you should always look at a photographer's work before shooting. Ask yourself, Will I feel comfortable with this person shooting my face and soul? Do they sense and understand me? A 12-year-old can learn to work a Nikon, but that doesn't mean he has the empathy and sensitivity to see and capture a great headshot.

Years ago, when I first arrived in Los Angeles, I went to see a top photographer and he announced, "I don't re-shoot." I said goodbye and walked. Another time, I went to a shooter who often took full-page ads in the old Drama-Logue and asked him about reshoots. He replied, "If you go to Chasen's and don't like your dinner, you still have to pay for it, right?" So I never shot with him either.

Always ask upfront, "While I'm sure your photos will be technically perfect, will you reshoot if I'm having an off day and I'm not happy?" If they say no, walk.

Arthur Roberts

Marina Del Rey

Dear Arthur:

I agree with you, but the problem seems to lie in the ubiquitous phrase "technically perfect." Most shooters don't equate that with anything other than lighting, focus, etc. Nearly every legitimate photographer in Los Angeles and New York will gladly reshoot if they admit to a technical screw-up. From what I've witnessed, most will not adhere to your suggestion that they should reshoot if an actor is simply unhappy with the photos for reasons such as the right mood wasn't achieved or the expressions on your face weren't what you were hoping for.

An actor is lost without a good headshot, but the photographer still gets his check, so it's imperative that you search cautiously and only accept a sitting from someone whose work is tremendous and with whom you have a contract which you are clear about. I think reality dictates that in today's marketplace you'll be hard-pressed to find many shooters who will contractually promise a reshoot if you're unhappy for any non-technical issue, but that doesn't mean they won't bend their rules if you press them. Bottom line is photographers get work from referrals, so they need to have happy clients.

By the way, the photographer who fed you the Chasen's line was wrong, in my opinion. I wouldn't pay for a bad meal, but I'd certainly give the chef a chance to make me another entr e. Thanks for your focused insight, Arthur.

______________________________

Inquiries should be sent to:

TOMBUDSMAN

c/o Back Stage West

5055 Wilshire Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90036

When possible FAX to (323) 525-2354

Check out our website, www.backstagewest.com, where you can e-mail your questions directly to Tombudsman.

Name and phone number must be included.

Phone numbers will not be published.

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