In her latest N.M. Film Focus column, industry insider Christa Valdez reports on scams vs. legitimate career expenses and emphasizes the value of investing in both self and community.
BY CHRISTA VALDEZ
Legitimate networking, training and investing opportunities and pay-to-play scams exist in the entertainment industry. It is vitally important to know the difference between them. This month’s inbox at OneHeadlightInk.com was bombarded by questions about what are — and are not — customary, justifiable charges and fees when seeking a career in the industry.
Acquiring training and the tools of your trade are necessary facets, and investing your time and skills in independent productions and social industry events are also very important. Training is an investment in yourself, and certified classes held at accredited institutions are usually a safe and valuable choice. It’s also entirely possible to fall into industry jobs by simply being at the right place at the right time.
Aspiring talent is perhaps most vulnerable to plunking down hard-earned cash for promises of achieving hopes and dreams. As the industry grows, so does the reach of local snake oil salesmen. Virtually anyone can prop up a sandwich board — or its virtual equivalent — and preach an acting lesson at you. These con artists often have flashy websites or fancy brick-and-mortar storefronts.
From corporations that have built franchises on scamming model and actor wannabes for decades to lackluster or uninformative classes, these scams literally bank on taking advantage of those with stars in their eyes. The short answer to whether you’re being “taken” is: If it seems too good to be true, it almost always is.
Avoid falling prey to scams by committing the following to memory: Never pay to work or to be considered for work. Upfront fees are a giant red flag. Use the resources that are in place to protect you and your money, such as your local Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and legitimate licensing or watchdog agencies.
Professional casting directors do not require fees or paid training of actors to consider them for roles. Likewise, talent agents don’t charge upfront fees from clients for representation. Background talent is paid by production companies, after said talent is cast by the casting directors hired by that production.
If you need a good photographer, videographer or web designer to submit yourself for roles or help with networking or marketing materials, do your research before hiring someone. Three magic words can confirm you’re working with a legitimate business: referrals, referrals, referrals.
If all you find are glowing reviews and success stories, you’re probably safe. If you can’t find any information, keep walking or scrolling. With anything in the middle, exercise caution, thrift and due diligence.
It’s also imperative to invest in our local film community to ensure its viability and continued growth. Accomplish that by volunteering at independent productions or interning at reputable, established film-related businesses. Industry mixers, events and festivals are phenomenal places to network.
Attending can translate to a literal seat at the table with influencers and others actively building careers. Film submission fees, film festival passes and event tickets are also a solid investment.
The New Mexico film industry is flooding the state with arts and entertainment opportunities. With no signs of slowing, it’s time to get ready. Keep your questions and information coming because communication and shared learning are key to maintaining a thriving work environment for everyone.
Featured photo: Film industry panelists at the inaugural T or C Film Festival (from left) included talent agent Tina Presley of Mitchell Presley Talent Group, author Christa Valdez, Nani Rivera of The Santa Fe Film Commission and actor Chris Browning.
Photo credit: Jason A. Sedillo