New legislation targets talent agent scams

The Screen Actors Guild is heralding new state legislation aimed at protecting kid actors from scams, such as payment of advance fees for getting jobs and representation.

“The promise of acting jobs is no longer for sale,” declared SAG president Ken Howard at a news conference Wednesday at the guild’s Hollywood headquarters.

Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Burbank) said at the event that he had authored Assembly Bill 1319, signed last week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in response to prosecutors’ frustration over the lack of legislative teeth available to deal with con artists exploiting families who want their children to break into showbiz.

“Complaints from consumers about acting and modeling scams have doubled every year since 2006,” Krekorian said. “These scams financially and psychologically hurt Californians because state law was inadequate to properly deal with disreputable talent scouts.”

Gary Almond, VP of the Better Business Bureau of Los Angeles, said his agency has received 550 complaints this year about shady talent operations. SAG sponsored the legislation and worked with the bureau, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, the Assn. of Talent Agencies, AFTRA, the WGA and the BizParentz org.

The law specifically prohibits talent services from engaging in the business of talent representation and from charging money upfront for the promise of securing jobs. It also requires such services to post a $50,000 bond with the state and calls for use of unambiguous language in contracts with aspiring performers.

Deputy Los Angeles City Attorney Mark Lambert noted that since the bill became law, the Flashcast scouting agency — the subject of numerous complaints — has already shifted operations from California to Las Vegas.

“Talent scams have been a growth industry for decades in California,” Lambert said. “Thanks to AB 1319, prosecutors around the state can finally tell talent scam victims there is a law that will protect them and send a message to talent scammers they will have to hold their next auditions in jail.”

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