Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer on Friday announced the launch of a new campaign aimed at warning aspiring actors and entertainers of scams in which managers and agents seek upfront payments and other fees for representation.
Feuer also announced that charges had been filed against a talent manager, Debra Baum, for allegedly charging more than $100,000 to a 19-year-old aspiring singer, Reed Isaac, and her sister, Veronica, an aspiring actress, for management fees and other expenses like vocal training, stylists and recordings.
According to Feuer, Baum allegedly solicited the 19-year-old singer in a hair salon and she signed a $10,000 per month contract to handle her career. Her sister paid $40,000 in management fees as well.
An attorney for Baum did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Baum is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 5 and is charged with four counts of violating the Talent Scam Prevention Act, passed in 2010 and authored by then-Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, now a Los Angeles city councilman. It explicitly prohibits agents and managers from taking advance fees, and talent training and counseling firms from requiring customers to buy photo head shots or websites as a condition for using their service.
Feuer and Krekorian, along with other officials, including the Screen Actors Guild’s Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and the BizParentz Foundation co-founder Paula Dorn, appeared at a press conference to announce a crackdown on talent scams as well as a social media campaign to alert parents and aspiring performers to be aware of potential representatives who seek them out and demand fees with the promise of auditions or other enticements.
Krekorian even recalled that his wife was once approached at a mall by a person who offered to represent their two-year-old son.
“Legitimate representatives for talent do not use this business model,” he said.
Feuer said that they were “reinvigorating our effort” to enforce the law, after it had waned because of a lack of resources, and that they hope the new education campaign will boost awareness of aspiring entertainers to be more wary of such contracts and upfront payments. He said his office is coordinating with the Los Angeles County Office of Consumer Affairs and industry groups like SAG.
Dorn said that some of the cases are “tragic,” in that potential representatives will prey on parents for thousands of dollars. If the parents refuse, some reps have said, in front of the aspiring child performers, “Oh, you don’t believe in your kids?” Dorn said.
She also said that potential representatives will charge parents for their kids to participate in showcases, in places such at hotels near Walt Disney World, where they are promised an audience of agents from around the country.
But she said, the agents are paid to be there, and “the reality is it is absolutely nothing.”