“Casting Tips”: How to Avoid Paying for the Opportunity to Audition

City records show Chicago hosted 406 film and television projects in 2012 and 486 projects in 2013

Entertainment industry professionals will tell you it’s a good time to be an actor in Chicago. But less-experienced actors looking to make it big in Chicago should not be fooled by paying for a chance to get in front of a camera.

City records show Chicago hosted 406 film and television projects in 2012 and 486 projects in 2013. Numbers for 2014 are expected to be released in January and so far it’s shaping up to be another good year, according to a city spokesperson.

But some professionals said more work opportunities could lead to bad deals and other sticky situations with businesses that may not play by traditional rules.

“Anyone who wants money up front for their in-house head shot person or they say you have to take their classes, run, don’t walk,” said local casting director Claire Simon.

Simon is casting some of the hottest productions filming in Chicago, including “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD”. Her company also cast the recent hit motion picture “Divergent”.

Simon also urges actors not to pay up-front for audition opportunities. While it is not illegal, industry pros call it “unprofessional”.

“It’s not the way business is done,” Simon said.

Local actor Scott Alan said he helps support his family by taking roles in locally-produced television shows, films and commercials. But he said a recent commercial audition opportunity he found online proved too good to be true.

“It was a number of commercials plus a music video and it just didn’t seem legit,” Alan said.

Alan said the audition organizers conducted a phone interview and later made it sound like he landed an all-expenses paid role with a nice pay day. However, he said he saw a red flag when the organizers asked for his debit card information.

“The bottom line is never, ever pay a dime,” Alan said.

The name Cast-Resource is listed on the congratulatory email sent to Alan. NBC 5 Investigates called the listed phone number on the email and was told by the person who answered to email the manager. NBC 5 Investigates emailed that individual but did not receive a reply.

And in today’s audition world, it’s not just a money concern. Some actors raise safety concerns.

NBC 5 Investigates spoke to an actor who claims to have landed a speaking role in a movie after an unorganized audition process. The actor, who requested to remain anonymous, said she was later told to rehearse alone with a so-called producer.

“It was a scary situation. I felt like he was trying to take advantage of me,” the actor said.

Industry pros urge actors to avoid websites that charge you to find auditions. They said it’s best to shop around for head shots and consider an agent for leads on auditions.

“The only time a reputable agent is going to make money from you is when you make money,” Simon said.

A local acting teacher also urges actors to research acting schools and teachers.

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