children in front of Los Angeles City Hall

Krekorian Scam Prevention Act

Any respected industry publication will tell you that the first rule of showbiz is “never pay upfront fees for representation” and “never pay for an audition”.  These things are called Pay To Play, and they are considered talent scams.

California has a law specifically about this, called the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act (AB1319).  It was named for State Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, who is today a City Councilman for the City of Los Angeles. This law updated and significantly expanded the California Advance Fee Talent Service Law.  It does not only apply to children, but to all creative artists of any age including musicians and actors. The law went into effect on January 1, 2010. Text of the new law (click)

Scam Alert stampWhat is the Law About?

In short, any company that wants to charge you an upfront fee (for something like registration, modeling classes, or a talent competition), must post a $50,000 bond, have certain refund policies, and they must follow rules about things like their success stories, their “scouts” etc. They cannot promise you employment and they cannot “sell” you an audition for an agent, casting director, or a job.  Businesses also must have disclaimer language on their website.

Businesses may provide education, but they can’t cross the line of selling you an audition (aka a job interview).

In an effort to comply with the law, the Casting Society of America, the union for Casting Directors, has issued guidelines about what their members may and may not do. CDs are often used as “bait” for unscrupulous businesses, so the CSA has defined some behaviors that will ensure that CDs can still teach educational classes, while not contributing to illegal practices. Those guidelines (including that a CD may not retain actor headshots after a workshop) are listed on the CSA website here.  Even if you aren’t a CD, this list a good primer for what is considered OK in the industry, and what is not.

AB1319 defines businesses that offer talent services in 4 different ways, and each has specfic regulations:

  1. Advance Fee Talent Representation Service (ex. an agent or manager who charges up front) — PROHIBITED
  2. Talent Training Servcies (ex. acting schools, CD workshops, etc.) — Permitted, but must comply with regulations
  3. Talent Counseling Services (ex. those who charge to connect you with agents, advise you on how to get into the biz, etc) — Permitted, but must comply with regulations.
  4. Talent Listing Services (ex. online casting services, background actor services, etc) – Permitted but must comply with regulations.

Buyer Beware — do your homework!

Pro Tip:  Check the Dept of Labor (DLSE) list of businesses that have posted a Talent Service Bond. This is a hint that the business is aware of the Krekorian Act and has taken steps (getting a bond) to protect their customers. This is the list for 2020 which will download in Excel:  Fee Related Talent Service Bonds. If you are in California, you should check this list before you give any talent business your money!

I Don’t Get It: What is the Big Deal?

Anne Henry at SAG microphone This law is significant because it tells the world exactly how the legitimate entertainment industry really does business. This law is historic because all the major players — the studios, the labor unions, law enforcement, the agents and managers and yes, Bizparentz — agreed that they were no longer going to tolerate talent scams in our industry.  Despite what the traveling talent search company may tell you, Disney and the major movie studios do not do their casting for a fee.  You don’t have to pay anyone to be successful in Hollywood.  Even if you live out of state, and this law doesn’t technically apply, it does show the way business is done, and you should be suspicious if anyone tells you otherwise.

Here is a PDF that contains several Letters of support for AB 1319 including Disney, MPAA, and SAG. Of particular interest to families is the content on Disney’s letter.  They said,

“As a company focused on high quality family entertainment, we have been concerns about reports received from families who believe they were misled into signing contracts with an expectation of employment or an audition for one of our television shows.  This measure provides protection for minors and their families…”  Lisa Pitney, VP The Walt Disney Company 

The big picture is that those businesses that charge a fee in advance are not using an industry standard business model, and thus should be looked at with a critical eye. The law regulates the business relationship to increase the protection of the consumer. In California, many of these business’ could be illegal, due to lack of registration or by engaging in prohibited acts.

Still not sure why this is a big deal?  Maybe a little history would help.  Casting Director Billy Damota is the industry’s most vocal opponent of casting director workshops and he wrote an entire book about the subject called An Actor Grovels.  It is a must-read for those who believe actors should have the “right” to pay for opportunities.

Author Bonnie Gillespie chronicles her history with CD workshops and her understanding of the law here.

This law is not just about casting director workshops but the ideals are the same.  Do not pay to play.  It is a scam.

What do you do if you think you’ve been scammed? We encourage you to read up on this law and contact your local law enforcement or LA City Attorney’s office (since they are most knowlegable about this law) to determine your options. You may be able to get a refund of all the fees you paid to this business in addition to damages.

How Can My Business Be Compliant?

Historically, the business types that have struggled with compliance the most were casting director workshops (where an actor pays a fee and performs a scene for a casting director) and talent search / showcase companies. In 2018, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office prosecuted 19 casting directors and workshop owners after an undercover investigation that took more than 15 months. All were found guilty and fined or went out of business. If you are a business serving actors, don’t let this be your story!

Here are some tips to assist you in staying within the guidelines of the law:

Directed to potential talent services, here is a letter from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, explaining how to be compliant with the new law: AB1319 Notification Letter. 
CSA CD Workshop Guidelines, published by the CSA (Casting Society of America).

Special note to businesses: Additional criminal penalties for violating the law can include payment of 3x the amount paid for the service, the victim’s attorney costs, a $10,000 fine, and 6 months in jail. Lack of knowledge is NOT a defense and these violations are criminal, not civil. Agents, casting directors and managers should also seriously consider “aiding and abetting” laws that may apply here. Think twice before charging consumers up front fees or participating with businesses who do!