Are Casting Hub & Its Cousins Fooling Would-Be Child Stars?


Ghede Origins film on set photo

This set photo shows three young actors (including my 12-year-old grandson, sitting on the floor in this photo) cast in lead roles in a horror movie called Ghede Origins currently filming in Dallas. As with most of the films he works on, the casting notice was distributed to agents and acting coaches in the area, and he was invited to audition after submitting a head shot and resume. No one paid a fee to audition, and no one paid a fee to a marketing company to get them “exposure”, or help them find audition opportunities. All three young actors take classes with at Nancy Chartier Film Acting School, and all three are experienced, trained performers who did lots of work as extras and played lots of “bit parts” before being cast in leading roles.

My blog normally gets about 300 visitors per day. But one post on scammers who prey on children’s dreams, published in March, 2013, has had more than 100,000 readers. It’s not the only post on on the subject of helping a child smitten with the acting bug, but it has one thing that no other post here has: a particular company (Casting Hub) was mentioned in the post and included in the meta tags the search engines use to index and find articles about a particular subject.

When I was doing my year-end review of what has worked (and not worked) in attracting visitors to the blog, I got to thinking about just why this one post stands out so far above most of the other things I write. And that got me to thinking about all the people I’ve talked to this year about Casting Hub and its cousins.

A lot of people who read the article have sent me email or tweets or Facebook messages asking me if they should do business with Casting Hub, or how to handle a specific problem or question related to an audition they attended. Every one asks some variation of this question: Is it a scam?

Casting Hub is a “social casting search” company according to its website. The home page features celebrity testimonials from young actors and actresses that kids recognize from Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. I’ve never attended a Casting Hub event. But if (like me) you have a child who is a working child actor, you certainly hear a lot about this company and several other similar companies that host “talent search” and “talent marketing” events around the country.

One I’ve been hearing about a lot lately is called Actors, Models, and Talent for Christ (AMTC). Here’s what their website says about them: “Actors Models & Talent for Christ is a non-profit ministry dedicated to making good bolder in film, fashion, music and theater. We prepare and educate aspiring talent called by God to GO into the mission field of entertainment, where they can make a difference. You too can make a difference when you GIVE to our mission and together we bring GLORY to God.” (Grammar errors theirs; this is a direct copy & paste from AMTC’s home page.) AMTC has a large billboard near the arts magnet school my 12-year-old hopes to attend next year, and another one near Dallas Children’s Theater.

Here’s what the mother of one of my grandson’s acting-class buddies says about them, “I was shocked. I never thought anyone would bill themselves as a Christian non-profit and then do what they did. I feel like an idiot for paying them all that money for services we didn’t need. Every time I turned around, there was another fee, another cost. And all of it was unnecessary.”

Again, I’ve never attended an ATMC event.  That isn’t true of Matt Wild, author of this article about the company, which points out that before it was a Christian non-profit, the same people operated the same organization with the same classes and fees, under a different name and business model.

Besides Casting Hub and AMTC, I’ve known parents who have come to regret fees they’ve paid to several other companies, including:

Do your homework, and check out any business you’re considering paying to help your child become a working actor or model.  If you’re the parent of a child who is new to acting, and you’re considering doing business with any company in the film industry, use your favorite search engine to look for terms such as COMPANYNAME scam, COMPANYNAME problem, COMPANYNAME complaint, and more general terms like acting scams, avoiding acting scams, warnings for parents of child actors, and related terms. If you do this, and you want to do business with any company, I wish you and your child the very best of success!

The Hobbit Casting Call

Police in New Zealand shut down an open casting call for The Hobbit on January 28, 2012 when more than 3,000 people clogged the area around the site. (3,000 people may not sound like much, but in a town of 200,000 in a country with a population of less than 4 million, it’s a significant turn-out.) Truly open casting calls are exceedingly rare. When they are held, paid ads are seldom needed — social media sites, news programs, and the Internet spread the word fast and free, with predictable results. So when you see an ad for a traveling casting call held in an auditorium or convention center in your city, but no specific film shooting near you is mentioned, ask yourself what the organizers are selling you.

How to Spot a Misleading “Casting Call”

Here’s part of what the wonderful BizParentz Foundation website says about how to spot a scam — read their whole page on spotting scams. “In Hollywood, scams committed against children and their families are very common as they prey on our love and pride for our children. That is one consistent across all scams – they all say everything a parent would ever want to hear about how great, talented, beautiful, and a star in the making their child is.

“That is closely followed by playing on the guilt for a parent who might not be allowing their child to follow their dreams. Many of them explain their lack of ability to provide what was implied by their advertising and sales pitch, but pointing out that the experience was fun and unique for the child (and family), a great memory.”

Note: If your child is just getting started in the industry, please take time to read the collection of Getting Started articles on the BizParentz website. They will save you hours of time, and much grief. BizParentz is a non-profit organization funded by the parents of working child actors, adults who were once working child actors, and reputable industry organizations.

First, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Real “casting calls” aren’t advertised on radio, TV, or billboards. In fact, they aren’t advertised at all. When someone pays to advertise something to you, they are selling you something. There aren’t any shortcuts to Hollywood. The vast majority of working child actors got there after years of classes, local productions, and hard work.

Second, if it’s targeted to kids, it’s probably a scam. Despite what you see on some of the TV shows where parents are inarticulate buffoons consistently out-flanked by their “kids with attitudes”, in the real world children don’t make business decisions.  Not even in Hollywood.

Acting is a business. A legitimate talent agent, casting director, or studio representative may have your child audition by himself or herself (with you just outside the door after you’ve met everyone who will be in the room with your child, and know exactly what the audition entails), but they don’t talk business with children for the very simple reason that a child actor can’t give the required legal consent or sign the required contracts.

Third, if the opportunity is vague and open to huge numbers of people, pay very close attention to the words you see. A real casting call is very, very specific. It gives the name of the film or TV show, the name of the casting director, the date and time of the audition, and very clear instructions about who can audition. Here’s what a real casting call or audition opportunity looks like for a child actor.

Last, but not least, if there is a fee associated with the “opportunity”, it’s not real. I can’t say this often enough or loud enough, actors get paid to act. Casting directors are paid by the film companies asking them to find talent. Agents get paid (only) when the actor books work and the film company pays the actor. Actors don’t pay for auditions. Actors don’t pay to sign with an agent. Actors don’t pay fees to casting directors.

Why Isn’t Anybody Doing Anything?

Kameron Badgers on set Ghede Origins

When my child is auditioning, I see the script in advance, but I am not in the room during the audition. When he’s on set, I am, too. One common complaint parents have about companies that prey on children’s dreams is that they often separate kids and parents, and ask kids leading questions about whether their parents support their dreams and believe in their talent — questions designed to set up potential conflicts if parents balk at paying their fees. Legitimate companies talk business with adults. They don’t market services to children. Pay attention, and don’t let “them” market anything to your children. If there is a sales pitch, it should be addressed ONLY to the child’s parents.

The answer is that lots of people are doing things to put a stop to the most unethical practices out there. In 2010, California’s Krekorian Scam Prevention law took effect. It prescribes penalties for fake casting sites, and criminalized a host of unethical practices. Sites like RipoffReport.com give parents a place to vent about problems with sites that market to children, and trade publications like Backstage, Variety, and the Hollywood Reporter cover the ongoing legal challenges and court cases filed as new scams are reported to authorities.

The BizParentz Foundation website explains what is — and isn’t legal in California. Any parent considering a trip to California with a child should take time to explore the site before booking the airfare. BizParentz operates a page dedicated to scams, which you’ll find at this link.

What may look like a scam to a parent whose child is crying because they thought that the moon was within their grasp but wound up with moldy cheese is probably legal even under California’s restrictive rules. The businessmen behind these companies have good lawyers, and they’re very, very careful about what they say, what goes in writing, and how they phrase their pitch for services.

Lots of legitimate businesses charge fees for attending an event, participating in a training program, or marketing your product. But when the product is your child’s acting ability and the target audience is talent agents and casting directors, a healthy dose of skepticism can save you and your child a world of tears and a costly lesson in the economics of the business.

The problem is the wide gap between what the companies are actually selling and what families think they’re buying. I first mentioned Casting Hub on this blog after a neighbor paid $3,995 to the company for what she believed was an opportunity to audition for Disney. After I published the letter she had received from Casting Hub with my comments and questions about it, she called the “talent coordinator” working with her child.

At first, the talent coordinator’s response was something along the lines of “haters gonna hate but great parents like you support their children’s dreams.” When my neighbor asked just when the promised Disney audition she’d paid for would happen, the coordinator quickly corrected her. “We never promised you a Disney audition. We are not a talent agency.”

Then the agent recited the exact language found in small print at the bottom of the Casting Hub home page. “Casting Hub is a social casting search company, not an employment agency, school, performing arts academy, management company or a talent agency. Casting Hub does not train, procure, offer, promise, or attempt to procure employment or engagements for artists. Casting Hub only provides Internet exposure, networking resources and tools for you to match your talent with available listings of auditions and casting calls.  Review our terms of service for more information.” In plain English, it says you are paying for web hosting for photos and information about your child. Is it just me, or does $3,995 seem awfully high for something I can get free on other sites?

When my neighbor asked for a refund, the coordinator cited the “no refunds” clause in her contract. When she threatened to sue, the coordinator cited the arbitration clause in the contract that limits customer’s right to sue or participate in a class-action lawsuit (if any such lawsuit happened — I know of no such litigation) in favor of an arbitrator selected by Casting Hub. (The American Association for Justice says that when contracts include a forced arbitration clause, the business wins 83.6% of the time.)

What my neighbor found is that Casting Hub is providing a legal service, and appears to be doing exactly what its contract says it will do — providing Internet marketing for the children whose parents pay for specific services. Unfortunately, that isn’t what she thought she was buying when she signed up.

Personally, I wouldn’t pay a dime for something I can (and did) get free. To read about how my child got his agent, check out some of the other articles I’ve written on this subject on this blog, including the original one. The articles include everything from links to reputable talent agencies to a table showing exactly what we’ve spent so far on our child’s career, to links to information about taxes, work permits, and the rules pertaining to child actors.

So are Casting Hub and its cousins fooling would-be child stars and their parents? Maybe.  But they won’t fool you and your child if you listen carefully, and do your homework. Listen to what is actually promised — not implied — do your homework, and read the fine print before you sign a contract or write the first check and you’ll be fine.

Photo credit: The photo of The Hobbit casting call was offered under a Creative Commons License on Flickr. The photographer reserves all other rights. The photo of three actors on the set of Ghede Origins is ©2013 by Oksana Cobb and VMC Pictures. The photograph of 12-year-old actor Kameron Badgers is ©2013 by Deb McAlister-Holland. Both photos are used with permission, and all rights to them are reserved by the copyright holder.

About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life. It's also the place where I publish general articles on topics that interest me -- including commentary about the acting and film communities, since I have both a son and grandson who are performers.
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14 Responses to Are Casting Hub & Its Cousins Fooling Would-Be Child Stars?

  1. Pingback: Parents of Child Actors Beware: Is There a New Talent Scammer in Town? Maybe! | Marketing Where Technology Intersects Life

  2. Paula Dorn says:

    Thanks for your work Deb!
    Paula Dorn
    (BizParentz)

    • debmcalister says:

      Hi, Paula —

      I’m in awe of the fantastic work that BizParentz does, and as excited as a fangirl that you took the time to drop by and comment on my blog. Thanks so much!

      BizParentz remains my “go to” site for information on the business of helping a child actor navigate the many challenges posed by the industry.

      Regards, Deb

  3. Georg says:

    my brother is an exchange student from Germany in the USA and went to a Cast Hub audition yesterday. They asked him to come back today, but I have read positive as well as negative reviews. Is this a legitimate company? There is so much information and it is difficult to figure out.

    • debmcalister says:

      Hi, Georg —

      If by “legitimate” you mean “legal”, then yes, Cast Hub provides a legal service. But the question of whether or not it is a service that an exchange student from Germany needs is a different one.

      To work as an actor in the U.S., a citizen of another country needs an O1B visa. To get such a visa, you require a contract from a potential employer, or to be accepted by a recognized talent agent. And many agents won’t take someone without a work visa.

      So it would seem to me that the first question your brother should ask is whether or not he has the legal right to work int he U.S., and once it has been determined that he does have that right, what the best way to go about getting work might be.

      I do not personally see how an Internet marketing company that published profiles and lists of casting calls can help but that would be his decision if he is an adult, and your parent’s choice is he is a minor (under age 18). I would suggest that you first explore free or very low cost alternatives like Actor’s Access, Now Casting, Casting Frontier, Backstage or any of the others where casting calls are posted and actors can publish their credentials and headshots at no cost.

      However, be very careful about signing a contract with Cast Hub or any other company that offers employment services until you are sure that your brother has the right to work in the U.S. There are penalties for working illegally that could block him from a visa or even flying through the U.S. for years to come, so get good advice from your own consulate or the U.S. State Department before proceeding.

      I’d hate for you to pay thousands of dollars to a marketing company and then find out that you don’t have the legal right to work here.

      Best of luck — Deb

  4. Sheree says:

    It’s really a nice and useful piece of information.
    I am glad that you shared this.

    It’s important for parents to stay informed like this.

  5. Ted Kruzinsky says:

    We just experienced the same pitch from Casthub which is just another incarnation of the same type of business and probably of the same business Casting Hub. We went to the first “meeting” or audition yesterday and last night the sales pitch came for the Follow up visit today with a requirement for almost $8,000. I really feel terrible that there may be people today actually trying to come up with that money and falling for this complete SCAM. If you listen very carefully when the service is described it is nothing more than a website to store your childs profile and pictures which “YOU” can choose to forward (email)to an agent who will take his normal percentage of any work your child receives. The other thing your readers should keep in mind is that scammers have ways of keeping a low profile on the internet such as changing Domain Names (Casting Hub to casthub.tv) and that US corporate LAW is meant the individuals running companies through various legal structures so umbrella LLC’s etc. make it very hard for people to come home and just Google the company that is claiming to be able to help them. Several people said it best that you dont pay several thousand dollars for the Right to be able to be seen by a talent agent. You work directly with a talent agent who is incented via commision to provide you with work and therefore work with people who are most likely to obtain work.

    • debmcalister says:

      Hi, Ted —

      Thanks for the reminder that it’s easy for a company to “disappear” when public buzz about its practices starts to make it hard for them to sell their iffy products or services — all it takes to make the bad reviews go away is a name change, and they’re back in business as soon as the domain change is done.

      Wishing you and yours the best of luck in the business! Regards, Deb

    • Maketa Colbert says:

      Wish I would’ve have done my research further on this issue because I’m one of the “stupid” parents who paid that exorbitant amount of money for nothing. What a terrible lesson I’ve learned. And normally I’m very skeptical of things but somehow I allowed this company to get me.
      And to make matters worse, I sent them my cancellation but was told since I signed up for the sponsorship scholarship, I forfeited my right to cancel. Such BS.

      • debmcalister says:

        I doubt that you are stupid. It’s very hard for most of us to spot the flaws in a sales pitch, especially when our kids are involved.

        Luckily, aside from damage to your pocketbook and a lesson you may wish your kids hadn’t had to learn so young, there is no long term damage to your child’s career. Lots of parents who made the mistake of buying the false promise of a shortcut went on to find success whe. They retraced some steps and did things in the right order. I hope that your child’s dreams do come true, and that your family’s financial hardship isn’t too heavy.

        Best regards, Deb

  6. Nellie says:

    Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?

    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get
    there! Appreciate it

    • debmcalister says:

      Hi, Nellie —

      It’s easy to get onto Yahoo News and hundreds of other websites. Use a good press release distribution service to distribute a link to your new blog posts as you publish them. I use MyPRGenie’s (http://www.myprgenie.com) web distribution service. It costs just $39.95 to distribute a press release that links to your blog, and it has helped to boost my traffic substantially.

      Regards, Deb

      FTC Disclosure: I am a shareholder in MyPRGenie, and provide PR and content marketing services to the company.

  7. Cynthia Amisial says:

    On 01/25/14 over at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Boston for an audition for my kids they said that it is illegal to collect any money from any client. After I got text to come back the next day at the same location now they all the sudden ask for my credit card without my knowledge they authorize my credit card and I really was under the impression that they would not be charging my account. And came to found out it is a scam.

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