Looks as if Dallas is home to a new branch of an old company that targets would-be models and actors with costly (and unneeded) services while masquerading as a way to “break in” to the industry.
Like many other bogus casting sites or “talent scouts” this one is targeting kids and parents interested in acting or modelling — I suspect they are trolling the net, looking for kids who have mentioned acting. And, like Casting Hub, this company is marketing itself as a way for beginning actors and models to “get noticed”, and doing it in a way that I personally find offensive.
Casting Hub runs ads on radio & TV programs targeted to kids and teens, and the latest company — Nine9, The Unagency (Formerly One Source Talent) — appears to be scraping email addresses from websites and fake casting notices posted on legitimate breakdown (casting) sites, and targeting child actors. This email arrived in my grandson’s email box today. It is reproduced here EXACTLY as it was received by my soon-to-be 14-year-old.
From: Stacey Edwards
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 9:57 AM
To: Kameron Badgers
Subject: Re: Follow Up
We have received the application you submitted and we’re interested in moving onto the next step.
I wasn’t able to reach you to speak to you further about scheduling a time for you to come into our Dallas office for an evaluation and we have limited slots available this week.
I do have appointments with Lani, the Director, available this Thursday at 7:00p or Saturday at 1:00p
The initial appointment is an opportunity for us to get to know you, for you to know us, take some photos and measurements and decide if you’re a fit for our company. Please note that other talent will be present during this process.
Please email me back ASAP with the best appointment time. We look forward to meeting with you!
What’s Wrong with this Picture?
First, the message was sent to a 14-year-old. 14-year-olds can’t sign contracts, and they can’t legally submit applications to talent agencies. So that’s the first clue that this company isn’t exactly ethical. Legitimate talent agencies work with a child actor or model’s legal guardian or parent, and so do legitimate casting directors. Any company that tries to market acting and modelling classes or “marketing services” to kids is suspect in my book.
Second, my grandson didn’t submit any kind of application to this company — not unless they posted a fake casting notice on one of the legitimate online casting sites (which is possible, I suppose). Third, he’s most certainly not in the market for a talent agency — why would he need a service like Nine9 or its predecessor One Source when he’s represented by the best agency in Texas, the amazing LMTalent?
Last, but hardly least, navigating to this spammer’s website takes you to a home page that doesn’t exactly tell you what they do. A screen shot of the page used to appear here, but in what seems to be an attempt to get me to remove critical comments about its business practices, the company sent a DMCA takedown notice alleging copyright infringement over two years after the post was originally published. So, in April 2017, all images were removed although my lawyer and I believe that using them was clearly within the “fair use” provisions of the copyright law, which allows the use of screen shots in criticism and reporting.
The old One Source Talent site focused solely on child actors & models, with lots of pretty pictures of good-looking kids, a vague promise to help people become models or actors, and links to lots of “success stories”. Notice there’s not a word about what the company does, and nothing about how much it costs.
The newer Nine9, The Unagency, site has a few more photos of adults, but it’s basically the same site, just rebranded. Go a bit further in the website (to the “About Us” page), and you’ll find that the company maintains a searchable database of talent. In plain English, it means the company charges would-be actors and models fees to post their pictures and resumes online. It is NOT a talent agency or modelling agency. Hiring them won’t get anyone a job, as they are not in the business of placing talent. They are an information publisher who publish what are basically ads for talent.
I doubt that is how the average 14-year-old who is new to the business would understand it, however, especially not after receiving an email promising them an “appointment with a Director”. And that of course is what the company is hoping: that its spam emails will reach a child with a dream who will fall for their pitch and talk mom and dad into paying for the “incredible opportunity” the company is offering.
So, while the company’s website does tell site visitors what they do, they also tout a service that most people don’t need. Casting directors and art directors don’t troll sites like Nine9 the Unagency to identify children for their projects. The business just doesn’t work that way. Paying a company to publish your child’s photo online is (at best) a huge risk and (at worst) an expensive scam.
I have been told that there is an initial fee of several hundred dollars to register with this company. I’ve been quoted different amounts by parents, from $199 to $500 for this fee, but do not know what the current rate is. After that, I’ve been told that there’s a monthly fee of about $20-40 per month to keep your profile active. One adult actress told me that she paid over $400 for photographs, and a parent told me that she paid Nine9’s recommended photographer $350 for headshots, plus the cost of printing black and white comp sheets (an 8X10 photo with four small images on it). That’s far above the going rate for headshots in Dallas Texas — and no actor or casting director I know uses a comp card, preferring a single high-quality 8X10 image that clearly shows what the actor looks like. The small photos I saw from the Nine9 client didn’t give a very good look at her face.
As for a monthly fee, most online “breakdown sites” that post actors profiles and headshots are free. Actor’s Access, Backstage, NowCasting, Casting Frontier, MyCastingFile, Central Casting and many others allow actors to post photos and profiles free, and charge a small fee to host videos and transmit submissions to casting opportunities. By “small fee” I mean a cost of <$20 — usually $5-15 to host a demo reel, and <$5 for a submission. And I don’t mean $20 per month — I mean a one-time charge of less than $20, period. Some are completely free.
Is Nine9 a Scam?
Legally, I am sure that the company’s business model does not fall under any of the laws targeting online scams. After all, if you read their contract, and pay attention to the website, they’re not misrepresenting what they sell.
Morally, I’m not so sure. Most children see an ad or an email that offers what looks to them like a chance to make their dreams come true, and never look any further. And many parents who want to help their kids succeed don’t have the information or experience to spot the difference between a company like Nine9 or One Source Talent, Actors Models & Talent for Christ, Casting Hub (and many other similar companies) and a real casting director or talent agent.
It can be a costly mistake. Some of the “model and acting” services charge thousands of dollars to participate in their “program” — including photo shoots with “house” photographers, online listings, participation in big “talent showcase events” at resorts or in New York or LA, and tons of other “marketing services”. I’ve talked to parents who have spent upwards of $10,000 on companies like this only to discover they could have gotten more by registering with a much less costly service.
For instance, here’s my grandson’s profile on Actor’s Access, one of a number of sites that cost less than $25 a year. Of course, the most impressive online profile is the Internet Movie Database, but you only earn those when you are cast in a significant enough role that the producer of the film or TV show lists your credit there.
If you’re the parent of a child or teenager who wants to be a model or actor, take time to do your homework before your child falls prey to an email like the one my grandson just received. Here are some links to more information on what you should — and shouldn’t — pay for when your child is starting out in the business.
- The Biz Parents Foundation’s “Getting Started” Guide
- SAG-AFTRA’s Scams in the Entertainment Industry Guide
- Parents of Would-Be Child Actors: Beware of Scammers
- What a Real Audition Opportunity Looks Like
- Advice From a Reluctant Stage Grandma
- 5 Things Parents of Would-Be Child Stars Need to Know
- Resources for Parents of Would-Be Child Actors
I’m sad that this company has decided to open an office in my hometown, and I hope I don’t start hearing from a lot of local parents who signed up only to discover later that they are overpaying for a service they didn’t need in the first place.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This blog post was updated and edited a year after it was originally published, to take note of the rebranding of One Source Talent as Nine9 the Unagency. An updated blog post, in which Nine9 let me know how unhappy they were with my writing about their services and apologized for marketing its services to a minor, is now online at this link. If you are considering registering with this company, or any similar company that charges fees to be listed in a talent database, please take time to check out the industry resources listed above to make sure you aren’t paying for services you don’t need or falling prey to an industry scam. A later update, two years after the original publication date, removed screen shots in response to a DMCA takedown notice received from the company.