Hey everyone -
A few weeks ago, I had a one on one coaching client tell me about an audition request that she got from Backstage. It sounded a little funny to me because the filmmaker was giving waaaaayyy too much information about the intended project. (I know, that sounds weird, but most legit breakdowns for film/TV have a brief logline and character description, this one had all kinds of information about hte aspirations of the filmmaker, etc.). I told her to keep on her toes because something didn't seem right about it.
When the audition request came in, I told her it was a no-go and not to make contact with this "filmmaker" anymore. He said that he didn't have a script, but he was requiring the actresses to come in a specific attire (heels and business-like wear) and would act out scenarios with a "tiny man." He also told her that he was giving her "more information" than the other girls so that "she would have the upper hand."
A few days later, Backstage emailed her and let her know that there was a problem with this "filmmaker" and to not have contact with them anymore. Thank goodness she never went to the audition.
Although I LOVE this business and acting in general and the fact that storytelling is one of the most healing art forms, I do have to acknowlege the fact that there are some pretty unscrupulous people out there that have no problem preying on the dreams of artists.
One of my mentors, manager Wendy Alane Wright, just posted a great article written by Mark Bracich which I will share below.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POST!!
Keeping children safe in this business (and in general) is of utmost importance. PLEASE READ THIS!! and then cut and paste it to PASS IT ON. Mark has given his permission for you to do that. - Wendy Alane Wright
Written by MARK BRACICH
Since it’s come up a lot in various acting groups over the last few days, it’s time to offer some serious advice on a sensitive topic:
Scams that can lead to human trafficking.
This is long. Read it anyway. I’ll give you some scary stats, talk a bit about how human traffickers operate, and offer a few practical things you should start or stop doing now.
First some facts that have nothing to do with acting:
- Trafficking primarily involves sexual exploitation and labor exploitation.
- Official estimates vary widely, but they almost all say there are between 20 and 40 million slaves in the world today.
- According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children.
- Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year.
- There is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the US, but unofficial estimates all run in the hundreds of thousands.
- The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14 years old.
- California has three of the FBI’s 13 highest child sex trafficking areas in the nation: Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
- Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking). Official estimate of worldwide profits vary from 30 to 150 billion dollars every year.
- Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90.
If all that doesn’t concern you, it should. Do the math.
There are a lot of predators in the world. The motivation is usually either profit or mental deviance (that is to say they are f*’ed up in the head). I’d argue that anyone who kidnaps a person falls into the latter category regardless of any profit motivation.
In any case, there are a LOT of them out there, and MANY of them are experts at the business of acquiring slaves.
They look for what we call “soft targets”—people who fit their desired profiles that will be easy to capture and transport.
Now think back to those numbers, then think about the predators who are in the BUSINESS of human trafficking. They are GOOD at it.
The really smart ones take advantage of people looking to change their lives. Young female runaways are at particular risk.
If they can get you to come to them, so much the better for them. Consequently, they have all kinds of scams being run all over the nation all the time.
As actors, we need to “put ourselves out there.” We want to “be discovered.” We need to get those gigs. We’re willing to do, in the eyes of a predator, REALLY STUPID THINGS to achieve our dream.
And these stupid things give predators access to information or the ability to create situations they can use against you.
So, DON’T be a soft target.
Here’s a list of a few things you should and should not do...starting RIGHT NOW:
1. Social Media
- DO create a PROFESSIONAL social media presence on whatever platforms you choose. DO NOT put ANY personal information on those platforms that could be used against you. This is for people in the industry to learn who you are, and to give “fans” a connection to you.
- DO limit access to your PERSONAL social media accounts to your ACTUAL friends. Your “fans” are NOT your ACTUAL FRIENDS. In fact, most of the people on your current “friends list”, including those in the industry, have no business seeing photos of your vacation...or the front yard of your house...or dropping your kid off on the first day of school. Get the picture? In other words: KEEP YOUR PERSONAL LIFE PERSONAL. Manage your accounts accordingly.
- DO NOT trust “friends of friends” when your “friend”’is someone you barely know. That goes for social media AND real life.
- NEVER go to an audition in a hotel room. NEVER! If they can’t set it up in an office or a meeting room, it’s not worth the risk and they aren’t worth dealing with.
- NEVER go to an audition at someone’s home without a bodyguard. Unless your BFF is also MMA or CCW, she doesn’t qualify. Seriously, your bodyguard needs to be a badass and stay in the room with you at all times.
- I’ll say it again because, evidently, people STILL don’t get it: IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE...IT IS! If someone contacts you out of the blue and tells you you’re exactly what they’re looking for (that part is NOT a lie) for their feature film / modeling gig / whatever (that part’s the lie), it’s most likely either: a scam for money; a scam for trafficking; or some 14 year-old “filmmaker” who’s been eyeballing your bikini pics for the last month and a half. A serious good offer is either going to come “through channels” (thank goodness for agents!) or it will be made in a professional manner.
- Obviously, student films and no/low budget indie projects—which many of us do for good reasons—aren’t always the most “professional” in their initial casting process. Sometimes, they’re still learning, too. That’s where you can help them. YOU behave professionally and let them know you expect the same from them. If you don’t get it from that point forward, walk. Don’t yoke yourself to slow learners or asswipes. There’s always another project.
3. In general...
- If your creep alarm goes off...TRUST IT! Do not get yourself in a situation with that person. If you’re already in a situation, extricate yourself IMMEDIATELY.
- ALWAYS maintain Situational Awareness. Know exactly where you are, who’s “in your space”, what’s going on around you, and where your escape routes are. DO NOT be “phone-faced” in public! If what should be happening isn’t, or if what should not be happening is, then you need to be someplace else NOW.
- Take self-defense classes. [Side note: that’ll help your acting, too.]
If you’ve read this far, you’re better off than 95% of the population. Now, go DO something about it.
Break a leg.