Saturday, June 13, 2009

John Robert Powers. Those Dirty Bastards.

Let me tell you about my lil' friend, John Robert Powers.

When I first came to LA to act, I didn't know where to start. I didn't know about,, or even NOWcasting. So I looked in the newspaper for acting jobs. I came across an ad looking for new and fresh ("No experience necessary!") models, singers and actors. It said something like, "OPEN CALL for undiscovered talent for TV shows on Disney and Nickelodeon!" I went down all the way to sunset blvd to audition for something I had no idea what it was really about. Upon entering, I noticed similar surroundings from trying to get an agent as a child (and also being scammed): A big lobby full of movie and tv posters with no connection to each other. There were several children toys and magazines for the moms. (A typical casting office is usually bare and small, with a few chairs and a desk with a clipboard.) After I filled out several forms with all my contact info on it (I never noticed that there was no place to put my agent's info, because they were banking on me not having one.) I was escorted into a huge classroom.
 There were rows and rows of chairs for all the overly excited parents and children to sit and listen to how successful John Robert Powers is and how every one of the posters in the room had been cast  by them or one of the actors from their classes had gone on to make those shows.

One by one, after having us watch a VHS (Yes, a VHS) tape of how awesome John Robert Powers is, they had us file into a line to meet with their executive "Casting Directors". I noticed sad faces and crushed dreams walk out of that room before me. I thought, wow, they must be really picky! (See: the parents didn't have enough money to pay for the several thousand dollar classes they had to join to become "famous".)

I entered the room, the only thin, young teenager there with previous modeling experience and they told me they loved my look, and they wanted to hear "My story". I gave them a brief bio of myself and how I wanted to start acting in film. All three smiled encouragingly and told me there were acting classes available for me! 
Wait. What? How is this an audition? 
"I thought this was an audition for a tv show... " I said. 
"Oh we are having auditions for several TV shows! But you aren't ready yet, honey. But the good news is we just LOVE your look, I think you would book TONS of commercials and movies!" (Movies? What self respecting industry professional calls films "movies"?)
So I say,"OK, cool, I like acting class, I guess.... How much is it?"
Enthusiastic "casting director" said "The acting classes start at $800 for a 4 week class or if you really want to act, we might be able to fit you in to our 2 year program for $6,500." (I am not positive on how many thousands of dollars they were charging, it was a couple years ago, but I know it was almost the cost of a legit college.)
I teared up and said, "But there is no way I can afford that!"
"What about your parents?"
"No, they can't afford anything."
"Well, we might be able to work out a financing plan for you."

I was so upset I nodded and left. Going home, I thought, why wouldn't they say on the dang Ad that they were charging money, not a real audition for a real tv show? I was so indignant and confused. I knew one thing, I didn't need John Robert Powers. I needed a real audition. 
Granted, this was WAY before I knew I even needed a resume or headshot, etc... but I still knew something was wrong with that place.

There are plenty of people out there who have unfortunately gone through the John Robert Powers scam. And if you are curious, or don't believe me, please research for yourselves!

*Fast forward 3 years.*

I have recently moved to Las Vegas to save money for my wedding. I miss LA, but there is no money to be made there right now (So if you are thinking about moving to LA to act, now is not the best time. I would suggest saving up a couple thousand bucks to live off of for at LEAST 6 months, because there is no work out there, acting or regular. Unless, of course, you have very rich parents who have no problem supporting your for 4 years while you break into acting, then go for it!!)

I have been surfing the las vegas craigslist for work recently. No luck yet on finding any acting auditions. well, unless you count a "sexy busty blonde babe" type for a short film for NO pay. There are plenty of those "castings" in Vegas. (PLEASE FLAG THAT CRAP!)
I came across this ad:
Casting This Saturday
LA Casting Director is coming to Las Vegas to seek new talent for two upcoming films. 
All ages are welcome.(if under 18, you must be accompanied by an adult) 
For more information, please contact Mary Zaragoza either by email or phone. 

So I sent in my headshot and resume. I thought something was weird about this posting, but I wanted SO badly for it to be legit work in Vegas, so I emailed to find out more about it:
I am a 22 yr old actress from LA, recently moved to Vegas and would love to know more about this casting and what it is for! I have attached my headshot and a link to my imdb page. Thanks!-Amber Pxxxxxx
She emailed me back a very air head response, asking me for my info all over again:The Director is searching for new talent for her upcoming movies. She will be here this Saturday at 1pm. She is looking for all ages and types. You may audition if you would like. I just need a little bit more information from you such as:
Client name:

two phone numbers:
You don't need to prepare anything for the audition. You just need to come in dressed nice. ( no jeans or t-shirts) You will be given a script, but you don't have to memorize it. 
I need your information so I can put you on the list. The audition will be held at the following address: 1:00 p.m. For 2 movies.
8879 W. Flamingo Rd. Suite 101

(Between Durango and El Capitan)
If you get lost or need more directions please call either (702)466-6482 or (702)364-9900.
There will be a sign in sheet which will ask who invited you, you will put my name (Mary Zaragoza).
I hope to hear from you soon with more information about you and if you will be attending. Thank you! Sincerely, Mary Zaragoza

Confused and annoyed, I responded with the same information I already gave her and asked a few questions to try to understand what she was casting, and what the production company was:

Hi Mary,

Does the director have any experience? Is there a production website or imdb credits I could look at? 
Again, my name is Amber Pxxxxxxx, I'm 22, I only have one phone number (my cell) xxx xxx-xxxx.
She never responded. 
Well I got a call this morning from a 702 area code (THAT'S VEGAS, NOT LA! LIKE THEY SAID THEY WERE VISITING FROM). It went something like this: 
"Hi Amber! This is Mary from John Robert Powers! How ARE you!!"
"I'm good."
"We just wanted to make sure you could still come to our movie casting today! You see, we have a top LA casting director visiting today casting for new movies! Yup, so you REALLY don't wanna miss that! Oh I really hope you can make it, this is gonna be HUGE! Here, let me give you some contact numbers in case you get lost, ok?"
(I pretended to take the several numbers down and said yeah I was pretty sure I'd be there at 1pm.)
I hung up and was so glad I caught that before I wasted my time going to that stupid audition!! 
The point I'm trying to make (and I'm sorry for this being so long!) is:
-Know your enemy: Beware of John Robert Power "castings" that are really ads. As well as anything else that makes you pay for anything. (unless acting classes are recommended by a working actor or legit agent who gets you work)
-Always try to find out as much as possible about the casting before committing to it! Some things to always know are who is the casting director, or the director/writer? What kind of work can they show you they have done? A youtube teaser trailer, or production website, or imdb credits, or personal references from actors they have worked with in the past are better than nothing! 
-If they are professional, they will understand the request for information, and respect you for being interested.
Also check out one of my good director's blog about what he looks for in an actor and let us know if it is helpful!
Whew! had to get that off my chest!