Casting Couch and Similar Scams

Posted on September 26, 2011

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Yesterday, I was talking with a model who is one of the best I have worked. She is always safe with her modeling, checking each photographer out completely, checking out the concepts that the photographer has come up, and running it by someone one else. She doesn’t just shoot with anyone. This is what everyone should be doing who is a model.

But, what if you don’t? What will happen? There is a good possibility of running into a creepy situation and having to walk out. One of the scams is called a casting couch. The way it works is that there is offered an amount of money for a part acting or modeling, then when the model or actress gets there, the part is already filled, but they have another role or job that pays ten times as much. The person usually introduces them as an assistant to a producer or a photographer or someone like a producer. Then the person proceeds to tell the person that they have to do things they don’t want to do to get the part or job to show they are wanting the role or job – usually reading scripts in lingerie, provocative posing, and working up to sexual acts with the individual. Another spin on this is telling models that they have a “test shoot” for bathing suit calendar, and it will only be about 10-15 minutes for the test shoot. The model shows up, then they are led to believe that they have to strip down to the lingerie for the test shoot, and then a little more, and you get the idea. Yet another is where the photographer wants something a little sexier, and wants the model to show the “bad girl” or “wild girl” side. Frequently this is accompanied with “We are almost done, just one more with a little more showing… ” and before the model knows it, the model has done 100 images and are wearing nothing, and the photographer is inappropriately touching the model.

Not everyone tolerates this type of treatment and they walk out. That is what you should do if you feel like this is happening to you. If you are ever touched inappropriately, you should slap the person who is doing this to you and walk out. If you have to ask if it was inappropriate, then it was.

Let me mention there are two beliefs in photographers touching models when they are being photographed: a) you don’t ever touch a model; b) you touch the model because touching conveys an action quicker and doesn’t confuse the model. When I interned, there was only one belief – never, ever touch a model. I teach models that a photographer should never touch the model, ever. Quite a few photographers will send me nasty messages for saying this. The reason is that touch can be used to manipulate a model by seemingly harmless touches on the neck and face area by getting them used to the feel and touch. Then, when they make a more aggressive move, the model isn’t as alarmed when it happens. Like I said, it starts with light touches, usually around the neck and chin. Then it progresses from there out.. Eventually, the person asks you to touch them.

Something that I tell models to always do is carry a bathing suit with them. The reason why is that you never know when you need one for doing something in modeling. Frequently, a test shoot will require the model to wear one (if they don’t have one, they are asked to shoot in their underwear). The reason for this is that it shows all the parts that are important and might be showing in a shoot, and the reference photos will show scars, tattoos, and anything else that would be important to a photographer or similar person. If you go to an agent or designer, they will ask you to be in a bathing suit for measurements. Again, if you don’t have one, they will ask you to pose in your underwear and if you don’t, you won’t get a call back or any future work from them. This is something that these predators play on. If they can get you down to less clothes, it is closer to their goal. They count on the fact that most models won’t have a bathing suit with them. And, they will tell you that being in your underwear is just like the small bathing suits they will have you wearing (they will say the bathing suits are skimpy thong bikinis and a bikini top). How do you know who is legitimate and not legitimate? With the exceptions of your measurements, you should never be touched. You should never be told to touch someone else.

The best protection against something like this is to be proactive and make sure you are safe. This means always having an escort. With the escort, always exchange code words with each other. Yours is to let the escort know you want out of the situation. The escorts is to let you know that you are doing more than you would normally do, and that you need to get out of the situation. Always bring a bathing suit with you. Don’t let people who are auditioning you or photographing you touch you. Always have them show you by example. If the person doing the “test shoot” or “audition” tells you that the job or part is taken and another one paying more is available, know that they are trying to take advantage of you. Be very cautions when someone asks you to “show a little more” and “we are almost done”. You may be completely nude before you know it if you don’t. Even though I haven’t mentioned it earlier in the blog, don’t drink alcohol or similar substances that will impair your judgement. They are often used to relax the model, and make the model or actress easier to manipulate. Taking these simple precautions will go a long way to protecting yourself.

Edit: The model referenced in the first paragraph noted that even though she does all these things, it doesn’t make the process any easier. You will still have to make decisions that won’t be easy and it comes down to your best judgement.

Edit: I haven’t made it clear above, but it should be noted that many of the people who try this type of scam will frequently have a single room office or their studio is a bedroom. They often will give their “interviewees” an option to pay via trade (favors), or they will make it seem like they can get you ahead of everyone else if you “do a little more” to show your enthusiasm. The work that they do is always for someone else and the references are always made for “us” and “we” when referring to himself or herself. The people who are most susceptible are those who reveal their weakness to the individual – usually it is going far in the modeling world or getting somewhere. Another type that is susceptible is the person who is modeling to build self esteem, for the praise they see others who do model, and for the prestige that models have.

Edit: This entry doesn’t include information about modeling agency and school scams, but they can easily be sumarized as ways to part you with your money because you are naive and want to be a model. Schools rarely teach you what you need to know to be a model and don’t increase your chances of being picked up by an agency (in most cases, they are more a finishing school or similar type of school). Any agency that charges a fee to be paid to them when you start working with them (registration, initiation, administrative, etc.) are scams. They should be strictly paid from your commissions of what they get you for work. Agencies with models or actors or actresses on their walls (or comp cards in their racks), it is a scam. If they guaranty you work, they are a scam. If they require you to get images done by them or a single specific photographer and/or makeup artist, they are a scam. If they recommend photographers with a list, they aren’t a scam. Also know that all agencies require you to pick up your own marketing costs (comp cards, presence on their web site, images every six months, etc.) so beware that you may have to pay these costs.
Off site resources:
How to Avoid Modeling Scams

Posted in: Modeling