Unfortunately, there’s plenty of people out there taking advantage of hungry film crew members looking to get work. It’s time we fully prepare our fellow film makers with the knowledge to avoid these scams like the plague.
One of the most common scams is a check cashing scam. Someone asks you to cash a check, saying you’ll get part of it and someone else gets the rest. In the film world, I’ve seen this come across as you needing to pay another crew member with the payment they send you. Jokes on you though – the check is fake and you’re out thousands of dollars. I’ve seen this scam numerous times around Georgia, but it’s definitely an international problem. It’s not exactly a Nigerian prince, but it’s still an old standby scammers use to great effect.
Then there was this story of a woman posing as various high profile female producers who lured people in all facets of production to Indonesia. The scam included real-looking wire transfers and the unwary crew member losing thousands of dollars on a movie that didn’t exist. This article from Deadline is definitely worth a read.
Deadline boiled it down to this: “If a high net worth producer with a seductive voice calls with an employment offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is not real. At the very least, people who receive such a call better contact the actual offices of that producer to find out if in fact that call was made.”
How to Spot a Scam
When you receive an e-mail or text message for a job, be careful of these common scam elements:
- bad grammar/spelling
- the word “kindly” – seriously it appears in a LOT of scam messages, it’s almost a meme by this point.
- “We received your profile.” Weird wording.
- Says your skills are highly preferred.
- Asks for you to send your job position and resume – if your skills are highly sought after, surely they already know what you do?
- Reply to secure your slot.
- The message comes from a foreign company/name or a real production company whose name has been stolen to trick job seekers
- The pay is suspiciously high for the job like $1500 for 3 days of PA work.
Here are some examples culled from members of various Atlanta film groups on Facebook, reposted with permission.
- “Your swift response highly appreciated.”
- “Your ____ skill needed.” Nobody in production talks like this.
- Generally bad grammar.
- E-mail comes from Gauri Khan, but name in the message is Blesson Oommen.
- Asks a production assistant to “receive camera equipment.”
- Daily rate for a PA (part-time!) listed as $500-$3800. I would PA forever if that was a real rate.
- Exceptionally bad grammar, spelling, punctuation.
- Isaac Yu – common scam name.
- Vague details “your city” and “your skillset.”
What Can You Do?
It’s pretty much the same as avoiding most scammers – be careful what information you share online. Most of these scammers appear to get your information through information you post online. I personally started getting many scam emails and texts after I posted my resume to Georgia Production Directory/Reel Scout but can also happen when you post your info anywhere online – Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
You’ve got to self promote to get yourself out there, so don’t relegate yourself to the life of a hermit and delete your social media.
As a general rule, don’t accept random friend requests. When in doubt, send them a message.
If a scammer contacts you, ignore the email, block the phone number, etc. Post the scam on a site like Atlanta Film Industry Watch to warn your fellow filmmakers. If a company or person’s likeness is being used to sell the scam, send them a message to inform them.
If you receive a job offer that you’re just not sure about, ask them for a deal memo before moving forward and research the company. If anything seems fishy, bow out of there. Avoid anyone who is trying to send you a check in order to pay for equipment or another crew member’s rate.
Special thanks to Brittany Edwards and Ashley Nelson for allowing me to repost their scam findings. An informed film industry is a better one for sure.