Common Film Job Scams and How to Avoid Them

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.

Examples

Here are some examples culled from members of various Atlanta film groups on Facebook, reposted with permission.

Red flags:

  • “Your swift response highly appreciated.”
  • “Your ____ skill needed.” Nobody in production talks like this.
  • Generally bad grammar.

Red flags:

  • 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.

Scam 3

Red Flags:

  • 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.

Teachable Moment: The Nxivm Case

My last post was about separating artist from art. Weinstein was a topical case study of course, but my intention was to ask whether we could still enjoy art created by problematic people. Y’know, the Hitchcocks of the world.

During all the discussions regarding problematic directors and producers, I never felt personally affected, except to put trust in the victims and decry the actions of those who abused their power.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In 2001, Smallville premiered. The TV series that showed Clark Kent’s journey to become Superman quickly became my favorite. Show runners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, in addition to bringing in a number of classic characters of the Superman mythos, also introduced a couple original characters. One such character was brave and smart. She stopped at nothing to expose the truth, help her friends and make a better world in her own way.

I’m talking about Chloe Sullivan, played by Allison Mack. She was the nascent reporter turned pseudo-Justice League Watchtower. She was my favorite character besides Clark.

Last year I saw someone share an article that didn’t look legit. It stated that Allison Mack had been found to victimize girls and prostitute them for cult leader Keith Raniere. Pimp Mack, they called her. I was sure this article wasn’t true.

This week Mack was arrested. The story was real.

mack

See full article here.

Mack co-founded Nxivm with Keith Raniere. The organization operated under the guise of a mentorship program for young women. The company website states: “NXIVM is a company whose mission is to raise human awareness, foster an ethical humanitarian civilization, and celebrate what it means to be human.”

No. It’s a pyramid scheme meant to trap women, self-branded as a form of self help and entrepreneurial endeavor.

Apparently Kristin Kreuk, the actress who played Lana Lang on Smallville, recruited Mack before eventually getting out of it herself. Kreuk shared in a statement on Twitter that she had joined the group to help with her shyness, assuming it was simply a self help workshop. She closed her statement with how she is “deeply disturbed” and thanked the women who came forward about the violent inner workings of Nxivm.

Mack continued in the group, leveling up to Raniere’s inner circle by luring girls into the pyramid scheme turned sex trafficking ring. Women were encouraged to recruit other women in order to become masters instead of slaves. Girls were branded and made to starve themselves to fit Raniere’s sexual fantasies. These were impressionable women who were seeking to better their careers through what they thought was mentorship.

Emil: Chloe, I couldn’t help but notice that you practically jumped out of your chair when I came in here. I’d prefer that if there were no secrets between us.
Chloe: Then you’re in the wrong business.

Smallville Season 9, Episode 6: Rabid

I usually use this blog to teach about film, but sometimes those teachable moments are less about technique and more about the seedy underbelly of the entertainment industry.

It upsets me to my core that this case has brought to light the dirty laundry of an actress I thought I could admire. It upsets me that it was an actress at all who lured women into this trap.

I look back at her most famous role, that of the dynamic and strong Chloe Sullivan.  I feel betrayed by a person I never met who doesn’t know I exist. She doesn’t owe me an explanation. An actor is not their character. This much is definitely clear here. We must out predators wherever and whomever they are.

We must not throw judgment on the young women who were sucked into this world. Like with any cult, it probably didn’t seem so bad until they were in deeper than they could escape. Maybe that’s even how Mack’s involvement began.

“I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the people who are the worst at taking care of themselves are the ones the world actually needs the most.” — Chloe Sullivan, Smallville

I hope that young women will take note from this case, and be very careful who they put their faith in for mentorship opportunities and career advancement. Not all who say they are there to help you have your best interests at heart.

Hopefully this will be a teachable moment for Allison Mack too. She could have taken many lessons on doing the right thing from the character she portrayed for ten years. Instead she, like the Weinstein-like men before her, must face consequences for her actions.