The Actors Voice
by Bonnie Gillespie
week of March 10, 2014
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001790.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.
Understanding AB 1319
Four years ago, I wrote an article about the “new law,” AB 1319. This is also known as the CD workshop law, the mall scout scam law, and the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act of 2010. Now, even if you’re not in the State of California, I want you to stick with me on this week’s column. Because similar laws are being pushed through in other states, and because spotting the behavior of scam artists in our industry *is* your business no matter where you live. One of the most ninja things you can do for your career is to insist upon working with pros. And pros aren’t afraid of following the letter of the law.
Now, this isn’t a column about clear violations of the law, because those are easy to spot: A non-bonded “scout” trolling the mall, approaching parents of cute kids, selling classes but saying they’re opportunities to get in front of top kid-show casting directors; out-of-state “camps” advertising huge opportunities to young actors in radio ads, but really just paying industry trolls thousands of dollars to take lavish vacations while spending an hour or two watching auditions; a non-bonded casting director workshop facility promoting a certain casting director coming in for an educational workshop then rolling out the stapler-filling assistant instead, who rarely looks up as actors do tired old sides; a talent manager accepting pay for coaching on top of his commission on bookings; and so on.
What’s more insidious, these days, is the “we’re bonded so we’re legal” companies out there who are actually breaking the law in lots of ways. Guys, hear me now: Being bonded is not enough. Having a listing here at the state’s 2013 database (XLS) is NOT enough. In fact, Talent Counseling Service providers (that’s anyone — anyone — who is coaching creatives on the business side of their careers, including craft coaches who discuss your TYPE or how to MARKET yourself to targeted buyers) are required to put the entire language of the law on their websites, provide contracts with their bond number and very specific language about the terms of the agreement, and happily refund your money in accordance with the terms of the law.
Wanna see it done exactly right? Here: My company’s AB 1319 page is 100% in accordance with the law (language of the law, contracts for each of the Talent Counseling Services we provide, bond number in the contracts, refund period spelled out). I share that link with fellow Talent Counseling Services providers, encouraging them to TAKE IT and use it on their own websites, because I want everyone in full compliance. And I want actors informed!
There is no such thing as “no refunds” thanks to AB 1319, and language about how there are NO REFUNDS cannot be on a Talent Counseling Service provider’s website, in their FAQ, or on their contracts. In fact, you have ten business days from either the date of purchase *or* the first date of service — whichever is later — to ask for, and receive, a full refund (not a credit), no questions asked. You cannot be required to “turn in your homework” from an online program to prove to the Talent Counseling Service provider that you tried and still didn’t click with the program. It’s no questions asked, no reason needed, 100% refund within ten business days of the date of purchase or the first date of service, period.
You must sign a contract for all services provided under AB 1319. Yes, this can be an electronic signature via email, but there has to be an agreement officially entered into between you and the Talent Counseling Service provider for each *specific* service provided, and the contract term can be no longer than one year, with contract renewal required, thereby starting a new ten-day refund window.
Even if you’re in a different country or a different state in the US, if your coach is in California — even if licensed to do business elsewhere — and you’re coaching via Skype or while on a visit, you are covered under AB 1319 and this Talent Counseling Service provider (yes, even craft coaches doing Skype coaching for audition prep in which your headshots, your type, your follow-up strategy, your wardrobe, your ideal audition material is discussed) must be bonded under AB 1319, provide a contract for Talent Counseling Services under AB 1319, and offer that lovely ten-day refund window under AB 1319.
Are you starting to get a sense of the HUGE number of folks running around out there NOT in compliance with this important law?
Most people and companies that have gone to the trouble of getting bonded under AB 1319 are not bad guys, are not trying to scam you, and — if they’re not following the law 100% — it’s usually their ignorance of the law that causes them to fall short. So, you get to help educate them. Point them to this article. Point them to my company’s AB 1319 page. Help them become fully compliant, since their goal is to serve talented actors like you, not scam them. Help them model best practices.
Now, because my coaching clients sometimes come to me when they feel they’ve been taken advantage of by other coaches (and no, I don’t get upset that they feel the need to seek coaching outside of my offerings; I know it takes all sorts of coaching to have a full and thriving career, just like it takes studying all sorts of craft approaches to express your talent fully), I have seen some really brutal abuses of this law, even by bonded Talent Counseling Service providers.
Here’s what you need to know: It is your RIGHT to get a refund if you were not delivered what was promised. It is your right to get that refund without being abused, bullied, or threatened.
When one CD workshop facility representative told my client that he would be getting him blacklisted in all the casting offices in Los Angeles (simply because he asked for a refund when a casting assistant was brought in, rather than the casting director who was promised in the sales literature), I was thrilled that all of these threats were put in writing. Ah… gorgeous proof that this actor-slash-workshop-owner believes (A.) that it’s not okay for an actor to ask for a refund under the law, (B.) that it’s okay to insult and threaten the actor asking for a refund under the law, and (C.) that the casting community would actually listen if he were to badmouth the actor who asked for — wait for it — his 40 bucks back.
Considering this workshop owner *is* an actor, this abhorrent behavior against his peer just teaches me — and other members of the casting community who are aware of this exchange — that this is a toxic person I never want to put on a set. I believe we’re all responsible for creating a better, happier, warmer entertainment industry. And anyone who behaves so badly when being asked to follow the very law he agreed to be bound by when he opened his CD workshop facility belongs on no set I’m populating. Ever.
When one career coach told my client that she would not receive a refund for the thousands of dollars she had spent on a package for ongoing coaching, even though after the first session it was clear that the personalities were not conducive for a thriving partnership filled with growth, again, I was so happy these absolutes were put into writing, along with policies against sending emails with follow-up questions about the overpriced coaching sessions (which amounted to nothing more than resumé and cover letter templates to be filled in like Mad Libs, rather than customized advice for the client’s unique situation).
The reason it’s great when people put this stuff in writing is because screenshots of the illegal FAQ on their websites, of the “homework required for a refund” nonsense, of the “no refunds EVER” statement on the contract for services, and of the bait-and-switch from a casting director to an assistant in the sales literature and follow-up email announcing the “sub” the day of the workshop allllll mean something to Deputy City Attorney Mark Lambert, whose job includes following up on every complaint made under AB 1319.
Note, though, Lambert cannot take action without a complaint from a consumer (that’s you) who feels he or she has been working with someone who has violated the law. Your ability to take screengrabs of web content, to forward emails in which the Talent Counseling Service provider’s lack of understanding of the law is evident, and to share written proof of abuses is key to his ability to get his job done. Even if you’re not seeking a refund, please, do report abuses to Lambert so that he can keep a record of which companies out there are not operating legally (even if they’re bonded).
I understand not wanting your money back, not wanting to rock the boat, or just wanting to move on with your life after a bad experience with someone you thought you could trust with your career’s trajectory — but for the strength of the law and the rights of your fellow actors, please, go on record. Be heard.
Understand this important law and help the good guys who are getting it wrong do better. And help the law protect actors against those not-so-good guys who are mistreating the actor population by being power-hungry bullies. The way we change that abuse of power is by standing up for our own.
Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Follow Bonnie on Twitter, circle up at Google+, subscribe at YouTube, download THE WORK podcast at iTunes, or hit “like” at the Facebook. For cool weekly emails from Bon and a free MP3, opt on in. Looking for Self-Management for Actors coaching? START HERE! Yay!