Hollywood Scam: How To Spot A Thief
You’re a relatively new filmmaker or new company hungry to get into one of the most coveted clubs in the world: Hollywood. You dream of playing with the big boys and girls, and you bust your butt every day in hopes that one day you will get a chance to work with the best of the best.
Then one night, in a sudden twist of glorious fate, your cell phone beeps, and there is a message glowing like a great beacon of hope. You open it. It says something like this (spelling and grammatical errors included):
“hi my name is Othello Khanh from the CREATV Company, I saw your Profile post on Staffmeup and after reviewing, I feel excited with your past experiences,Kindly confirm your availability and email your recent resume to(firstname.lastname@example.org)so i’l get back to you with the job details.Your prompt response will be highly appreciated.thanks and God bless!”
You stare at the phone for a moment thinking, ” Wow! Othello Khanh! THE founder and managing director of CREATV! Texting me for a job… at 8:10pm…on my personal cell! Woooooohooooo!”
Then that small little voice that knows everything, tugs on your gut and says…This might be too good to be true.
Some in our business, no matter what level of accomplishment, will smell this scam a mile away and like we did here, laugh it off. But unfortunately, like all good scams, there are those that will get taken for a ride in spite of how long they’ve been around.
Today, we are going to shed light on some of the tactics used by these scam artists, so you won’t find yourself in Indonesia on a bullshit “film project” coughing up thousands to some common thief.
1. NO high profile executive will EVER call you, text you, or email you personally unless you know them personally or are related to them. That is almost a guarantee. They are not trolling the internet looking to discover the hottest new talent out there to harass by text at midnight. It’s just not done in that way, so when you see a name such as Othello Khahn or Toby Emmerich (yes we got one from Toby too) it is most likely a scam. Should you find yourself lucky enough to be working with such players on high concept film projects, you have probably gotten there via an agent, manager, lawyer, an audition, call back or some competition, or contest where the stars aligned and your pitch, project or idea was vetted. In those cases, you would most likely be working with an assistant or lower-level executive in the beginning to develop it.
2. Horrible spelling and grammar will typically accompany an email or text. Rest assured our Hollywood elite are familiar with the English language and how to properly use it when sending any sort of communication, so this is a dead giveaway that something is up if you are not familiar with or questioning the previous point.
3. While Gmail is awesome, it is not the preferred email address for most production companies. That’s right. Just like us here at Starr Films, the address would have a .com, .net, etc. Not “email@example.com” like this communication from “James” Oh yes, we got an email from Paramount too because we are awesome like that 😉
It’s hard to read our screenshot, so this is what it says (again spelling and grammatical errors included):
“Hello! Am James, i work with paramount pictures, i will be needing your service on our upcoming production, as a Part time or Full time, i’m willing to pay $700 daily for start, kindly email us with your interest to firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on the job.”
I can’t help but laugh out loud. Or maybe do a coffee spit take if I drank coffee. The subject is “paramount production” and there is no email signature or any reason why anyone should believe this is real.
4. In this business, a PA is a “Production Assistant” not a personal assistant. So when Toby asks you to send a recent resume to his PA at email@example.com you can be sure it’s not anyone you should be emailing.
So what is the actual scam?
Great question! We don’t know for sure since they haven’t gotten us to fall for it yet, but we are suspecting a couple of things:
1. You get called to a location and then told to pay expenses and such with the promise of reimbursement. This is what the Hollywood Scammer has been doing for the last two years, impersonating Kathleen Kennedy and Amy Pascal.
2. If you are a company (like us) they might ask you to open a merchant account or something similar, then tell you that they will pay you thousands more than your rate if you can give them the cash. Then you get paid let us say 10K, you give them 9K cash lest the 1K for your “rate”. They cancel the card, you get screwed, they get paid, and they are on a flight to South Africa before anyone can figure out what actually happened.
It is so important in this age of evil, to do your research. Google people you are going to meet with. Make sure they are who they say they are. If you are new to the business, read articles and books on how the Hollywood Machine works. Talk to people who know. Never show up anywhere without researching and double-checking. I cannot stress this enough.
If you do find yourself falling for something like this, even for a brief moment, or possibly in the past, do not despair. You are a dreamer, one who walks between worlds and believes that the magic of life will shine good fortune on you should you never give up your dream. These people prey on people like that so don’t be jaded or discouraged by some myopic worm trying to use your hope against you. And whatever happens, don’t give up. The real deal is waiting just around the corner.
Until next time friends, stay vigilant, curious, hopeful and awesome.