Lobbies, Waiting Rooms, & Elevators


If misinformation, maliciousness, and plain old fibbing have a safe haven, it is in the entertainment field. There is in fact SO much of this nonsense in this business, and it adversely effects so many young performers and their families, that after some thought, I decided it would be helpful to have you view such behavior a form of scam: a “misinformation scam,” if you will.

Examples?

Peter Sklar Scam Fighter

I have overheard parents deliberately misinforming other parents of such things as the date and time of an important audition, spreading falsehoods to industry professionals about other children, purposely steering parents away from a legitimate talent representative in order to minimize competition with their own child, convincingly badmouthing this or that casting director for the crime of not choosing their child, and even knowingly referring other parents to the worst possible acting, voice or dance instructors in the city in an effort to minimize the skills of a competing child.

Perhaps less malicious, but equally misleading, is a syndrome I have witnessed hundreds of times, analogous to the famed “blind men describing an elephant” story. I’m referring to a parent declaring authoritatively that such and such casting director “hates brunettes,” or a certain acting coach “only works with union actors,” or that a photographer “shoots girls better than boys,” and other such implausible generalizations.

The price of believing such fiction, whether presented solely as one’s subjective experience or with the intent to mislead, may be the loss of a myriad of valuable contacts, appointments, services and even jobs.

My advice?

Never, ever, under any circumstances, believe ANYTHING you hear from someone in an audition or interview lobby, waiting room, or elevator.

Whether offered innocently or not, what you hear is ALWAYS inaccurate.

Peter Sklar Scam Fighter

I do not mean “often” inaccurate. I mean ALWAYS. Even if you hear some shreds of truth, this will ALWAYS be accompanied by so many inaccuracies and distortions as to render whatever you're hearing completely useless. After forty years of experience with showbiz parents and kids, I can state unequivocally that exceptions to the above are statistically insignificant.

Cyber-Lobbies, Cyber-Waiting Rooms, & Cyber-Elevators

These days, the reigning undisputed champ of unbridled misinformation is Internet message boards, more accurately referred to as “gossip boards.” These clandestine, anonymous forums are perhaps even more dangerous sources of information than traditional lobbies and waiting rooms.

Why?

  1. They are usually presented as authoritative and official. They have legitimate-sounding names, presided over by knowledgeable-sounding individuals, and often unfortunately associated with very real trade publications and industry organizations that should know better.
  2. They are completely anonymous without even a hint of accountability. This means the misinformation their posters eagerly provide is usually even more outrageous than the stories communicated in person face-to-face.
  3. They potentially have a huge, public audience, and therefore can mislead thousands of young performers, and their parents, as compared to a mere handful of people in a lobby or waiting room.

The “information” on these boards is NOT “the real scoop.”

Peter Sklar Scam Fighter

It is laughably subjective at best, (reminiscent of the “blind men and the elephant”), and at worst, damaging to the developing career of an unsuspecting young reader. While I am inclined to give the moderators of such forums the benefit of the doubt as to their good intentions and their sincere desire to assist aspiring performers, I do NOT extend this inclination to the majority of posters who contribute to them. After reading years of erroneous advice, self-serving agendas, primitive interpretations of how things work, and one-sided opinions of just about everything they may or may not have experienced, I have dubbed the participants on these boards as the unhappy and the uninformed.

Why uninformed? Because the vast majority of posters on these boards quite obviously have very little professional experience or success!

Just this month alone, in preparing to write this section, I came across all sorts of simple-minded and erroneous “advice,” all of it communicated with absolute assurance. This included an assertion that the top priority of casting directors is actors with “the right look,” the best way to attract the interest of a major talent representative is to “tag along with a friend,” the best way to conduct yourself at a professional interview is to simply “make them like you,” what you should sing at a Broadway audition is “something they’ve never heard before,” it’s o.k. to “make up a few things” if there isn’t much on your resume, and much, much more. As I was reading, I found myself becoming angry as I realized there were probably thousands of young and naïve readers out there, and their parents, all busy swallowing it up. The lack of veracity and accuracy contained in all of the above would have been readily apparent to anyone who had achieved any real success in this business, and who had more than a few years of experience. But that’s my point: such people don’t spend their time on gossip boards.

Why unhappy? Simply because it is rare to find anyone posting on an Internet message board without an ax to grind.

Example? My most memorable message board moment was observing a colleague of mine, formerly one of the most powerful children’s agents in New York, shaking her head sadly and clucking over something she read on one board about a supposedly disreputable industry person- only to eventually realize the false posting was about her! Predictably, several other posters, with absolutely no firsthand experience of their own, jumped on board, (literally), to express their unreserved support for the poster. My friend’s subsequent inquiries and research revealed that the anonymous poster was none other than a parent who had inadvertently sabotaged a crucial call-back for her daughter by not following some simple directions. Rather than taking responsibility for her own negligence, this cowardly and less-than-honest individual instead chose to anonymously attack my colleague, who was her daughter’s agent at the time. Sadly and predictably, this mother’s message board of choice, its host, and its clandestine contributors, all eagerly gobbled up this woman’s rantings as complete gospel.

Another colleague, an excellent photographer, was publicly and convincingly denigrated as “incompetent” on one of these boards for the crime of not offering an actor advice concerning his resume. (In case you weren’t sure, a photographer has nothing whatsoever to do with assembling your resume.)

Even I have not been immune to such nonsense.

Ready?

On one message board, I was amused to hear the following gossip about my lectures: “the general consensus is that it’s not worth it and he’s rude...”

This, after receiving literally thousands of spontaneous letters and emails of appreciation from school principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors, theater arts teachers, dance studio owners, parents, and kids of all ages from just about everywhere, over a period of more than thirty years.

Speaking of dance studio owners, or someone anonymously alleging to be, a gossiper pretended to become alarmed when she learned the local newspaper and television station might cover my visit, (which I’m pleased to say they routinely do): “Having the news media there screams scam, beware!”

The real question is why a dance studio owner, or any business owner, wouldn’t welcome lots of positive, free publicity.

My personal favorite? “At his workshop, they forced my daughter and other students to eat an excessive amount of food to the point where there were girls throwing up... I went to a nutritionist and found the food they gave us (“us?”) was not healthy. My daughter coughed up eggs and they still made her eat it. Her chaperones told her to wet her bed if she had to use the bathroom at night because she was not allowed to get up.”

Right. That’s what we do.

But seriously, the only sad thing about this fiction is that someone, somewhere may choose to believe it.

And so it goes.

Peter Sklar Scam Fighter

Want to research someone or something responsibly? Your absolute best source of truthful, accurate information in this or any industry is threefold, listed in their order of reliability:

  1. What you learn by seeking out the opinions of multiple references who include people who can demonstrate conclusively that they have had firsthand experience in regard to who or what they’re talking about, and- this is crucial- who are willing to identify themselves.
  2. The number of formal complaints about an organization or individual registered with a recognized consumer advocate agency, (such as the Better Business Bureau), or an official industry organization, (such as Screen Actors Guild or Actors Equity Association), or an official government investigative office, (such as the state Attorney General’s Office or Department of Consumer Affairs).
  3. What you yourself are told directly by several major, established, recognized industry persons with whom you yourself have a personal or professional relationship.

No exceptions! Any other source of “feedback” or “advice,” commonly offered in a lobby, waiting room, or especially presented anonymously on an internet gossip board, no matter how earnest and persuasive it may sound, should wisely be seen for what it is:

Someone somewhere, due to a lack of knowledge or integrity or both, is trying hard to convince you to believe something that’s false.

Want “the real scoop” about something?

Stick to the above three recommendations!