Hawaii: Searching for talent in a boatload of scams

boat in the reeds is no yacht with opportunity

boat in the reeds is no yacht with opportunity

Carol Forsloff—Hawaii is far enough away from any other land mass that it is easy for people to find new directions, both legal and illegal, legitimate and fraudulent, to make money.  And because false impressions are frequent in the islands, local people have learned to be cautious at the outset of meeting newcomers.  Still it is not always possible to catch a crook or a lie, even as while some folks present themselves as having a yacht full of opportunities when instead they offer meandering trips in boats that simply drift into weeds and get lost.

An advertisement on television recently listed a talent contest in Hawaii.  As a journalist, finding new talent and shining a light on it can be interesting and offers an opportunity to find something or someone truly wonderful and then let the rest of the world know as well.  But sometimes what one finds is questionable at best.  Explore Talent is one of those websites that appears to be something wonderful that turns out to be questionable according to the many websites and statements that consider the online talent agency to be a scam and the experience I had with one of the site’s pitchmen today.

I completed an application at Explore Talent wwebsite, then waited for the call that came just minutes later.  The man on the telephone called himself Vaid and explained he had seen my profile immediately and saw it was a perfect fit for a film that is supposed to be filmed in Hawaii the latter part of August.  This man, Vaid, maintained that at age 74 I was a perfect fit for the movie that is called “Mothers Day” starring Julia Roberts.  As a fan of Julia Roberts, I was all ears.  As a curious journalist, seeking to learn more about Explore Talent as scam or legitimate enterprise, following the promoter’s telephone discussion to see where it might lead provided information about what to do and not do if one is looking for a job in the entertainment industry.

Vaid said, “You’re the same age as my mother.  She belongs to our agency.”  He offered this information following his presentation about membership plans.  A two-year plan would save me money, he claimed.  It was only $475; a one-year plan was $288.  No other alternatives were suggested.  Either plan could get me Vaid as the promoter/agent who would help with pictures, my profile development and make sure my page was put in front of the right people for the right jobs.  When I said a one-year plan would be more suitable for me, Vaid continued to offer more information about his mother,  “My mother signed up for one year also.  She said “At the age of 74 (my goodness, she is exactly my age and what a coincidence!)  I want to be able to change my mind or do something different.”

Unlike Vaid’s mother, I did not sign up.  Maybe she did not either.  Or maybe Vaid does not have a mother 74 years old.  No matter; I was here to learn.  I told Vaid I would be checking out the site and what others have said has been their experience with it before signing up myself, if I did at all, rather than giving personal and financial details to a stranger over the telephone.  At first he said, “Well, you could get anyone answering the phone, and you might lose the opportunity for me to help you.”  When he heard me emphatic about not signing up for anything over the telephone, he changed his message to say he would be at the telephone until 6:00 p.m., or less than an hour from the time the call ended and that I would reach him if I called before that time, which was 45 minutes from the time I hung up.

I did not call the site but instead examined the comments across the Internet from a variety of sources, including those spokespersons who had ready-made advertorials on YouTube or statements on the Explore Talent site and other sites, some of which were websites reporting scams.  These proponents were there to counter comments that Explore Talent is a scam.

Is the site a scam?  Although there are a variety of opinions both pro and con about the agency, the messages provided during my telephone call should be considered part of the decision-making process and at least a preliminary notion of whether or not it would be a likely good opportunity to get connected to the entertainment industry through this agency.

First of all, in reviewing the background about the upcoming auditions for the film “Mothers Day,” auditions are being held in Atlanta, not in Honolulu.  And the filming is in Atlanta as well.  Furthermore, rather than several weeks of filming, the announcements for auditions remind people there would be about two days of filming.  Vaid had maintained the filming would take weeks at a rate of $200/day as the wage for film extras.  Project Casting makes no mention of any portion of the film being shot in Hawaii.

As for the cost of joining the site, Explore Talent’s official website shows the cost to be different than the price of membership quoted on the telephone, with a number of options available, including one and three month plans.  Vaid offered the two-year plan, not described on the website, as having the better options.

A website lure is one way people are approached by businesses and individuals who may be questionable in their solicitation of the product or service offered.   Other “opportunities” are multi-level marketing pitches, ordinarily given by a friend or relative who has already signed up and now can make money by signing up other friends and relatives.  Ordinarily, however, few people get past those friends and relatives to the greater public to continue to make money.  These pyramid marketing arrangements find a ready and receptive audience in Hawaii because of its geographical distance from the source of the business and therefore the relative lack of opportunity to visit the company headquarters, which may only be a post office box.

Thank you Explore Talent.  I was unable to delete my profile, however in the event there is an opportunity for me to assume a major acting role with assurance and without an upfront payment, I might consider a career in the movies; but I think given today’s experience, it is likely not going to happen in my lifetime—–unless they hurry.

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