Actors accuse talent agents of withholding payments

After months of working on set filming TV shows, commercials and dubbing for work, dozens of Toronto actors say they have been left unpaid.

The actors did not blame the production companies, but their talent management agency: Compass Artist Management, which claimed the money was withheld.

“It’s a lot bigger than I thought,” Golden Madison, a Toronto actress who says she’s now made nearly $15,000, told CTV National News. “I really like to think it was a mistake.”

Madison joined Compass in June 2022 and had a hugely successful summer, landing a number of commercials and other television gigs. The cash flow usually goes from the production company to the agent, who receives the commission and passes the rest to the agent.

As a non-union actor, Madison explained, the money often doesn’t reach her for several weeks. But on the 77th day with no payment, she started to worry.

“I decided to ask and it all came crashing down,” she said.

In September, Madison contacted other actors from the same company and noticed they had similar stories.

“I realized at that moment that it was definitely not a mistake, whatever was going on was intentional and they were deliberately not paying a bunch of us.”

In a creditor package sent to customers October 19, 2022 and obtained by CTV National News, Compass Artist Management said “their operations have been discontinued, effective immediately”.

The Toronto Police Service’s Financial Crimes Unit has received more than 50 complaints about the company. The fraud division confirmed an investigation is currently underway. But there is fear among the actors that they will never see the money they owe.

The group believes there is about $500,000 unpaid by the talent management company, leaving dozens of actors with financial losses.

In a statement to CTV News, the president of Compass Artist Management, Danny Friedman, outlined the challenges of starting a small business and admitted his company has fallen behind.

“I totally understand why people get upset when we’re behind… I get that and I apologize profusely…” Friedman wrote.

A letter in the creditor package sent to the customer includes details of how the operation will “go downhill”.

An independent insolvency consultant said it was “uneconomical to go bankrupt because the administrative costs far outweigh any expected return on the assets.”

Shaun Hepburn and his 11-year-old son Housten are both represented by Compass. Hepburn admitted there were some red flags but he moved on because the company was getting good gigs including placements in a TV series, something they had never done before.

“He still hasn’t answered the question of why he kept the money, where it is,” Hepburn told CTV National News over a video call.

“We had to ask for our money,” Hepburn continued. “There was never a time when we didn’t get paid, until now, when he just kept the money and didn’t reply to emails.”

Hepburn and Madison said they contacted the production companies directly, claiming they had seen claims of paying Compass Artist Management for their work and it was never communicated. via.

Growing frustration and uncertainty is leading to increased demand for more industry oversight. Actors in Ontario are looking to regulations in British Columbia for standards they believe should be widespread. The western province is the only province in Canada that requires talent agents to be licensed under the Department of Labor.

“I think that works in our favor,” said Tyman Stewart, president of The Characters Talent Agency and vice president of the Canadian Association of Talent Agents & Managers. “I really think it got rid of a lot of people trying to take advantage of things.”

Stewart was instrumental in helping the province draft regulations in the mid-1990s.

“We’ve only had one other case since 1995 where someone took advantage of the situation and didn’t pay the actors,” he told CTV National News.

Licensing requires agents to build trust with clients and limits commissions, and there are also rules that forbid agents from charging someone to participate. Speaking of regulations, Stewart gives an example by saying, “you’re in a situation where you’re going to lose your license and you can’t do business as an agent if you’re trying to charge people to join the dealership. your manager, or try to sell them classes.”

ACTRA, the union representing professional performers in Canada, sent a statement to CTV National News about the ongoing allegations surrounding Compass. In it, the union said, “ACTRA does not endorse or recommend any talent agencies. Contracts between talent agencies and their clients are not collectively negotiated. “

To help those affected, the union organized a Zoom information session for union members and non-union members.

“We provided the services of three attorneys to answer as many questions as possible. The meeting was also attended by detectives from the Toronto Police Department’s fraud division,” ACTRA said, adding that Compass represents more than 200 ACTRA members.

The union is among those hoping the Ontario government will move to ensure talent agents are licensed by the province’s Department of Labor.


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