Scam using L.A. casting director Debra Zane as bait targets Calgary actors

An upcoming actors workshop promoting the services of Los Angeles casting director Debra Zane — whose movies include Twilight, The Hunger Games and American Beauty — turns out be fake.

Casting director for Twilight, The Hunger Games and American Beauty says her name has been used in past scams

Deborah Kurtz, the owner of Alberta Talent Management, is warning others not to sign up for a fake actors workshop at the University of Calgary in September. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

An upcoming actors workshop promoting the services of Los Angeles casting director Debra Zane — whose movies include Twilight, The Hunger Games and American Beauty — turns out be fake.

And Zane is not happy about having her name dragged into it.

"It's upsetting to be represented out in the world in a false manner and with a scam," said Zane. "It's akin to identity theft."

The flyer promotes a half-day workshop led by Zane at the University of Calgary on Sept. 19 at a cost of $149.

It showed up in Deborah Kurtz's email inbox after she got a call from the promoter asking if he could send it to her. The owner of Alberta Talent Management says she then sent it out to her roughly 45 clients.

 "We're desperate to have good instructional people come here who have high profile connections, so when I saw that Debra Zane would be coming I thought this could really open some doors for some people if she knows about their talent and ability."

Suspicion raised

It wasn't until she started making phone calls to the university, and to Zane, that she became suspicious. Neither knew anything about the workshop.

She then started to search the name of the promoter and the company listed on the flyer. Turns out the Actors Training Ground exists, but it didn't know anything about the event, or the promoter.

"It really (ticks) me off and I'd like to go shake them," said Kurtz.

ACTRA, the union representing actors, says it started fielding questions about the legitimacy of the workshop. Spokesperson Tina Alford says she hadn't even heard of it.

"And usually if somebody is coming into town that's legit, one of the first places they contact is ACTRA because we've got the great network of getting the word out to performers. So that was a little bit sketchy," said Alford.

Once Alford found out it was fake, she immediately warned her members.

Scams on the rise

Alford says this type of scam is unique by promoting a real casting director for a fake event.

But ​with the film and TV industry expected to have another record year in Alberta, Alford says it's seeing a rise in scams targeting aspiring actors.

"Agencies or recruiters that come to town and promise big things for people. Big open casting calls. 'We'll get you in the next big project.'" said Alford.

"They come in and charge a lot of money, but it doesn't go anywhere. They just take advantage of peoples' dreams."

L.A. police notified

Zane says her name was used like this once before in the U.S., so it hit a nerve and she immediately sprang into action.

She called the promoter and left this message on his voice mail.

"My suggestion to you would be to shut this down right now. I've informed LAPD. The FBI has been made aware.The Calgary police has been made aware. And stop scamming people."

As far as Alford knows, only a few people signed up before word got out about the scam, but it doesn't appear their credit card payments went through.


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