You shouldn't hire any agent that isn't listed as reputable on the ACTRA web site in Canada and SAG in America. They are the unions representing actors. They put out a list of good agents. If your agency isn't listed there don't sign with them.
The biggest scam these days is agencies that want money for representing you or for a portfolio, photos, lessons or putting your info on the Internet. Casting directors never use the Internet to cast anyone.
An agent never gets a thing up front. They make 10% of what you earn from jobs they got you. The only exception to the rule is for a kids only agency or a background talent agent for extras. They can charge up to $100.00 a year as people keep bailing once they see that there is often 18 hour work days involved in certain shoots.
If you're looking to see how films are made and experience that process get a background talent agent to be an extra in film and TV shot in a large city near you. Then you'll know if you want to pursue this further with a principal agent who reps 10-20 people for regular gigs.
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