10 Signs Of A Charlatan Your Should Be Aware Of Before You Start A Film

10 signs of a charlatanchar.la.tan


A Charlatan is a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses.


Imposter, fake, fraud, phony.

The entertainment industry is an enticing prospect from the outside looking in. The promise of fame, wealth and power can be alluring to those who don’t know about or understand the long hours, dedication and hard work involved in achieving some – any – measure of success within the industry. Few who are not on the inside understand the uncertainty of not knowing how much you’ll earn or when you’ll earn it. Enter the Charlatan

To many the entertainment industry is mistakenly no more than a route to getting rich quick. A way to get a big return for minimal effort and the easiest way to achieve that is to take advantage of dedicated people trying to build their résumé by letting them do the hard work while they reap the benefits.

There are many signs that the dedicated can use to warn them that they’re being courted by a charlatan out to use their talents. In no particular order these are just a few of them. Feel free to add your own to the comments section below. The good ones have to stick together and everybody genuine needs all the warnings they can get.

1. Claiming they know someone famous.

Usually said to entice you into working with them. They’ll have a friend of a friend who can reach out to someone you admire, maybe get your work into their hands. You just have to work with them first, do something for nothing. The less links in the chain between the charlatan and the person they claim to know the more brazen their lies will be.

2. Making promises they don’t keep.

A contract is a given in the entertainment industry. No doubt they’ll offer you one but they’ll want you to start work before it’s drawn up, signed. Then it’ll never arrive and you’ll keep working for nothing. Work to rule: No contract, no work. It won’t just be not delivering the promised contract either; it’ll be any myriad of things.

3. Flashing lots of cash.

I know what you’re thinking: having a lot of cash is a good thing. In principle yes, but not if they’re spending it on wining and dining at fine restaurants to ensure they’re ‘seen’, while you’re behind the scenes slaving away for them. That money is better spent on equipment, crew and anything else that could be useful for the given project, not on an expensive meal that wouldn’t feed a 6-month-old.

4. They don’t have a real address.

Did they give you a business card? Show up in a suit with a flash car, probably a convertible? It’s all image. They’re relying on you not doing your homework. Check up on them. Chances are before the funds come in to set up shop properly they’ve got nothing more than a post office box.

5. Constantly changing their mind about a project.

With no legitimate understanding of process or costs, they’ll constantly change things about the project they have you working on. It could be the location, the potential cost, even a sudden desire to take the entire cast and change the gender to all female, inadvertently creating an uncomfortable lesbian subtext. If you’re ever asked to realise a multi-million dollar summer blockbuster for less than a million, don’t stop running.

6. They have lots of equipment, but no crew.

They’ve bought the latest camera, which could just as easily have been rented, have a theoretical understanding of how it works, but no actual crew to work with. Even with all the fine dining they throw away money on as the wine and dine potential contacts, it only ever seems to be you doing any work.

7. All of their knowledge comes from books.

A fact that only becomes clear when you finally see a sample of what they’re capable of and it’s horrendous. They might talk a good game but the likelihood is they’re playing the wrong sport. Even worse, they base what they know on film school (where they have learned lots of theory).

8. Telling you you’re not to be seen as a public face of the project.

Yes you did most of the work, put in the most effort but you’re not publicity material. They’re going to do that instead. They’ll be the public face. Usually coincides with them stealing a credit.

9. Dipping in to project funds.

That money they needed is just within reach and you’ve stuck around through thick and thin. The realisation of everything is so close you can almost touch it. But the million they were getting is suddenly missing quarter mil that was spent on setting up their office and buying nice furniture to help create the image of success.

10. Bad mouthing you behind your back.

There you are, working diligently on their project, and they’re running around claiming the kudos and bad mouthing you as a bad worker thinking it’ll never get back to you. If you know you’ve been professional and it gets back to you that they’re claiming you haven’t, leave.

Any and all of these events could occur when in the clutches of a charlatan out to make a buck on your efforts, and many more beside. I myself and people I know have been through all of these or know people who have. The entertainment industry is a tough mistress, and too many people who have no business in it make life far tougher and more demoralising than it needs to be for those with genuine passion but no nepotism to rely on for a way in. The old adage that it’s not what you know but who is sadly true and too many people take advantage of it for their own ends, consequently destroying hopes and dreams in the process.

Every little helps, so comment below with more advice.




Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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