EXCLUSIVE: International Artists Management (IAM), the London agency that reps stars including Billy Zane and Gary Dourdan, has admitted sending a client misrepresented invites for self-tape auditions in an attempt to secure him work. 

Mark Barrett, whose credits include Outlander, has blown the whistle on his former agent, gathering evidence showing that he was emailed at least six illegitimate self-tape invites between February 2022 and January 2024. In five of the purported invites, IAM appeared to change the wording of emails from casting directors to make it seem as if they had requested Barrett to tape for a role when in fact he had not been called to audition.

Barrett accused IAM of giving him false hope after he received the purported invites to audition for major roles in films and TV shows, including Guy Ritchie’s Netflix series The Gentlemen and BBC drama Shetland. He invested time and effort into recording the tapes, but some were not submitted by IAM due to “administrative errors” or because they were declined by casting directors. Barrett said the revelations had left him angry and heartbroken. 

Misrepresenting audition invites does not contravene any specific industry standards, but casting directors frown upon the practice. In normal circumstances, casting directors will invite one or more actors from an agency to record a self-tape for a specific role, with the audition process becoming commonplace during the pandemic.

A member of the Casting Directors Guild told Barrett that they were aware of the “tactic” of duplicating tapes for actors not called to audition, but said agencies should not do it “for many reasons.” IAM is a member of agency group, the Personal Managers’ Association (PMA), which states in its code of conduct that members should be “conscientious” about the welfare of clients. 

In a statement, IAM admitted that it had made “mistakes” in its communication with Barrett, but said it had since updated its processes around the handling of self-tape auditions. “The happiness and success of our clients continue to be paramount,” the company said.

Netflix series ‘The Gentlemen’

Kevin Baker/Netflix

Through an attorney, IAM said that of the 134 self-tapes recorded by Barrett during his four years with the agency, 110 were requested and seen by casting directors, while 24 were completed without an invitation. Only one of the 24 unsolicited tapes resulted in work, which Barrett argued was because he intervened and spoke to the director. Ten of the unrequested tapes were not seen by casting directors.

IAM argued that completing unsolicited tapes was in Barrett’s best interests and was a tool to secure him maximum exposure with decision-makers, but the agency did not explain why it was not fully transparent with the actor about this strategy. IAM said it did not financially benefit from the practice.

“It is our client’s experience that actors in his [Barrett’s] position would much prefer to produce self-tapes even with there being a risk that they would not be seen, than not have the opportunity to be seen at all,” IAM’s lawyer Carter-Ruck said in a letter. 

Barrett disputed this. The actor said he was not made aware by IAM that he was recording the 24 unsolicited self-tapes. Had he known he was auditioning for casting directors without an invite, Barrett said he would have declined to do so.

As part of Deadline’s investigation, five former IAM insiders alleged that Barrett was not the only client to be asked to record unsolicited tapes, though the agency said it had not received any other complaints. Ex-workers said written records and a digital spreadsheet were used to keep track of the tapes. IAM denied the allegations from former workers, arguing through its attorney that they were “baseless” claims made by “disgruntled” former employees. 

Founded by Luc Chaudhary in 2011, IAM is the second UK agency to become embroiled in a self-tape row following Deadline’s exposé on Bodhi Talent earlier this month. Bodhi was accused of duplicating audition invites from casting directors in an attempt to appease clients who were worried about their lack of work and prospects.

Former IAM clients have also raised questions about the agency’s historical contracts containing notice periods that fall below industry best practice. IAM said it had updated its contracts since joining the PMA.

IAM’s claims to represent high-profile stars have also come under scrutiny. Until February, IAM’s website gave the appearance that Lindsay Lohan and Michael Madsen were among its 400 clients, but both actors denied any association with the agency. IAM said it did historical work for Lohan and Madsen and their headshots appeared on its homepage after the contents of an old webpage mistakenly carried over to the new site.

A ‘Catalyst’ For Doubt

Barrett joined IAM in May 2019 and said he was full of hope that a move to a more established agency signaled a positive step for his career. The Scottish actor secured roles in two episodes of Outlander in 2020 and went on to feature alongside Claire Foy and James McAvoy in 2021 film My Son.

But the momentum stalled and Barrett emailed IAM last June to say that he was “disheartened” with his progress. IAM senior agent Helen Kelly replied reassuring her “talented” client and praising his auditions. Barrett did not say so at the time, but concerns about his career were compounded by suspicions over the veracity of his auditions, he said.

Season 7 photo of Caitríona Balfe and Sam Heughan

‘Outlander’

The seeds of doubt were sown in January last year, when IAM sent Barrett an audition for UK indie film Catalyst, now known as Shelter. IAM forwarded him an email purporting to be from the Shelter casting director, in which she said the film would “love for Mark to tape for the role of Bates.” IAM has now acknowledged that the email “​​misrepresented” the casting director’s desire for Barrett to audition but said its actions were “well-intentioned.”

The actor said he submitted his self-tape in good faith and Kelly, the senior IAM agent, confirmed by email that it was “all sent on” to casting, praising the “really nice work.” Weeks after his submission, Barrett attended a self-tape workshop led by Shelter director Scott Vickers. During the workshop, Barrett mentioned his Shelter audition, leaving Vickers perplexed. 

“Scott was like: we’ve no idea what you’re talking about, we’ve never seen you before, we don’t have that tape,” Barrett recalled. Vickers corroborated Barrett’s story, telling Deadline that the actor was not invited to audition and they never received a self-tape. Barrett said he was floored by the revelation.

Through an attorney, IAM said Barrett’s tape was not sent to the Shelter team when it should have been due to an “administrative error.” The agency stressed that it did eventually submit the tape, but Barrett said this was only after his discovery at Vickers’ workshop. He ultimately landed a larger role in Shelter than the one he auditioned for, but argued that he achieved this on his own merits. Vickers agreed: “I saw over 50 people for that role and no one was really a fit. Had Mark not attended the workshop, we would never have seen his tape.”

Tapes For ‘Shetland’ & ‘The Gentlemen’

Barrett, who quit IAM in January, said he had concerns about the authenticity of at least five other requests for tapes, the most recent of which was for a major role in a potential new season of hit BBC series Shetland

IAM forwarded Barrett an email from Orla O’Connor Casting in January, in which the Shetland casting director’s assistant purportedly wrote that she would “love for him to tape” for a “highly confidential” role. Again, IAM has now acknowledged that the email “​​misrepresented” O’Connor’s desire to see Barrett, but the agency said it did so to “nurture” his feelings and help raise his profile.

‘Shetland’

Email records show that the actor submitted his self-tape and IAM agent Kelly assured him it had been “sent on to casting.” In February, Barrett contacted Orla O’Connor Casting to thank the team for the opportunity. An assistant replied: “We haven’t received a tape from you, nor do we have a record of requesting one via your agent.”

In a legal letter to Deadline, IAM said it wanted to “push” Barrett for the Shetland role, but did not submit Barrett’s tape because of a “human error” involving a former assistant failing to follow Kelly’s oral instructions. IAM has reviewed its practices, looking particularly at when it confirms to clients that tapes have been submitted.

In another example from July 2022, Barrett received an email under Chaudhary’s name stating that the casting director on Netflix series The Gentlemen “has asked you to self-tape.” In reality, Dan Hubbard Casting had made no such request. Barrett submitted his audition and Kelly confirmed she was “happy to send this across.” Dan Hubbard Casting later confirmed that it had no record of receiving his audition. 

‘The Gentlemen’ audition invite

IAM admitted that Barrett had not been requested for the role, but said it wanted to “push” its client. The agency said Dan Hubbard Casting declined to see Barrett’s tape, meaning it was never submitted. As with other examples, IAM argued that it was acting in Barrett’s best interests.

Email records reviewed by Deadline show a similar pattern of events on three other of Barrett’s self-tape auditions: BBC series Kin in April 2022; Northern Lights, a show for Irish broadcaster TG4, in May 2022; and Syfy series The Ark in February 2022. IAM said it attempted to submit Barrett’s tapes for Kin and The Ark, but casting directors declined to watch. The Northern Lights tape was not sent due to an “administrative error,” despite IAM’s Kelly telling Barrett it had been “sent off.”

An Actor’s Anguish

For each audition, Barrett said he was pouring time and energy into roles he thought he had a genuine shot at. In a tearful interview with Deadline, Barrett said he felt professionally and personally burned by IAM. He explained that each tape represented a ray of hope and an opportunity at a big break in the industry, so to learn some were “phantom” auditions was devastating.

“It makes me sick to the pit of my stomach and I have never been so humiliated in all of my life,” he said. “It’s so f***ing sore, it actually hurts my heart. This is why I’m doing this [interview] because I don’t want another person to go through this.”

Mark Barrett

Barrett added: “I was caring for my dying father when I was receiving tapes from IAM. He will be spinning in his grave knowing that my career was in such manipulative hands. The moments of hope shared with him over auditions can’t be for nothing. He always taught me to stand up for myself and, without him, I wouldn’t be as strong to expose this.”

Through an attorney, IAM claimed that Kelly made clear to Barrett upon signing that he would be pushed for roles. IAM believes that the practice of sending unsolicited tapes is a way of opening doors with casting directors. The company argued that it sent Barrett misleading audition invites intending to secure him work.

In a statement, IAM said: “After Covid the landscape of the TV and film industry changed and the use of self-tapes increased, which enabled us to push for more opportunities for our clients. Even though many of our clients reaped the rewards of this approach we accept that it meant mistakes were made. 

“Our focus has always been to get our clients as much work as possible through these unprecedented times. The happiness and success of our clients continue to be paramount and we have now implemented new systems to ensure this never happens again.”

Contracts & Client Claims 

IAM is a member of the PMA and, through its lawyer Carter-Ruck, said it “abides with its code of conduct at all times,” including being “conscientious” about the welfare of clients. But questions have been raised about whether IAM has observed best practice. 

The PMA states that agencies should not “seek to enforce any time restriction in relation to a client’s notice of termination of representation.” Deadline has reviewed the contract of a former client, who wished to remain anonymous. The agreement stated that they must give one month’s notice in writing. Chaudhary explicitly enforced this notice period in an email to the ex-client in spring 2023. IAM declined to disclose when it joined the PMA, meaning it is unclear if this notice period was enforced after it became a member of the organization.

Barrett’s rolling contract also stated that he must give a month’s notice. Barrett acknowledged that IAM chose not to enforce the notice period when he quit at the start of the year, but his contract did not reflect PMA standards because it was entered into before IAM joined the PMA. IAM said it has updated its contracts and has not enforced notice periods since becoming a member of the PMA.

Screenshot of IAM’s homepage before Lindsay Lohan and Michael Madsen were removed

IAM’s claims about its client list have also been subject to scrutiny. Until last month, IAM’s homepage was adorned with pictures of Lohan and Madsen, but both actors denied being repped by the UK agency. IAM’s website was updated to remove Lohan and Madsen after Deadline contacted the agency for comment. IAM said their headshots appeared on its homepage after the contents of an old webpage mistakenly carried over to the new site.

Madsen’s rep said he never had an official association with IAM, despite the company tweeting in September 2020 that it was “pleased” to have signed the Reservoir Dogs star. IAM said Chaudhary had WhatsApp contact with Madsen’s manager Bruno Rosato and Lohan, during which “opportunities” for work were discussed. IAM’s lawyer Carter-Ruck said stars like Madsen do not sign formal deals with small agencies and that the actor had several companies representing him. IAM developed a relationship with Rosato and solicited work for Madsen on an ad-hoc basis, without a contract of representation.

IAM said it represents other actors on this basis, including Police Academy star Steve Guttenberg. Other clients on its books include CSI: Crime Scene Investigation actor Dourdan, The New Adventures of Superman star Dean Cain, and Steven Berkoff, who starred in Octopussy and Beverly Hills Cop.

If you wish to contact the author of this article to supply further information, please email jkanter@deadline.com.

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