Wendy Ho, Artiste Entertainment, Singapore.
Wendy Ho is the owner of Artiste Entertainment, Singapore, a talent agency. Quite a few years ago, I did a few jobs for her. The thing is, I am still waiting to be paid for one of them.
Now, perhaps I should have learnt my lesson from my first experience with her - but I gave her the chance to prove herself, which was not, perhaps, that wise.
My first encounter with Wendy Ho was for the casting of the War Diary. She cast me in the role of Stanley Warren, a real-life historical figure, who, as a POW, painted the murals in Changi Chapel. It was interesting to get to play a real person, rather than a work of fiction - and, I suppose, a responsibility, too.
Now, when she offered me the role, I thought the pay was rather low, so I negotiated, ON THE PHONE, for a higher rate. She agreed to that rate.
So, I went ahead and did the shoot. Yet, afterwards, things got interesting. When I received my cheque, I noted that it was for the wrong amount - it had been made out for the original, unadjusted rate of pay, not our agreed higher rate. I duly called her up and explained that the cheque was not for the amount we had agreed.
I was then most surprised at her reaction. She scoffed at me, on the phone and said: "Did you get it in writing?", in what sounded like a rather mocking tone. She seemed to be saying: "I have won...and you thought you were being clever at renegotiating your deal!"
She quickly ended the call and that was that, as far as my pay was concerned.
Some years later, I had another encounter with her. This time over what they called a TV commercial. Again, the rate of pay was PHONED to me, not emailed. I am beginning to think this is their modus operandi, since it leaves no trace. A good rate of pay was suggested, for the day's work on the commercial - several times more than TV pays. I thought that was that. However, a few days later, when the same assistant called again, the pay had magically dropped in half. I couldn't get an explanation for the change. However, the pay was still good, so I decided to go ahead.
I did the shoot. All went well and I duly expected to get paid. Yet, half a dozen years later, I am still waiting.
My mistake, this time, was in being patient, in waiting for my cheque to be sent. You see, with Wendy Ho, it seems that there is no guarantee that a cheque will ever be sent. In my case, it wasn't.
Anyway, for entirely random reasons, I thought again, recently, of that TV commercial for which I had never been paid - and decided to email a query about it. I wrote to the main contact addresses of Artiste Entertainment. However, after several weeks, I had received no reply. I duly wrote again to the same addresses. Again, weeks passed without a reply. I then wrote to the addresses of individuals at Artiste Entertainment, including one I had had contact with before. She wrote back to me and said she would look into it. She also asked if I had "emails" regarding it. I thought this an interesting thing to ask, since, in my experience Wendy Ho liked to call or get people to call. Traces like emails were not what they generally left. I waited several weeks and heard nothing more. I then wrote to her again asking her to remind Wendy Ho - and she said she would do so. A couple of further months have passed and I have heard nothing more.
The thing about this is not just that I wasn't paid, but that it is doubly unfair considering the industry in question. The performing arts are precarious ways to earn a living, at best, and its seems really unfair, even evil, not to pay the actors what they are due, when it so difficult for them to find enough jobs in the first place.
Wendy Ho of Artiste Entertainment lives in what, by Singaporean standards, is an expensive house (a landed property). I wonder how many of her performers, on her books, can afford similar houses? How many of them also have problems getting paid what was agreed, or even paid at all?
Certainly, I have had two experiences of difficulty over pay with Wendy Ho and Artiste Entertainment. Now, I cannot know who else might have had such difficulties, but the fact that the same person could experience such problems twice, from the same source - out of relatively few jobs from that source - seems to point to a definite underlying problem.
So, here is my advice if you are a performer or other actor and you receive an offer of work from Wendy Ho of Artiste Entertainment. Firstly, do NOT accept the job over the phone. Do NOT negotiate over the phone. Do everything via email. Insist on a written record of the transaction. Better still, it might be good to insist on getting paid, in cash, upfront. Do not assume that any agreed sum, that is not in writing, will be paid.
The other thing to consider is this: do you like acting enough to do it for free? If not, perhaps you shouldn't be doing the job at all - because, in Singapore at least, you might never get paid.
Lest my post give the impression that Wendy Ho of Artiste Entertainment is the only agent not to pay her actors what was agreed, or at all - I really don't think this is so. I have heard rumours of quite a few performers in Singapore getting cheated of what they were due. So, if you are performing in Singapore, I would advise caution. Protect yourself as best as you can...and don't rely on it as a source of income, because here, that "income" may never come at all.
I decided to write this post, because I am unable to get Wendy Ho to reply to my queries. Perhaps, she might see this post. If she does and she settles the outstanding amount for the TV work done, then I will add a note to the end of this post that she has finally paid up. Until then, this post will remain as a cautionary tale for those who work in Singapore's entertainment industry.
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