Gilla Roos talent agency shuts doors
Owner in hiding; clients say they are owed back wagesGilla Roos, a 35-year-old talent agency specializing in commercials and print advertisements, has gone bust, and its owner, David Roos, is in hiding.
As a result, at least 75 actors and models say they are missing back wages totaling at least $150,000 and probably much more. The exact amount can't be determined yet, but at least two estimates put the loss at about $3,000 a person. Based on that, the agency might have lost close to $250,000 of its clients' money.
According to more than a dozen Gilla Roos clients as well as legal and industry sources, Roos shuttered his business Feb. 20. He has not filed for bankruptcy protection for himself or his business.
Roos has not returned several messages seeking comment, but client Danny Fischer said he has spoken with him a few times since the agency collapsed.
"He says he's bankrupt, he's homeless, he can't pay, he can't feed his two daughters," Fischer said. "I said, 'That's horrible, but what happened to our money?' "
Several Gilla Roos clients said the agency has been one of the slowest in paying its actors and models, who have had to wait at least three months to get paid. The vast majority of clients who are missing money booked print modeling jobs, which fall outside union jurisdiction and have few if any industry standards.
Some actors were able to get their money directly from advertisers or producers, but many learned that their checks had been sent to Gilla Roos weeks and sometimes months previously and that they had been cashed.
SAG sent a letter to its members saying it has deactivated Gilla Roos' franchise agreement. "No member of the Screen Actors Guild may hereafter engage, use or deal with this agency," the letter stated. AFTRA sent a similar letter to its members.
The day after SAG sent its letter, Roos sent an e-mail to clients urging them to stick with him. He described his business as "a victim of the global economic spiral" and argued that if his clients were patient, he could attract investors, resuscitate his business and get them more work.
"If most of you answer yes, Gilla Roos envisions its ability to regain viability and pay you and its other creditors," he wrote. "Otherwise, Gilla Roos has no future and will be prevented from paying you any portion of what you're owed."
Instead of winning sympathy and support, Roos further alienated his clients.
"He made no effort," Fischer said, "no effort to ease our minds."
Client Yue Xu became the spokeswoman and field captain for aggrieved clients by creating a mailing list, through which she urged former Gilla Roos clients to sue the agency in small-claims court and pressure the Manhattan district attorney to bring charges against Roos.
According to a spokeswoman at the D.A.'s office, who requested anonymity: "The Special Prosecutions unit received a number of calls about Gilla Roos the first week of March. An initial review indicated that it was more of a civil matter than a criminal matter." But the D.A. has not closed the case, she said.
"When you read (Roos') letter, what's interesting ... he blames everybody but himself," Xe said. "He blames the economy, he blames the industry, but he never once mentions that he may have mismanaged his agency."
Said Fischer: "He was a cool guy. ... I still think he's a cool guy. I just think he mismanaged his funds. I don't think he tried to hustle anybody."