Everyone’s child is the cutest, most talented and most incredibly adorable child around – at least in their parents’ eyes. That is the feeling a controversial Arizona company named The (pronounced Tay) relies on to make money.
According to the BBB, the company travels around the country holding free auditions for youngsters who hope to break into show business. The company held one such audition Saturday in Chesterfield, leading to a warning by the BBB (Better Business Bureau) to parents.
The company’s website, http://www.theeventsorlando.info, defines its services as a “modeling and acting event that brings aspiring models and talent together with leading talent and modeling agencies from Los Angeles, New York and other major markets across the country.”
The company promises that those who are invited to participate in its December event in Orlando will network with industry insiders, learn key skills to compete within the industry and will be “helping launch careers for many new faces.” All will have the opportunity to experience the realities of the entertainment and fashion industries.
What it doesn’t point out is that the reality is that very few people are successful compared to the vast number of people who try to break into those careers.
On its website, The notes that “This event is not right for everyone. We are looking for people with a high level of talent, interest and dependability.” Only those who are invited may attend – for a fee.
However, a Lee’s Summit woman told KMBC-TV in Kansas City that all three of her children were invited to attend the Orlando event. Her cost was $21,000. After looking into the company and talking with friends, she realized that all their children as well as hers were invited to the event, even though the company claimed only a limited number of youth would receive an invitation.
She planned to ask for a refund.
The website does explain that it offers several packages, starting at $1,950. Each package includes “registration for a five or six day event experience, tote bag, intensive acting and modeling orientations, industry and celebrity intensives, industry networking party, talent showcasing opportunities with dozens of industry professionals and red carpet experience at the closing night awards celebration for all participants where talent have a chance to win over $50,000 in cash prizes.” The St. Louis BBB issued a news release on the company in March 2009, warning parents that the free event ultimately could end up costing thousands of dollars. The company has an “F” grade with the Phoenix BBB, which is the lowest grade possible.
In May 2009, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced that The had agreed to grant consumers full refunds in advance of an event in that state and also agreed to forfeit $25,000 to the state.
“The settlement resolves claims that the organization’s contracts are defective and flawed and provides for changes in business practices,” Blumenthal said.
Last week, two BBB employees who phoned a toll-free number advertised on a St. Louis radio station were told the Chesterfield event was free and were not informed of subsequent paid events.
BBB wants people to be aware that these types of companies make a lot of money on the dreams of children and their parents and mislead them with hopes of instant stardom. Acting and modeling are highly competitive fields, and “instant stardom” usually takes many years of hard work to achieve.
“Every parent wants to believe that his or her child could be the next Hollywood sensation,” said Michelle Corey, president and CEO of the BBB. “The truth is the odds of this happening are remote at best.”
The BBB offers several tips for families interested in pursuing modeling and acting careers for their children.
• Be very careful about any requests for up-front payments in the form of registration, consultation or administrative fees.
• Understand that this is a very competitive business and a paid seminar or event might not be the best way to get agents and others to notice your child.
• Be wary of any promises of guaranteed employment or high earnings.
• Be cautious of companies that try to convince you to pay them money by throwing out names of known celebrities, motion picture studios or recording companies.
• Check business Reliability Reports at http://www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300 before attending any advertised event that offers to make your child an actor or model.
The Daily Journal has made a commitment to keep readers abreast of scams or questionable services that hit our area. If someone tries to make you the victim of a scam, call us at 431-2010 and tell us what happened. We will include your story in our scam alert series to prepare others who may find themselves in the same situation. The Daily Journal will run Scam Alert stories in the paper every Monday.