Premiere Event US
- 12th Jul, 2016
THE event for aspiring child actors is one expensive talent show
- Report #5YC5V
- Reporter ATIGANDGED
As published at http://www.cleveland.com/consumeraffairs/index.ssf/2010/09/the_event_for_aspiring_child_a.html -
The Question: My 14-year-old daughter heard a radio ad for free auditions at a local hotel. My wife took her and found out that kids who are "selected" during the auditions pony up $2,000 to $8,000 to attend an event in Orlando that offers a chance to be seen by agents.
The group is called THE, which they pronounce "Tay." I looked for information about this company and came up with zero. I decided not to sign my daughter up, but I hope you will be able to find out something about this company.
-- Cherian Jacob, Brecksville
The Answer: You get a commendation for bravery for even attempting a Google search on a generic word like "THE."
Modeling/acting/talent operations regularly swing through the state.
They promise star-struck kids (bankrolled by adoring parents) a chance to be discovered.
These mobile events are billed as auditions, but they're rarely try-outs for a specific role or show – even though ads may mention popular kids' TV shows or channels.
Children who attend auditions usually receive an invitation to pay for help furthering their show biz dreams -- like acting or singing classes or photos sessions.
THE LLC offers families a chance to pay between $1,950 and $7,900 to take a child to an event that THE describes "an acting and modeling fee-based event, competition and networking opportunity that brings aspiring models and actors together with leading talent and modeling agencies . . . from major markets across the country." The event at a Disney World hotel includes a competition with cash prizes.
If you read the materials and website carefully, you'll see that THE doesn't promise much more than the chance to "network" with agents and casting directors. The materials claim hundreds of THE participants have become performers.
THE founder George Gammon described THE's Orlando gathering as "a family friendly vacation event for people who love the performing arts" -- which is not exactly how the print materials bill the event.
Gammon said THE is an event, not a talent agency: "It's really just like a big cheerleading or dance competition geared towards the performing arts. The only difference is agents judge the competitions."
Gammon, by the way, told me he could speak about THE as a founder but said he wasn't an owner or manager of THE. (He suggested I contact the company's management team and correctly predicted that no one from the company would respond to my calls or e-mails.)
THE is described in numerous legal documents as the "doing business as" name of Gammon's NedGam Productions LLC.
Last year, when THE got in hot water with the Connecticut attorney general's office, Gammon, who listed himself as a principal, signed the voluntary compliance agreement.
A spokeswoman for the Connecticut attorney general's office, Tara Downes, said her office wanted the company to write contracts in "plain English" so consumers can understand the terms and clearly disclose in both advertising and contracts if consumers risk losing their deposits if they sign up but later change their minds.
THE, while admitting no wrongdoing, agreed to issue refunds to Connecticut consumers.
These days, when airwaves are full of talent and reality shows, dreams of stardom may seem readily attainable. And pitches aimed at kids have added appeal. What parent doesn't believe his or her children are the most gorgeous, talented and intelligent creatures on the planet?
It's easy to get so caught up in dreams that you gloss over important details, like checking out claims, asking for references, and reading materials and contracts closely.
California recently passed a law that cracks down on misrepresentations by casting workshops and talent services. Among other things, the law prohibits companies from using the names of shows, networks or actors unless they can prove they have an affiliation. Zino Mancuso, an attorney with the Screen Actors Guild, says, "This eliminates the bait and switch."
Perhaps now that our state is trying to lure the film industry to Ohio, the Legislature should look into whether state law adequately protects our home-grown talent.
Consumer Wise Try these resources for star-struck children and their families:
• The Plain Dealer's Friday magazine If the school play is too small of a stage, check out listings of auditions for local plays and musicals.
• BizParentz Foundation Info for child actors and their families and tips for spotting scams.
• California Department of Labor's searchable database If a company claims a Hollywood connection, check to see whether it's bonded and able to do business in that state.
• The Screen Actors Guild. Info on safety issues for young performers(sag.org/young-performers) and common scams
• Ohio Attorney General's Office File complaints about misleading ads or contracts here. , confusing contracts or refund issues
Evidence box (1)