Parent feels duped by child talent search

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by Maggie Crane / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on September 3, 2012 at 10:04 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 3 at 10:40 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A local child talent company is back in town, allegedly luring kids with visions of t.v. stardom alongside big names like Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber.  One parent asked News 4 to get answers about what she calls the company’s expensive sales pitch.

The Better Business Bureau has warned parents of the company called “The Event” before.  Its brochure claims hundreds of “The Event” participants have become actors.  But if you read the fine print, “The Event” doesn’t promise much more than a chance to network with agents and casting directors.

According to one parent whose child auditioned, nearly 900 kids looking to be the next big Disney star came through the doors at the Union Station Marriott over the Labor Day weekend.  A woman from “The Event” company sent me the disclaimer that she says all parents must sign, acknowledging that “The Event” is a “fee based event/competition” and that it is not a talent agency.

The commercial starts off by saying, “Hey, kids, do you love the Disney Channel?  How about superstars like Selena Gomez or Justin Bieber?  Well, how would you like to be on the Disney Channel?”

It’s that commercial for “The Event” that has kids across St. Louis dreaming of t.v. stardom, but they are pipe dreams for most families.  Child talent auditions at “The Event” aren’t for t.v. shows, and they’re sure not for Disney; they’re for another talent competition.  One mom, who asked we not show her face for her religious reasons, says “The Event” preys on parents to open their pocketbooks.

“Everybody doesn’t have a credit card with $1,950 up to $8,000 to pay, you know, hoping that they’re helping their kid pursue a dream.”

The money gets your kid into “showcase events” in Orlando, Florida with the promise of “decision makers” watching.  According to its brochure, “The Event” invites “over 60 different casting directors, agents, managers” but that’s certainly no guarantee they’ll show up or that your kid will become the next big thing.

“This is for a trip to Florida that doesn’t cover airfare or hotels, so what’s the money for?  They don’t really tell you what it’s for,” one mom told me.  She says she feels misled.

So we went looking for answers.  A “The Event” staffer would only tell me that her name is Meg.  She told me to follow her when I started asking her about the company, and then took me to the hotel concierge for information.

“How would the hotel know anything about it?” I asked.  Meg had no comment.  In fact, she had ‘no comment’ for every question I asked her, including information about who did have a comment.

Luckily, I had a phone number and an email address that one hopeful teen had gotten from her “The Event” audition.  After leaving messages, I got a lengthy email from a woman who identified herself as Louise Worth, Media Relations, The Event.  She thought our story should wait.  She wrote, “Running the story tonight or later in the week shouldn’t make a difference, but you must be on a ratings slump for Labor Day viewing and hence the irrational deadline.”

In the email I sent her, I asked her about the company’s affiliation with Disney, since “Disney Channel” is said four times in its one-minute commercial.

She responded, “Our reference to Disney, Nickelodeon and other major kid networks and films are a result of our success stories and the celebrities that attend our event in Orlando.  Again, that is not to be confused as though there is an affiliation.”

But the mom who called us was confused.  She says none of that was made clear until her daughter’s hopes were high.

“You know I work too hard for my money,” the mom told me.

She says she’s glad to forgo what she says looks to be little more than an expensive talent show.

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