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Costly events target aspiring child actors

February 17, 2012 | 11:44 am

Bret Dawson hoped to be in commercials.

Since Hollywood's earliest days, families have come to Los Angeles to chase stardom for their children. In a departure from that tradition, companies are marketing the Hollywood dream in towns and cities across the U.S., offering children a chance to be discovered — for a price.

The talent businesses have thrived because the proliferation of children's TV programs has created a large pool of youngsters eager to become the next Miley Cyrus or Selena Gomez.

The companies blanket radio and TV stations with ads that use the names of Disney stars to draw children and their families to free auditions. Parents are then pressured to buy packages of acting workshops and other services that they're told will make their kids more appealing to talent agents and casting directors, according to court records and complaints filed with state attorneys general and the Better Business Bureau.

"I've talked to parents who've spent their children's college fund to make this dream a reality and have nothing to show for it," said Zino Macaluso, a national director of the Screen Actors Guild.

For more on the story, see today's article in the Los Angeles Times.

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-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Bret Dawson and his parents, Gina and Shawn, spent thousands at Pacific Modeling and Acting Academy. The family, shown in their San Diego home, hoped it would prepare Bret to be in commercials. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times.

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