SAN FRANCICSO (CN) – In a federal class action, mothers of would-be child stars say unregistered talent agency Be Productions charges thousands of dollars in advance, though very few kids get any work. Its Web site claims, “All clients that are selected by BE will get a chance to be on one of our popular TV shows,” and may get “feature films, background work, commercials, television” and other jobs, but class attorney Ethan Preston says none of his clients’ children were given the opportunities they were promised.
Parents say Be Productions pushes deceptive, pricey “packages” of services that allegedly include auditions with casting directors.
“The marketing materials basically guaranteed that these kids would be more likely to find work,” Preston said. the complaint says the class may number in the thousands.
Be Productions claims it is “headed by entertainment industry veterans with deep knowledge and expertise in casting, production and talent management,” but Preston said anyone with real knowledge of the entertainment industry knows that legitimate talent agencies do not charge upfront fees.
“The standard arrangement is that these companies get a portion of the income you get from working in the industry. The heads of (Be Productions) have enough exposure to the industry to know that an upfront fee is unusual. Something goofy is going on here,” Preston said.
Preston said plaintiff Kenneth Tanner paid $2,520 for a “Guest Star” package but canceled his payments when, like many other parents, he was unable to contact the talent director assigned to manage his child’s career because Be Productions had closed many of its offices in California.
Preston said Tanner and other parents received a “variety” of responses from Be Productions about its office closures, mostly maintaining that they could still get services if they continued making payments.
After canceling Be’s authorization to debit his bank account, Tanner says he received letters from Monterey Financial Services, Be Production’s collection agency. They threatened to ruin his credit if he didn’t pay up, which Preston said Monterey had no right to do since Be Productions failed to live up to its end of the bargain.
“Be Productions preyed on these kid’s emotions,” Preston said. “Picture it. You’re walking through a mall with your kid and a talent manager calls you over and puffs up your [child’s] self-esteem. Then you sit through a presentation advertising their services, dragged into a back room and told your kid can be successful and its only until the kid is emotionally sold on the idea do they bring out the paperwork and say, ‘If you want to your kid to do this it’s going to cost $5,000.’ These people use craven and manipulative sales techniques that prey on people’s love for their children.”
The class demands damages and injunctive relief for unfair debt collection and violation of the Advance-Fee Talent Service Act. They are represented by Preston of Chicago and David Parisi with Parisi & Havens of Sherman Oaks.