The Hollywood Group
To Whom It May Concern:
My daughter was scouted in the mall while shopping with
her grandmother by two ladies who said she had the look
they were searching for. She was given a card (from ETS)
to attend an interview.
I did let her attend the interview to feel the water.
A week later, we received a call from a representative
of The Hollywood Group in Los Angeles, CA, wanting to
meet with my husband, myself and our daughter. They were
very persistent that both parents had to be in attendance.
We did finally set a date to meet with them for what
we thought was an individual interview with the "boss" E.J.
Instead we were placed in a room with four other families
and their kids.
We were shown clips of movies for which The Hollywood
Group indicates they have done all the extra work (Spider
Man, Max Keeble's Big Move, and a few others, not including
all the TV shows they indicate they have and continue
to work on).
We were also advised of how he had been a casting director
for years, and that he had also written a book on how
to get your children into movies/TV.
After we watched these clips and some of this information,
we were then told what was expected of us, the parents.
$1,395 if we purchased the premiere package.
This package included her acting lessons (which were
guaranteed to be at a discount, although we were never
given the costs for the lessons); head shots (only to
take the picture); a registration fee for an agent for
her to do extra work; her ability to attend two showcases
a year; for their fees to do her resume and update it
as needed (as long as she stayed with them —not
sure what this meant as they claim there are no monthly
fees); and a few other minor things.
We were then advised that after we paid this $1,395,
we would then be responsible to pay $79 for 50 copies
of her headshots; $10 (co-pay) for every acting class
she attended; $25 (co-pay) for every showcase she attended
(as it was put —they have to pay the agents to
be there, so this is partly to pay for them). And names
were given as to who would be giving these acting classes.
We were then given a book to review; however, we never
had the opportunity to review this book as we were ushered
into an office to discuss "our" daughter.
We were then given a more high-powered sales pitch in
which he used our daughter to say, "You have to
tell your parents how much you want to do this," and, "This
is an investment in her future," etc.
He discussed all the "big names" they have
found and showed us by quickly flipping through a book
a bunch of pictures of these kids.
We were then given five minutes to make up our minds!
When we tried to discuss our concerns (paying upfront
fees, co-pays for classes and showcases, etc.), he chuckled
and asked if we thought an agency like Ford or Savage
would pay for our daughter's headshots, etc. He indicated
that they would not.
We asked if we could review the book, and he said, "No
way," because this was all the information he had
gathered over several years.
We were then ushered out the door with a "Well,
if you want to prepare her on your own, feel free, and
then you can come back to me, but you will pay double
to get her ready over the deals I have."
I felt like this was a car sales pitch: they crammed
information at you so fast that there was no way in which
you could retain everything they had said to you.
After leaving this and discussing it with my husband,
he felt that these fees were appropriate, as there is "overhead," so
why not just pay them?
We discussed it further and decided that we would look
I have done a lot of checking on the internet, but I
could not find anything about this company.
I did check the BBB, which indicates that there are
no complaints, and this company is listed as a talent/model
I even checked The Hollywood Group's website, but there
was no information there, either (www.hollywoodhandbook.com).
I did locate a website for one of the names we were
given as a teacher of the acting lessons (strangely enough,
one of the girls that The Hollywood Group indicates works
with them is on this other person's website —where
this person represents her —as well as a couple
of other kids that The Hollywood Group indicated are
I did send an email to this person to inquire about
the classes —I did not indicate that I had received
their name from The Hollywood Group —I only inquired
about the classes.
The response said classes run $275 for a five-week class
My question are:
How do you find out if this company has ever been under
a fraud investigation?
How do you find out if the owner of The Hollywood Group
has previously owned a business that was a scam (I have
read that this happens a lot; they close down one and
open another with a different name in a different place)?
How do you verify if they really worked on the movies
and TV shows they indicate they have?
How do you verify if these kids they indicate work really
How do you verify if the company that is offering acting
lessons is legitimate?
It is highly suspicious. Someone just wrote describing
a similar scenario wrt a scout for John Casablancas.
Most of what starts at a mall is bad. Malls are places
used by scam artists looking for a lot of people in the
same place. It is illegal in some malls to solicit or
In VA a few years ago there was a huge scam company
whose mall scouts had been threatened with being arrested
if they continued to scout.
They really should just open up a store in the mall
with a sign out front: "Classes for Sale."
The typical thing with your daughter was the tired sales
pickup line, "You've got the look."
The weird thing in your situation was they tried to
use "the look" to sell acting lessons. In other
words, they used a modeling pickup line to sell acting.
The look is not the primary basis of choosing actors;
it is acting skill. You didn't say they asked her to
read a script, so presumably they didn't. Why not? Do
you not find that very strange? Put yourself in the position
of a casting director. Or even an agent.
The American Idol is a hot show right now. The Canadian
counterpart, Popstars, is also popular. These talent
shows are not based on looks; they are based on talent.
The judges, who are like casting directors, judge based
on how well they sing.
Although looks are also considered, they are not the
basis of the decisions. They must look the part, but
looks mean nothing if they cannot sing and perform. Looks
are considered after judging the talent.
Of course this is very different compared to modeling.
But casting directors for actors who have written have
said looks were not that important to them; it's about,
first and foremost, how well they act.
Apply that basic concept to your situation.
Too many times when a company is trying to sell you
a "package," it is a scam. Not saying this
company is a scam, but the other ones which were trying
to sell "packages" were bogus.
What is in the package? A package is basically an attempt
to sell you, the consumer, as much as possible, as quickly
as possible. Fast, easy money. It is always upfront fees.
Why are they trying to get a major commitment so quickly?
Not only has your daughter not been screened for acting
talent and passion, but you have not indicated she is
even interested in acting. Therefore why should you make
a financial commitment and why should they even ask for
a financial commitment?
There are much cheaper classes available, $300 or less.
You can start small, let your daughter find out if she
is interested, if she is talented, then spend more. There
is no reason to make a huge commitment at the beginning.
They claimed you would get a "discount" on
the classes or the package. Really? How do you know it's
not a makeup/markup scam? How do you know they don't
just makeup a number, then double it, then say you are
getting 50% off, for example?
You need a reference point for pricing from someone
who is not trying to make $1,395 off you, or any money,
for that matter.
If this casting director has written a book, ask for
a free copy, then ask for the opinion of local agents.
Since you are in LA, it should not be very difficult
to make local calls to local talent agents to get second
In either the modeling or talent industries, there has
to be a clear demarcation between schools and agencies.
Otherwise there are conflicts of interest. In the case
of THG, there isn't a clear line.
Laws in some states (like FL, maybe CA, too), do not
allow agencies to charge for acting schools, acting workshops.
You have to be either a school or an agency.
The law is there to stop people from scamming talent
and parents by signing them up for classes to get work,
but then not doing anything once the classes are over,
because they already have your money!
This is a very old talent scam. (The laws against this
type of scheme are not new.)
A company that used hard-sales pressure to sign people
up for $1,400 packages of photos and classes was sued
by the federal government in 1999.
Contact the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) to find out if
their casting claims are legitimate.
You said they gave you five minutes to make up your
mind and they used your daughter to manipulate you. Two
common scam techniques are hard sales pressure and emotional
An agency is not a store; they don't try to sell you
anything. Reputable agencies make their money after the
Shop around. Find out what else is out there. But first
find out how interested your daughter is in acting. In
such a competitive industry, you really want to pursue
it only if it's more than a dream, it's a skill and a
Finally, since you felt, rightly so, the salesman sounded
like a car salesman, ask if included with the photos
and classes you get a car.