Gary Spatz of "Gary Spatz's The Playground" (www.garyspatz.com)
Please note that the consumer comment below is quite dated and that the operation has been in business since 2005 with only one BBB complaint on file. They have been rated A+ by the BBB.
While I do not personally vouch for the integrity of the operation or the value of their services, I am pleased that they have taken the time to address any concerns in a civil and professional manner. They also provided these links for addtional background on their services and history.
Pricing: $150/hour for private, individual coaching up-to $6000 for a 2 year, one-class-per-week program. They state they work with individual students to find a commitment that matches their needs (and sometimes their ability to pay if Gary really believes in an actor who can't afford full price).
[Last Updated: July 9, 2012]
Gary Spatz Concerns
August 5, 2004 - Last year my husband and I took my son to an audition after being approached at the mall by a woman. We were called back by a man named Brook Bishop (supposedly a former male model) and an employee of a company called APM Talent.
After a 10-minute telephone conversation we agreed to come in for a second time and that’s when we were given the strong sales pitch. In order to be accepted we must spend over $2000 in fees for pictures and classes taught by Gary Spatz, then a respected acting coach.
Deciding the classes were grossly expensive we came home and checked with the BBB of Southern California. We found company owner Eric Rottman had a lot of problems with his former companies here and in other states. We were relieved and disappointed at the some time. It was all just a [...]. We did eventually find our son a legitimate agent and he is doing well.
Unfortunately, the story does not end there. Now just over a year later my neighbor and her daughter were approached at the mall, attended an event and called back by a man named Mr. Bishop. His new company now located in Century City is called “Gary Spatz’s The Playground.”
Once again he told my neighbor they would have to spend thousands for acting classes taught by the very same Gary Spatz. After talking to my son’s agent, apparently Mr. Spatz at one time was reputable; however, he is fast acquiring the reputation of running an “overpriced acting mill.” Scam artists are plentiful in this business so if you have paid this company dimes demand your money back now!
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on acting classes. Call the Screen Actors Guild, buy a Back Stage West, contact your local community college or even ask a friend. Legitimate acting classes are just a couple of hundred dollars for six to eight weeks and most have agent showcases. All the real experts say that’s all you need when you’re just starting out to make sure your child is going to stick with it.
Yes, Protect our children.
P.S. This site is great! You have helped a lot of people and have put a lot of crooks on alert. Keep up the good work!
Gary Spatz Rebuttal
August 16, 2005
I have to disagree and say that Gary Spatz is a man of great integrity, honesty and fairness. I was heartbroken and sickened to see the above letter. I have known Gary for 6 years and my wife has been his client since she was 14. In our professional relationship with him we have seen him reach into his own pocket and pay for headshots, lend a spare room for free, buy groceries, etc. etc. Not just once, but many, many times he has personally taken care of his clients and helped them through difficult times.
Last year he worked with the children on the set of Everybody Loves Raymond. This is one of the most successful shows on TV and they would not be associated with someone who had a less than sterling reputation. I suggest that you take the time to meet personally with Gary and if he tries to push you into spending “thousands of dollars on overpriced acting classes” then you should walk away – but that won’t happen! Gary has always been willing to tell the truth and he won’t try to talk you into anything. Speak to him, speak the the children he’s worked with, speak to their parents – then make up your own mind.
I live in Los Angeles. I am not an actor, or an agent, I only know Gary because he works with my wife. Is it possible that the “Parent” is Gary’s competitor? I don’t know what kind of background check this site does on the people who send these letters, but I encourage them to contact me if they have any questions.
Rebuttal to Rebuttal
Gary Spatz may well be a man of great integrity, or have been for a long time. Nobody legitimately questions his credentials. But why is he associated with people who do not have great integrity, whose recruiting methods are, to say the least, suspect, and who are charging thousands of dollars? Maybe he doesn't charge thousands of dollars, but the people who bring him business do, parents say. (See APM Talent.)
Perhaps Spatz has been duped. In any case, as long as he is working with people like Rottman or APM and/or prices are so high, he's going to hear criticism from parents. Eric Rottman and company may be using him, jacking up his prices, if they are, as you suggest, low. If the payments are made to APM Talent, not Gary Spatz, it's certainly possible. Anyway, you suggested a competitor may have made the criticism. What competition? Who is his or APM Talent's competition?
You can't really complain about the poster writing anonymously if you email from a hotmail account. More importantly, what background check has Gary Spatz done on the people who are bringing him business, Eric Rottman and others? If you or your wife know him so well, why don't you ask him?
Rebuttal from Gary Spatz dated November 21, 2007
Recently this complaint was brought to my attention, and I feel compelled
to respond. Let me state some facts categorically. In over 20 years of
teaching and coaching on the highest levels of this industry as well as
working with literally thousands of students I’ve yet to receive
one complaint that is registered with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
I’m extremely proud of The Playground facility we’ve created in Century City. And, although our classes aren’t inexpensive, I believe they’re well worth the value. I have a two-year conservatory program, which, yes, does cost in the thousands.
But as of yet I have received no complaints from the parents or children who have attended these classes (and, again, we have a spotless record with the BBB). Quite the contrary, if you go to the Gary Spatz Playground website we have recently posted a testimonial board from the parents and children who attend our classes.
Their words speak for themselves. Or, if you like, you’re welcome to come down any weekend and talk to the parents who actually have children attending classes and get their reactions to our program. I believe you’ll get an honest assessment of what we’re trying to do with our young actor’s conservatory.
I also wish to state
that I believe it’s just as valuable and valid for a child who’s
studying acting, whether they pursue this professionally or not, to acquire
the communication skills we nurture in these classes. This can have a profound
impact on their self-esteem and their confidence in expressing themselves.
Time and time again I’ve had parents send me letters or comment to me
on how positive their experience at The Playground has been for their child.
I’ve tried to take all the expertise that I’ve gathered over 20 plus years to fashion a thorough curriculum for the young actor to develop a true sense of the craft as well as create a positive and professional environment in which to perform in. I believe I enjoy a first class reputation as someone who knows what they’re doing and has great integrity and passion for how they go about doing it.
I’ve used this knowledge to create The Playground, which I hope would be a world-class conservatory for young actors. We keep the classes small (an average of 12 students per class), two teachers in every classroom (both of which are well-trained actors with college degrees and many with post-graduate degrees) so there’s plenty of supervision, along with myself who oversees the lesson plans that I’ve created.
It is a curriculum that I believe in and that along with professional lighting, cameras, and equipment creates a professional studio environment that the young actor can perform in. In addition, as part of the program we record the student doing a commercial, monologue, or scene so that their parents might have a DVD of some of their best work.
And, by the way, the library of material that I’ve collected
over the last 25 years is, I believe, unlike anything else far as the variety
of scripts and scenes and monologues suited for young actors. Along with this,
there are make up classes, parent’s conferences, and a business seminar
that I hold for the parents separately for questions they may have about the
industry. We include all this and more as part of the program we have at The
I will give a few examples that I think say quite a bit about the quality of our program. One, not everyone signs up for the full 2-year program. You can sign up for a 6 month, 24 week, session. Of the students that sign up for the first six months, I would say 75-80 percent, decide to resign and continue their studies beyond those initial 24 weeks. Obviously if the parent(s) or child weren’t happy with our program, I think this number would be drastically lower.
Second, I’ve noticed over the last three years that many of the top industry professionals, be they talent agents, managers, directors, producers, writers, etc, have sent or recommended family members to attend my classes. These are industry insiders who have the ability to ‘check me out’ beyond the obvious information that is available on the Internet and they have the resources for their kids to study anywhere.
Their main concern, as with any
parent, is to find the best possible instruction for their aspiring actor.
They are attending and continue to attend our classes at The Playground. I
do not court the industry but I have found that time and time again I am recommended
to them. And I do not think they’d be coming if they questioned the authenticity
of my program or my professional integrity.
I know we give tremendous value for the money that is spent by parents. My resume and biography is easily available to anyone who wishes to view my qualifications. I think logic would dictate that I would not be employed by the top networks and studios to work with their star performers if I wasn’t well vetted (investigated) into my expertise and character. Especially a company like Disney, that I’ve been so closely associated with for 20 years.
I Shrunk the Kids” and “Mickey Mouse Club” all the way to
the present, having been the acting coach for Dylan and Cole Sprouse over the
last 3 years for “The Suite Life of Zach and Cody”. I think it’s
obvious that my reputation is unblemished as it should be for someone who works
with children. I’ve done my best to maintain the same caliber of instruction
from the coaching I do on sets to the classes we teach at The Playground.
If this rebuttal comes off as a bit of a rant, I apologize. I’m not used to being taken to task for something that I’ve devoted my adult life to and feel so passionately about. Let’s put it this way, it’s better you’re hearing from me than my wife because she’s really livid!
Okay, enough said. I wanted to rebut this letter but I do not wish to engage in an ongoing communication on the Internet with some anonymous person. If anyone wishes to talk with me, I’m very easy to find. My office is 1801 Ave of the Stars, Suite 611 Century City, CA 90067.
My website, garyspatztheplayground.com,
has my email address as well as my resume and bio. In other words, if you wish
to have a conversation with me please do me the respect of meeting with me
in person or talking with me on the phone. I believe that’s only fair.
Having never written one of these things before I hope you’ll print it in its entirety and post it for all to see.