I have been in the entertainment industry for about 8 years now and I've run into places like this before, but this one takes the cake, which they also admit that they do. They admit that they are the biggest "talent workshop of their kind", as Brittney, a bubbly blonde woman from Northridge who works at the Santa Ana branch, told us in our group interview.
They are as everyone says they are, they rip people off. First their "scouts" whom they find through places like craigslist.org (that's how I found them), and then the children and parents whom they send their scouts to find in the mall, promising them background (extra) work with a lot of name dropping. A lot of Hannah Montana, Disney, CW, and other kid star and show names are mentioned.
If you are hired as a "scout" you will not get paid. Well, maybe half of what they told you you will get paid if you keep on working, but it is really not worth it. Perhaps if you have no problem with Karma or Reaping What You Sow (as Brittney our interviewer ironically said she was a big believer in) you could make a lot of money if you show yourself willing to stay with the scam, but who knows how long you have to be ripped off before they start paying you? Plus, they have your picture, social security number, driver's license number, and other important details that could easily be used for identity theft if they so felt like it.
First of all, as a potential employee, you go to a group interview (mine was at the Santa Ana office, very close to Costa Mesa). Each of you brings a resume or fills out an application. They don't list the name of the business on the craigslist ad, and they don't mention it in the interview. In fact, I only remembered it because I grabbed a business card because I wanted to check them out later.
Then you sit through a very long interview process, which I can only assume serves to show them how desperate you are for work, where you and the other 40 people take turns, one by one, speaking about yourself in front of everyone else. Brittney, our interviewer that day, said it was because they wanted to see how we did in front of other people.
Brittney and another woman named Tara were our interviewers. Brittney did all the talking and Tara was very silent but making a lot of notes. Brittney was very positive and bubbly about how much money we would make, how they would pay for our drive time, how she drives all the way from Northridge and how it is so worth it and you'll never have to work anywhere else again if you "do what you are supposed to be doing".
They claim to pay you for training, which they do not unless you can somehow manipulate it out of them as my fellow scout did by saying she'd consider returning if she finally got paid for training (the check that was lost for a month came 2 days after she'd left that voice mail).
They also claim to pay you per family that you bring in to get the screen test.
The truth of the matter is, you don't get paid for training, you get told that since only some of the families you brought in got signed up, you wont be paid as much as you were expecting. And what you find is, the first Saturday, a lot of people show up for their first day of work, the next Saturday its about half or a third of who was originally there that first Saturday because they got their check in the mail (you get paid weekly) and saw how little they actually made. And that they don't pay you per family you bring in, but per family that signs up, but you don't get to be there when they do the signing up, so they say that while you were not there, many of the families you sent in did not sign up.
My fellow scout sent in a family who was her friend to go to the screen test process so they could tell her how it works (since even though they promise you get to work at them when you get hired, you really don't). And even though they say they don't sell you anything, the first thing they do is ask for money. Its either by sending you to an acting class of their choice or by saying they need it for the portfolio they will build for you or whatever you can imagine. The point is, they take a lot of your hard earned money on the basis of "you get to fulfill your child's Hollywood dreams".
Now, if you've gotten this far, here's the most important and scandalous stuff.
They are located all over California, in Emeryville, San Jose, Santa Ana, and San Diego, but they are now also opening an office in Colorado, but our interviewer who told us that didn't mention where.
On their website, which is fiendishly optimistic and misleading they have a section with the latest news (also on the same page where the founders are) which can be found here http://gonnabe.com/kids/News/Latest/About-Be.html
The part about it that is disturbing is the piece that ABC7 did on them on their news show. Now, I've been in the entertainment industry for 8 years and particularly worked with record labels and musicians. I know how it works. This piece on ABC7 is disturbing to me because they are acting like it is something newsworthy and revolutionary that a bunch of kids are coming together to make a band and are just getting signed to a record label. Well, its not. This happens everyday.
So, why is this on the evening news?
When I went in for my group interview they mentioned the CW network and how they had a couple of television shows on it. I looked it up. CW belongs to ABC7. So, even though the news piece makes them sound credible, what really happened is CW is either working with Be. Studios/My Artist's Place, LLC or someone from one of the television shows that Be. Studios/My Artist's Place, LLC runs (Kids Unlimited and/or Say What?!?) somehow pushed (or slept with) someone from from CW to get ABC7 to do that news piece.
It is very common that things you see on network television news is just advertizement for other parts of their network, but since this does not mention either of the television shows (except for a short aside) or the CW (once again except for a short aside) but spends some time mentioning and interviewing someone from Be. Studios, I can only conclude that ABC7 and CW are somehow linked to this scam.
Hate to break it to you, but this is a very common tale.
Hollywood is a total jungle. The entertainment industry thrives on people's dreams of stardom. Be careful.
Orange County, California