Report: #482733

Complaint Review: Gary Spatz's The Playground Young Actors' Conservatory

  • Submitted: Wed, August 19, 2009
  • Updated: Mon, April 30, 2012
  • Reported By: MomDoingRight — Woodland Hills California USA
  • Gary Spatz's The Playground Young Actors' Conservatory
    1801 Avenue of the Stars
    Century City, California
    United States of America

Gary Spatz's The Playground Young Actors' Conservatory Gary Spatz's The Playground The Playground "Talent Management Company" inviting kids at the mall to screen test for agents is really as a bait and switch hustle operation for exorbitantly overpriced acting classes. Woodland Hills, California

*Consumer Comment: Gary Spatz NOT a rip off

*General Comment: They are the best

*Consumer Comment: The same thing happened to us

*Consumer Comment: Not the way it's done, kids.

*Consumer Comment: thats exactly what happend to us

*UPDATE Employee: Hmmm... copy and paste the same thing into multiple listings

*Consumer Comment: Gary Spatz The Playground is a Scam! Alert!

* : Gary Spatz The Playground Scam Alert!

Show customers why they should trust your business over your competitors...

My experience was very similar to others who have already posted, though I was lucky enough to be a natural skeptic, have my red flags pop up early, and seek advice from a list serve I subscribe to when I couldn't find information on the initial company that approached me.  We wasted lots of time and disappointed my eager 10 year old, but we learned the truth before paying anything. 

Like others, we were approached in the mall by an enthusiastic women who told me my daughter was adorable and had the perfect personality for the commercials and television.  Though I did wonder if it could be a scam from the beginning, my daughter has truthfully been approached by strangers all her life and told she should be an actress.  She is cute and quirky and over the top in her personality, so I wasn't as "run the other way as fast as you can" as I might usually have been. 

The woman who approached us was named "Lisa."  She represented and claimed to own "Talented Kids Unlimited."  She very intentionally misrepresented her company's services and the event to which she was inviting us.  She said that they (her company) offered talent management services.  Now was a busy time with pilot season coming up.  Her company works with child actors and introduces them to agents, who get them work in commercials and television.  She made a point of saying "who knows if you get one commercial it's mad money, 5 or a series, and that's college."  She invited us to come to a screen test for promising young talent.  She assured us that my daughter would be the most adorable one there, and they would fall in love with her.  She advised her to wear just what she was wearing that day (a funky mismatched skirt and top outfit, with striped mismatched knee highs and a cool hat).

We showed up at the "screen test."  They wrote down the name of our "scout."  We thought it strange that most of the kids there were pretty ordinary looking or did not seem to have a real spark or spirit about them.  Many were very shy or overweight. Some did not even speak English fluently.  

They took us in groups to the auditorium for the kids to do their reading on camera.  Each kid got one 15 second take on camera.  Most had no expression in their read at all, made no eye contact with the camera, and struggled through their lines.  I could not personally understand what it was that motivated someone to invite most of these kids in the first place, and my skepticism was extremely high at this point.

After the read, we were all directed to a room, where we were instructed to stand in someone's line.  Our line was for "David" of Gary Spatz's the Playground.  We never had contact with "Talented Kids Unlimited" again, and we had never been told by them that they would refer us to another company of any sort other than a direct introduction to an agent.

David gave us his business card.  He asked if we were available to come to the offices in Century City, and if in general we would be able to go to auditions that an agent would send us on in the Hollywood area.  He asked Mallory if she would want to be in commercials and television shows. He was definitely getting us excited for the business.  He mentioned Gary Spatz's name and the Suite Life and Cole and Dylan Sprouse about 10 times in 2 minutes.  He also mentioned agents coming in at the call back to see people that they believed in.  The implication was that they were a management company.  I was confused about why we had been referred to a different management company, and I asked.  He said that Lisa's company works with other management companies that they refer people to.  Some of them work with people who are better suited to be extras, and some get referred to his company if they seem like they would be good for commercials and television.

When we left, I looked at his card, and it seemed to be an acting school.  I wondered if they did both acting classes and management.  The only thing that kept me interested enough to play it out was Gary Spatz's connection with the school, and his apparent legitimacy.  I believed that Disney would not associate with someone who is conning people out of money.

Not surprisingly, my daughter got called back the next day.  We went for the callback. When we got to the offices, we saw many of the kids from line who could not even get through their one sentence script.  Some had to be fed the lines almost word by word from the camera person.  Many of the kids at the callback had no on camera personality at all (not to be rude - but to be blunt enough to make clear the real purpose of this business).

At the callback, they assured us that they fill the theater the next day with agents from a long list of reputable agencies looking for kids.  They supposedly do this 4 times a year, and the next time was the next day.  We were given an appointment time the next day to call them and "get feedback" about our child "find out what the agents had to say about them."  

We were also given a packet to read to answer our questions about the business. Most of it was logistical.  At the beginning it spoke about what to expect from a talent manager -- that they would take 15% as opposed to the agent's 10%.  I think that was supposed to be the part that was hard to swallow, and then you think the rest is nothing.  

At the end, they purport to debunk the myth that you should never be asked to pay for classes or pictures.  They talk about why it is important to have classes to develop your talent and the right pictures.  They tell you an agent should never ask you to do these things, but a manager is supposed to help you develop your career.  At this point, they never say if they are or are not a management company.

When I called the next day, supposedly to hear how the agents reacted to my daughter, no mention was made of agents at all.  I was told how well she did (according to David).  He said how pleased he was to offer her a space in their beginner acting class, which was a 2 year program for $2400 per 6 month semester. This was the first time classes were EVER mentioned and the first time it was even discussed that they offered classes as opposed to being a management company. 

I reminded him how careful I was (based on an earlier conversation) because of the reputation of the industry, and I started asking him questions.  He got annoyed with me, and he said, "well I could give you the name of agencies that work with extras if you don't want her to take acting classes."

I did say I wanted to think about it.  His response was to put on a high pressure sales pitch  -- expecting me to commit immediately.  He mentioned for the first time that they had already filled 10 out of the 12 spots in the class.  If I waited, her spot would be filled.  Earlier, he told me how selective they had been with who they chose to call. He would be calling people after he got off the phone with me.  He suggested that if I take the spot, those people would not necessarily get a call. 

David also told me there would be Gary Spatz as her teacher plus 2 others for 12 students, which is a great ratio.  I asked him specifically how that would work.  Would all three be in the room with all 12, or would they split up.  He hesitated, realizing he had no good answer.  Finally, he said, "well Gary will actually be going in and out between all the rooms with the other classes, too."  He had first implied that Gary would be her primary teacher.

He also told me again about the agents that would fill up the room to see my daughter during their showcases, agents that would never otherwise be willing to see her without the level of training The Playground could provide.  He promised that they would bring the agents to her "on a silver platter."

Now that I realize it is a scam, and the audition was not for anything real, my daughter is very upset.  All of the people involved built up her hopes with the direct communication they had with her.  They told her how cute and talented she was, and repeatedly asked her what type of acting work she most wanted them to get for her.
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This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 08/19/2009 10:33 PM and is a permanent record located here: The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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#1 Consumer Comment

Gary Spatz NOT a rip off

AUTHOR: Laparent - (USA)

 Ok so Gary IS a legitimate acting coach . My daughter is a working child actress and started at playground in 2012. She already had an agent when one of Gary's scouts approached us at the grove. (I'd say this is his biggest downfall-but most certainly NOT a scam) Your daughter is beautiful do u have an agent or manager.? I said yes she does but she mostly does print. Of course you do she is stunning, she said. We are having open auditions Monday night cone by, maybe you will like it. I politely took the card and said, under my breathe. Over my dead body. My daughter begged me for the entire week. Mommy we MUST go ,please please mom. It's not every day you are stopped by a talent scout and told to audition simply because you were at the grove. That is a huge ego boost to hear for a kid.

In actuality kinda brilliant on Gary's part. My answer was I was firm in believing this was LAME and we were NOT going. After she would NOT give up. I said fine, lets call your agent on speaker phone. You can hear how she will sat No laugh and then it's done. My daughter agreed. So we called her agent who is The largest/best kids commercial and print agent in town. To my surprise she said go, audition What could it hurt.? Gary Spatz is a big deal trains a TON of working child actors. If she likes it sign her up. She could use acting classes to perfect her craft. We were never misled to believe this was anything but classes. She would audition and get a chance to meet Gary and several agents that may like her for upcoming shows. We went to the Monday night audition and met a woman from endeavor.

She stopped us and said wow she is stunning does she have agent? I said thank you and told her who her agent was. She said we will talk in a few months....I'll be watching to see how she does, good luck My daughter placed first in the audition. I was so happy proud shocked as I didn't know she had it in her and I wanted to NOT be there. We then signed up for 6 months at rouhly 2400 To me not bad at 400 month for her to do what she is apparently good at and is excited to do. Her gymnastics coach wanted her 5 days a week 3-4 hours a day for closer to 1000/month. All of our weekends jammed up with gymnastic meets, no life. Any sport , hobby or craft warrants training and I find this to be same.

Acting may not be your kids calling, I know it's not my personal path but just like practicing at soccer practice for the big game, acting class is necessary if you want to nail the audition,be seen by casting agents and Gary Spatz. My daughter stayed 6 months. And my only complaint was. Definitely not enough Gary. He should really teach the classes their acting coaches are not experienced enough and it falls short to Gary's expertise. And the classes are only 1 hour. We have moved on to another acting school. And my daughter finished her 2nd feature film and is booked a nick show. We will forever credit playground for giving her the start. It's not a scam and if your kid d is happy then keep it up. If they are not happy with the format, then don't sign up Make sure it's your kids dream not yours pay attention !! Any of us parents whose kid is actually in the school and happy, we all know it's a great place. Good luck

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#2 General Comment

They are the best

AUTHOR: Tony - (USA)

 They are teaching you the real ins and outs to this business! I am a professional producer and send all my kids to Gary and they come back better prepared as actors! Even the co-president of SAG-AFTRA said the same thing online...Google it for yourselves! Doesn't GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT folks! I recommend them to everyone because they are the best!

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#3 Consumer Comment

The same thing happened to us

AUTHOR: MagsMom - ()

I was at Macy's and a cute young lady asked my 6 year old daughter if she wanted to be in a commercial, and dropped the Disney name quite a few times.  We went to a tryout at a hotel, and then a second call back to Gary Spatz the playground.  We were told we were the top 20% of all the people that tried out.  But some of these kids could not read their lines, and were really bad.  Then they said we would have to pay for classes. What happened to the commercial?  I fell for it hook, line and sinker, but they are not getting my money!  The lady said we were the cream of the crop, that was her first mistake, as I could easily tell we were just the suckers that fell for the bait.  No commercial, no acting gig, just feeling lied to.  I just dont understand why, if Gary Spatz is so great, why does he need to stoop and use these lying tactics to lure us in to his studio.  Why not just rely on advertising and word of mouth. I am just feeling disappointed and suckered!
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#4 Consumer Comment

Not the way it's done, kids.

AUTHOR: Anonymous - (USA)

Parents PLEASE BEWARE!  I am not a plant or a disgruntled ex-employee or a competitor.  I am a casting director and I'm a member of the Casting Society of America, and I've been casting film and television for almost 30 years.

If someone comes up to you in a mall or a grocery store parking lot or a state fair - or ANYWHERE - and  tells you how cute your kid is and that he or she should be in TV and commercials or modelling, it's FRAUD.  There is no such thing as a "talent scout".  Unscrupulous "entertainment" companies or scam management companies or schools are the only businesses that employ talent scouts - to sell very expensive competitions, conventions, modelling and acting talent camps and more.  In this case, recruiting for very expensive classes is outsourced to "talent scouts" who pretend to be managers or say they have a line on a great audition for a TV show or a commercial for you kid.  They don't.  They never will.  They are paid a commission for every head they deliver and use a tactic called "bait and switch" to lure unsuspecting parents and eager children into a sales pitch - in this case one for thousands of dollars - to enroll in acting classes.

I have received a dozen emails over the years from parents describing exactly the scenario described above.  They were duped into believing their child was being offered a real audition...yet it turned into a high-pressure sales pitch for (in my opinion) an overpriced acting course.

So.  No matter how the proponents of The Playground try to explain away the negative reviews, there are negative reviews and for a reason.  This is the RIP OFF REPORT fergoshsakes!  You don't get written up for making consumers happy.

For a great resource, check out - an organization run by parents that helps other parents and kids in the business find their way.
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#5 Consumer Comment

thats exactly what happend to us

AUTHOR: Sarah - (United States of America)

That is exactly what I thought...per your post below.. also, my kids was so nervous, he had no "spark" at all. I would never cast him in anything, and I am his mother.:)Thank God he really doesnt want to act, and this wont damage his self esteem. This reminds me of a beauty scout that spoted me in the mall at 9, I was 40 lbs heavier then any kid there and looked a hot awkard mess... needless to say when they told my mom I needed $1,000 just to walk in the door, my fat modleing carrer ended.

We showed up at the "screen test."  They wrote down the name of our "scout."  We thought it strange that most of the kids there were pretty ordinary looking or did not seem to have a real spark or spirit about them.  Many were very shy or overweight. Some did not even speak English fluently.  
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#6 UPDATE Employee

Hmmm... copy and paste the same thing into multiple listings

AUTHOR: LetsTalk - (United States of America)

Seems like you really have it in for us (The Playground). You're copying and pasting huge chunks of text into our reports without making any claims at all to have EVER been our customer.

Sounds like you must be a competitor... Since your only purpose in posting is to move these reviews up so that they look like they are recent. Here's all the posts you made yesterday (plus this one)...

Well, if anyone is still reading this it should be pretty obvious to you by now that there are a group of people who HAVE NEVER BEEN CUSTOMERS of The Playground that are out to make life hard for us.

I applaud you for coming to rip-off report to check on our business and urge you to look a little farther. I've compiled a list of resources to get you started - these are (almost) all public reviews made by people who have to provide their real email addresses in a public way...

Check us out - if you are still concerned but open minded you are welcome to come visit us. I'll make sure that you don't have to talk to a salesman - just you and me and the students and parents who acutally know (and love) us.


"let's Talk"
Web customer service for The Playground.
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#7 Consumer Comment

Gary Spatz The Playground is a Scam! Alert!

AUTHOR: Shawna - (U.S.A.)

Approached in Target or at a kiosk in the mall?


There is no such job description as a "talent scout" of any kind in Hollywood. Rather these are front men and mostly women of acting school scams and rip-offs. The first rule of thumb is to understand that in this industry is that more expensive doesn't equate to better. If someone could 'buy' success everyone would be a star. Sometimes the most expensive services actually provide the least benefit. These scams committed against children and their families are very common as they prey on our love and pride for our children. That is one consistent across all scams - they all say everything a parent would ever want to hear about how great, talented, beautiful, "star in the making" their child is. That is closely followed by playing on the guilt for a parent who might not be "allowing their child to follow their dreams".

So how does a parent spot a scam? One step is to really listen to your instincts. What seems too good to be true usually is.

 RESEARCH. Researching every company you are going to work with is of paramount importance. Use Google and check the names of the businesses as well as the names of the people you meet and put the word scam after it. Ask other parents.

Look for common red flags. Some red flags of a scam or rip-off include: Being approached in a mall, family store or other public place Name dropping such from shows LIKE The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Hannah Montana or the use of Disney and Nickelodeon logos (call the studio and let them know your experience with the scam school and how much they charge)

Promising work or access to talent agents through "show cases" or "agent auditions" Using several different names for their business on the internet to confuse people and load up the search engines so all the bad reviews won't show up first. (luckily it can't be done)

Putting pressure or time limits on the offer such as "we only bring back 10-20% of the kids we see, not everyone makes it", "we can only hold the spot for 3 days", etc. You can cancel if you don't like it.

Long term contracts that must be paid for in advance. Legitimate acting classes are offered for 6 weeks or less at a time, with professional level group acting classes costing around $45 per class. Anything longer, or costing more is a red flag. Exceedingly nice sales people.

Predators have to be nice. If they weren't, they wouldn't get their prey. "But some people say it is OK...."

Of course every story has 2 sides, and you may find a former client 'vouching' for a business because they *felt* successful or they had fun. Most of the the "great" reviews are posted and written on the company on their own "moderated" website review sites. And they remove any bad reviews.

Getting an agent can be accomplished for under $100 via picture submissions. Really. Just get a list of agents that handle children and send them a photo. That simple. Of course you will be told that having these expensive classes will almost guarantee a top agent.

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Gary Spatz The Playground Scam Alert!

AUTHOR: Cynthia76 - (U.S.A.)

Same story here.
I would like to share my experience with a company called Gary Spatz , Gary Spatz The Playground and Gary Spatz a Young Actors Conservatory.
I took my husband and our son to what was touted as an open audition, after a woman approached us in a grocery store parking lot. She told me how handsome my son was, and her manager would love to see him. She also told us that he managed the kids from the Suite Life of Zack and Cody. I ask if there are any costs or fees. She responded absolutely not! And almost seemed insulted I would ask such a thing. We show up and there are many hopeful children lined up whose parents were also taken in by this smooth talking woman. After what could only be compared to a bad Time Share presentation, we meet with a man. He asks if we are serious about my son getting into acting. After a little small talk he said they would be in touch. There was something very disturbing about all this and we waited for the next contact. One day later we get the great news. We were asked to come in for a second audition and meet with him again. We arrive a little early and sit in the waiting area talking to a few of the other families. We compared notes and it was becoming clear were this scam was going. We are soon whisked away to an office and what a sales pitch! He finally came around to asking for over $ 6000 for classes. (Yes, that was six thousand dollars!) We gave him the old checks in the mail and walked out the door.
At this point we had enough information to look up this company and see what is out there. They dont provide any company information when the invite to the audition is made, I wonder why? I could not believe all the information others have provided on their experiences with Gary Spatz and his scam. Why I think this is place is a scam? The first indication is the way they recruit new children. Its a simple bait and switch. The street scout tricks you into thinking this is a real audition and there are no costs involved. This is not only misleading, but in most states illegal. The fact that they have to depend on misleading people from the very beginning should tell you something. The good news is there is a new law being passed before years end that applies to all advance fee talent companies to avoid just this. The lawmakers are aware of this loop hole in the law that was passed several years ago. Thus, making it a crime to market the way Gary Spatz does now.Apparently, The Playground does not play around when it comes sticking it to you in regards to pricing either. I have now priced classes from 6 companies that have been referred by various sources and by looking online. These are people and companies that are not plastered all over the internet with angry parents. The prices averaged 50% -75% less than what good old Gary charges. This is also a warning sign that this is a scam. I even received an e-mail from one acting coach who has known Gary Spatz for years, he said it was disturbing what Gary was doing and he was very disappointed. I told him how disappointed my family was when we found out we had been just another $ sign to Gary.If it seems Im being harsh on Gary, do this. If you dig a little, follow the many posts by others, you will uncover this is not the first company Gary has been with. He hooked up with a con man named Eric Rottman. Who, has been investigated, sued and closed down for operating similar acting scams. Gary Spatz is not just a figure head of the company who got caught up with a bad group. He is very aware of what is going on and profits greatly.If you are reading this, than you are probably as angry and upset as the rest of us. Thanks a lot Mr.Spatz, Here are all the links and reference keywords for Google and Yahoo. Also, you can type Gary Spatz Scam and get some interesting results too.
I also wanted to add. Gary and Company are now trying to set up as many websites as they can to offset all the things people are saying about their scam school. They must be feeling the presure and I'm sure thier sales are hurting now. GOOD! They are trying to overload the search ingines like yahoo and google and it's so obvious. Just look at all the new sites they are creating. They are also asking questions on Yahoo Q and A and then answering with their own great reviews.

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