We got a call at home on Friday evening from a representative of John Robert Powers. They invited our daughter in for a meeting. We went in the following Monday and met with a woman who immediately went into what I recognized as a sales pitch (I have been in sales myself so I would know).
She took us on a brief tour of the hallway, where there were many pictures of famous people like Lucille Ball, Diana Ross and Jackie Kennedy, who supposedly have been students of JRP in the past. Then we went into a room with a runway and several chairs, before the woman said she'd be right back. When she came back, she playfully asked our daughter to walk the runway and pose. Oh, she made a big deal over our daughter then. Yeah, ok. Whatever. Let's get on with this now.
She took our daughter away from us and into a room where she had our daughter do a couple of short commercial readings, some posing with and without a chair, and some facial emotions. When they came back about 10 minutes later, we were taken on a tour of the other hallway, where, hanging on the walls, there were about 60-80 framed pictures of their current students. About 5-8 students were pointed out to us and we were basically given their resume: "This child has done this, and that child has done that. This child is currently doing this, etc." I noticed she kept referring to the same kids over and over. What about the others? Ok, on with it then. We went into her office and before we could even sit down comfortably, she brought out the price list and shoved it over the desk to us. At this point, like any other sane parent, we began to ask some questions.
We wanted to know the approximate percentage of children who are enrolled and then go on to be successful in the industry. She asked me to define success, and then before I could, she said that they define success as a child learning poise and self-confidence.
I had to interrupt her to tell her that for purposes of answering my question, she should define success as earning a paycheck at some point. She admitted she was unable to answer my question and that she'd never been asked that before. Really? It was the first question that I even thought of asking after I noticed that the least amount of money I was going to pay was for a series of classes that cost almost $2,000. This is not an agency though, as she was adamant about telling us. It is an academy, where kids learn poise and self-confidence and gain insight into the business while having the opportunity to meet a real life agent once a month. That is super. Now could you answer my question please? She had to go get the main guy, whose name escapes me because I was never formally introduced to him.
When he entered the room, instead of politely shaking our hands and telling us his name, he immediately waved his hands in a grand gesture toward our sales woman and said that if she didn't have the answers, then certainly he would not, but ask away. We repeated the whole thing with this guy and I finally got my answer... about 10 percent of kids enrolled go on to earn a paycheck. Really? If you didn't know a moment ago, then how did you come up with that number? Did you pull it out of thin air, mister? Really. Citing a source may have helped him earn my trust.
Anyhow, we went on to ask other questions such as who the owners of this franchise are (it's owned by a board of directors, of which this guy was a member), and how many kids are currently enrolled. He said 100 and she said 80. They did a poor job of covering up the fact that they really have no idea how many parents they've run this number on.
We asked many specific questions about the staff that would be teaching our child these new skills, and the environment in which she would be learning. I thought it sounded an awful lot like the preschool where my child is currently enrolled, but without the actual structure. They would play duck duck goose and make masks, we were told. That is great. My kid did that three years ago in daycare. What else have you got? But this will teach them to come out of their shell in front of a group. Gee, is that sort of like the group time my daughter currently enjoys in preschool? Sort of? OK.
In the end, I apologized for taking up so much of their valuable time, because I knew my child wasn't the only one they were going to see (and also because I secretly knew there was no way I would spend $2,000 on this!). They said, no, we're happy that you're making the effort to find out all you can and asking great questions. Uh-huh. They reminded us to call the next day to see if our daughter (who had recieved rave reviews from the sales woman) would get a call back. We shook hands and left, feeling bewildered.
Outside, we joked about how there would be no way we would receive a call back after we asked all those tough questions. We guessed most parents bring in their children and are awestruck by the possibilities of an actual career in show business, and they just must forget to ask the types of things we asked. They must write that huge check thinking that it will buy their child a star on the sidewalk in good old Hollywood one day.
So I called John Robert Powers today to see if my daughter got a coveted call back. Not at this time, I was told. Ha. Thank you for your time, JRP. My "adorable, smart-as-a-whip" daughter with the "amazing memory" will not sweat this one bit, and my husband and I will eventually stop rollilng our eyes.
Parents, please go into this armed with an intelligent list of questions and a realistic outlook, lest you feel suckered like most of the other people telling their story on this site.
Fort Thomas, Kentucky