Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Child auditions just a 'money-making exercise'

An established Hollywood casting director says auditions similar to those due to be held in Auckland on Saturday are about getting money from parents and are not the way into the industry.

But event organisers say many parents who paid up to US$7900 ($9600) for their kids to attend a "talent showcase" did so not to crack Hollywood but to improve the self-esteem and confidence of their children.

Radio commercials have promised Kiwi parents the opportunity to "make their child's dreams come true" by registering for "The Event" held at SkyCity in Auckland this weekend.

A website for the free event says children can audition for the chance to be seen by more than 60 agents, casting directors and managers representing talent from American TV shows such as Glee, iCarly and Big Time Rush.

But Billy DaMota, a casting director on America's Most Wanted with 28 years' experience, told the Herald competition-style talent events targeting children were about making money, not finding talent.

He has appeared on the 20/20 current affairs programme talking about the "paid to audition" issue, and was a driving force behind California passing the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act in 2009.

Mr DaMota said free talent events put on by a range of companies frequently toured United States cities, but were typically an "audition" for kids to pay to perform at a later, national event.

Parents were charged thousands of dollars to secure an audition at the national showcase in front of genuine casting directors and agents, who are paid handsomely to turn up, he said.

"They're real casting directors. It's shameful that they allow their names, their offices, and their TV shows to be used to promote these events, to lure in kids.

"The fact is, they're not there to find talent and bring home the next Miley Cyrus. They're there to make their couple thousand dollars, take a nice vacation."

The's next showcase event will be held in December at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin in Orlando, Florida.

The hotel is not owned by Disney, and Disney Corporate has repeatedly stated to media that it is not affiliated in any way with The.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for The told the Herald that children chosen at the Auckland event would be offered "participation packages" for the Orlando event costing between US$1950 ($2300) and US$7900 ($9600).

"Many parents that attend The Event look at it the same way they do any other extra-curricular activity ... that would help [their child's] confidence and self-esteem."

She took issue with the Herald asking whether children who attend this Saturday's event had a real chance of being signed to Hollywood productions.

"[What] leads you to ask such a question? ... parents want their children to attend ... because it builds life skills while giving ... an opportunity to meet industry professionals and celebrities."

A The promotional video shows celebrities including Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, and asks: "Are you next?"

The company told the Herald the celebrities were not discovered at The events, and denied any implication they were.

"The video's purpose is to inspire and send the message that these kids were once like everyone else. They believed in themselves."

But Mr DaMota said parents and particularly children could easily be fooled by such references.

"Add the excitement and glitz of a Hollywood TV show, along with misleading advertising and real casting directors from those shows ... it's easy to convince someone that this is the way it's done."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 19 Apr 2014 12:29:27 Processing Time: 483ms