Wannabe Child Stars Get Cold Introduction To Show Business
Tampa Bay Online
updated 10:50 a.m. PT, Sun., June. 1, 2008
By CARLOS MONCADA
TAMPA - Brimming with anticipation, the would-be child actors and models went to the Tampa Convention Center on Saturday for a chance at stardom and to work side by side with their favorite TV stars. Their parents had paid a company called Pacific Modeling & Acting Academy several thousands of dollars to enroll their preteen children in a series of 12 classes that were to begin at 9 a.m. and run for six months.
But when about a dozen parents and their children showed up, there were no classes. Nor was there anyone from Pacific Modeling & Acting to meet them or to offer an explanation or a refund.
"These kids have been anticipating that this is going to be something really neat for them, a starting point," said Charisse Chateauvert, who made the trip from Sarasota with her son Ross, 8. "The kids are crying, but they're all behaving very well for what's going on around them."
The parents said they paid anywhere from $2,450 to nearly $9,000 for their children to attend the classes, from commercial acting to monologue and audition techniques to print and high-fashion runway modeling.
'We Did Our Homework'
Now they are wondering if they will see any of the money they paid. Their repeated attempts to contact representatives with Pacific Modeling & Acting Academy, which lists offices in California and Washington state, have been unsuccessful. One parent said she was told by convention center workers that Pacific Modeling & Acting had been bought out by another company that did not schedule the space for the classes.
Several parents said their children saw or heard advertisements for the classes in fliers, on television or on the radio. "One of the pull-ins was you would get an opportunity to perform with Hannah Montana," said Lynda Reyes of Tampa, who enrolled her 11-year-old daughter, Jerika. "That's the way they were putting it. She actually thought she was going to do a commercial with Hannah Montana. "You're talking about children who are heartbroken now, that feel they can't trust adults," Reyes said.
Some parents said that although they had reservations about paying so much money upfront, the company appeared legitimate, based on its Web site, which appeared professional and up to date, and their own research. "I thought we did our homework," said Steve Williams of Riverview, who paid $8,900 to enroll his 13-year-old son, Kevin, for a combined acting and modeling program.
Williams said he and his wife, Linda, later changed their minds and sent a certified letter to Pacific Modeling & Acting Academy asking for a refund. He provided copies of the April 23 letter and the April 20 agreement, which said a client could cancel it for any reason within 72 hours. He never got a response.
Innocent Verneuil of Winter Haven also paid for $8,900 worth of classes for his 10-year-old daughter, Jessica. "I wanted to appear with that girl in iCarly," she said. "I was hoping I would have a nice career in acting and modeling and help out with the family bills."
Financing 'Failed To Materialize'
Representatives with Pacific Modeling & Acting Academy, which lists a Santa Clara, Calif., address on one of its forms, could not be reached for comment Saturday. One mother provided the Tribune with a copy of an e-mail received from Pacific Modeling & Acting on Friday. It stated that the company "is ceasing operations at this time, and classes are canceled."
"Unfortunately, our attempts to secure outside financing necessary to continue ongoing operations have failed to materialize," the e-mail said. "We have exhausted all of our options for traditional financing and outside investors and therefore, effective immediately, we are having to close our doors."
The e-mail said the company is considering filing for bankruptcy and that if it does, clients will be notified. URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24910758/