Traveling child talent scouts come to the Metro: Price for fame too steep?
The "StarZ Tv Network," which describes itself as a child talent development company, held an open casting call at a downtown Omaha hotel last weekend. Hundreds of Metro families responded to an ad posted by StarZ on social media.
Ashunta Brown brought her 8 year-old daughter Azhuana to the auditions. Azhuana performed a mock candy commercial. Her mother said the talent scouts seemed impressed and offered her a spot in Hollywood.
Then came the sales pitch.
The StarZ company wanted the Browns to pay nearly $6,000 for Azhuana to work with celebrities in Los Angeles, film a commercial, participate in a talent showcase, and have access to a national listing of agents.
StarZ offered other packages, too. $7,900 would allow Azhuana to film a pilot television program and give her a supporting role on the show. $9,900 would give Azhuana the lead.
Travel to Los Angeles was not included.
Ashunta Brown told 6 News: "I was initially shocked."
Brown said she was also skeptical, especially when she studied the StarZ brochure and found it was filled with grammatical errors. When she went online, she couldn't find an address or phone number for the company. StarZ does have a website, though, with a list of celebrity mentors.
6 News spoke to one of the mentors on the phone: Matthew Underwood, a former child actor who starred as "Logan Reese" from 2005-2008 on Nickelodeon's television show "Zoey 101."
Underwood said: "It is expensive, but it's going to be expensive anyway. But this is kind of cheating for people where you don't have to put in all that work of trying to get an agent to meet you. These agents and casting directors and producers are there. They're actually watching you. You have your video reel that you can send to them."
Underwood told 6 News he is passionate about the program.
The Browns weren't sold, though. They kept their money - believing StarZ's price for fame seemed too steep. Ashunta Brown said: "It's a huge bummer but it's definitely a learning experience."
6 News also spoke to a casting director in Hollywood with decades of experience finding actors for hit prime time television shows. He said shelling out thousands of dollars to companies like StarZ isn't necessary to make it big in the entertainment industry. He also said he had never heard of StarZ.
The StarZ Tv Network is not affiliated with the STARZ premium cable television channel.