Harvesting Kids

Andrew Gumbel:

When I told some actor friends about my experience, they immediately labeled it a scam. So did officials from the Association of Talent Agents, and from the Screen Actors Guild. What surprised me was how sophisticated the scam was – the company had my children (and, I would imagine, many parents) eating out of its hand before it asked for the money. What I didn’t yet realize, though, was how the scam worked – and how the entire industry essentially relies on shysters and con artists to provide a steady flow of child labor.
Here’s how the system operates. Aly Hartman referred a few times to Parent Guide’s “Burbank office,” but what she was really talking about was a child-actor management company called Kids! Background Talent, which is indeed in the business of finding children work on television and in the movies. Kids! Background Talent charges no upfront fees, other than a refundable $30 registration designed mainly to maintain a modicum of seriousness among its would-be clients.