RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – So, you want to be star -- or maybe your child is destined to become Hollywood's next big thing. Periodically, entertainment companies come to Richmond to hold "free" auditions.
We went undercover, to an audition with a Christian talent firm and quickly learned that even at a free audition you'll probably need your checkbook.
We sat near the back of the banquet hall at the Wyndham Hotel watching the "free" auditions for AMTC, or "Actors Models and Talent for Christ" -- with a heavy emphasis on "Christ."
"How many of you believe in divine appointment? Show of hands - so, I absolutely believe God sent you here for a reason tonight," the speaker says.
The speaker is Carey Arban. She calls herself the "Chief Serving Officer" of AMTC. And she tells the crowd of 150 plus what they're really auditioning for. An opportunity to attend AMTC's big event at the Gaylord Palms Resort this summer where a select few will showcase their talents before the world's leading agents, casting directors, and musical industry professionals.
During her long power-point presentation, Arban warns the "would-be stars" that not everyone in the industry has her same Christian resolve with a slide on the screen that reads "dark forces are looking for you..." She even names a few:
"Barbizon, John Robert Powers, and John Casablancas, they charge tuition in excess of $20,000" said Arban to shocked reactions from the crowd.
Arban points out that it certainly is a lot of money, and far more than the bargain price of $3,595.00 she'll be charging those who make the cut tonight to attend her function.
Arban says her Christian faith has made her a target, so don't believe everything you read.
"AMTC has been attacked, I have been personally attacked - especially on the internet, so anything you read about AMTC on the internet that is good, is true," said Arban.
After two hours, it is audition time. We brought along April Lee, who is a former Richmond Idol winner, and a professional vocalist. Sure enough the next day there was a call back on her voice mail.
"Yes, April, I'm with AMTC - you've made the cut," said the recoding.
Despite the invitation Lee says she won't be attending.
"You're talking about, like a minimum of $5,000, by the time you fly there and everything else; I just don't know that it would be worth it," said Lee.
We randomly picked a dozen contestants from the crowd that night and called them back a few days later to see if they made the cut. Nine of twelve got a call back. We also contacted Ms. Arban to ask what percentage from the Richmond auditions made the cut. Her reply reads, in part: "Hi Curt, we truly don't keep callback numbers. It's about our calling from God as a company matching the calling from contestants as individuals. I don't use words like "the end of the line." I am not God- or Simon Cowell."
Local actress, singer, and model Ameera McKissick attended the AMTC convention last year, and according to their website, placed first in the modeling competition. She won't say anything bad about the company.
"As far as going to AMTC, I did have a blast," said McKissick.
And McKissick is not alone. Other distinguished AMTC alums include American Idol top ten finalist Tim Urban, child star India Scandrick and actress Megan Fox. The company also has an A-plus rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Despite McKissick's success at the AMTC event - it really didn't bring her any work, but she doesn't blame them. She says all participants need to go into the convention with their eyes wide open.
"I don't feel like it's a charity event, where all come and I'll help you. No, it's a business," said McKissick.
McKissick will appear in a movie this summer. She landed a job as an extra in a film called Just Wright starring Queen Latifah. It hits theatres May 14. McKissick admits she got the job on her own with no help from AMTC.