EXCLUSIVE: You may have seen their talent scouts roaming malls and shopping centers in cities across the country, handing out flyers for acting classes and telling kids as young as 6 that they could be the next big breakout movie star. Headquartered in Chicago, the International Performing Arts Academy bills itself as “the most prestigious facility of its kind,” and claims it’s “built and maintained a strong reputation among the top agents, managers, casting directors, choreographers and record executives in the entertainment industry.”
But an IPAA training manual that recruiters use to sign kids up for classes, and a class action lawsuit filed last year, paints a different picture – one of greed, cynicism and false claims made to unsuspecting children and their parents.
“IPAA has developed many of the top stars and models that you see today,” the manual instructs recruiters to tell wannabe child actors, who are told that the school’s “success stories” include the likes of Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner and Chris Hemsworth. “Please use ALL of these success stories as it really builds credibility and excitement!” the manual instructs recruiters to tell prospective students.
But a spokesperson for Berry said the actress never had anything to do with the school, and Garner’s rep insisted Garner never had any involvement with the school either. A rep for Hemsworth said that the Thor star had never heard of the place, and that his client is “appalled” that his name was used this way.
Recruiters are also instructed to tell children that a well-known Oscar-winning actress is among IPAA’s many other “success stories.” But the actress, who prefers not to be named, never attended the school, according to her spokesperson.
“They are using all these people’s names and it’s totally false,” a former IPAA instructor told Deadline.
Seven other “success stories” cited in the IPAA manual, including actress Lyndsy Fonseca, are…