Sunday, July 5, 2009

Open Letter from Anne Henry and Biz Parents-Fight Back Now!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Who wants to STAND UP and not feel TAKEN AVENATAGE OF!
This was sent to me tonight and I am proud to share this with everyone. If you were able to read my blog, and you don't want what happened to you to happen to someone else,please read this and take the action..remember can you see another family hurt?

rom: ANNE
To: BizParentz
Sent: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 7:38:00 PM
Subject: BizParentz letter to BE Parents

Hello Parents,

Attached is a letter from Paula and I. It's too long to cut and paste in an email. Please forgive us if you get this email twice...we did our best to cut and paste emails from several mailing lists, but we might have missed a few duplicates.

Please feel free to post the letter on your blogs and message boards if you think it might benefit other parents. Please, do NOT "reply to all" on this email though...we want to protect the email addresses of those who have written to us.

This is a lot to digest. If you do just ONE thing, please file a complaint with the State Attorney General's office (link within the letter). They are aware of the situation and are expecting to hear from you.

Please know that when you have read the letter, and had time to read through our website, we'd like to help you start over. We just can't help everyone at once, so we're hoping this letter will get you rolling.

Anne and Paula
July 1, 2009

Dear Parents,

We are writing to you today to offer advice, at the request of dozens of Be Productions clients. We know that what you are going through is very frustrating and emotionally draining. We’ve been there. We truly wish we could talk with each of you personally, but our resources and the large number of Be Productions clients just doesn’t allow us that luxury. We do want to help though, so we hope this letter will suffice to get you started on the road to recovery.

As with every piece of advice, we hope you will keep an open mind, investigate the source, and weigh it carefully. Then, of course, you can make your own informed decision.

Nothing in this letter is to be considered legal or financial advice. We are not lawyers. We strongly encourage you to consult licensed professionals. This communication is designed only to spur your own thought process and present options that have worked in similar situations in the past. The opinions offered here are the result of years of advocacy on the behalf of child performers, but they are not legal or financial advice. 

This is a long, long letter…so get some coffee and grab a chair if you are interested. 

Our organization, BizParentz Foundation, is a non-profit, IRS 501c3 charity. We serve families with professional children in the entertainment industry. Please feel free to look us up on our website In short, our members have what you are seeking—we are working in the real professional acting community. We are the parents of successful actors. We have been asked to weigh in on this situation because we have nothing to gain from you, and thus, may be able to offer a perspective from a more objective point of view.

Because of our industry presence, we are often considered “experts” in the area of talent scams targeting children. I would encourage you to read this general article on our website (and all the links below it) and see if you see common threads between the article and your experiences with Be.

Our organization has been aware of Be Productions since they began under their previous names. We have a file in our offices that is literally 5 inches thick of complaints. We’ve also been around Los Angeles long enough to remember Erik DeSando’s other businesses and their results. More recently, we have had law enforcement inquiries about Be. Then when they closed their last physical location in Tarzana a couple of weeks ago, it became clear that things were coming to a crescendo.

Dozens of parents contacted us, and connected us to various blogs and internet boards where Be was being discussed. We contacted several staffers and business owners and asked them very direct questions. Additionally, we did a little research on their various corporate names (at least 15 business names, only a few of which are actually registered).

We may not have all the facts, and I’m sure more will unfold. But we can tell you that the business structure used by Be Productions (and by extension, all their “contractors”) was NOT industry standard, and appears to be illegal in a few directions. Based on what parents and staff communicated, the deception runs very, very deep.

Parents we’ve talked to are at varying stages of discovery. Some were just angry that they offices appeared to be closing, so they couldn’t continue to get services or be cast in their “shows”. Others are starting to see the depth of deception (Disney did not endorse this, the TV shows were not “real”, transfer of contracts to Monterey Financial, etc, etc).

As best as we can see, Be Productions is still technically in business. According to Erik DeSando, it is owned by a corporation called “Be., LLC”. The principal officers of Be., LLC are Erik Desando, Barry Falck and Jacob Steinbeck.

According to our research, there is no bankruptcy filing, no court proceeding that says a mysterious “creditor” took over. “My Talent Service” has no corporate identity that we can find. Those involved have refused to give us the name of the owner of that company, a corporate identity, or the state in which it is incorporated. They have no physical address. The website management has been transferred to the United Kingdom and we can now see ties to at least one convicted felon. It would appear, since MTS is managing the website, providing “customer service”, and sending you emails, they must have your personal information. This should cause you to pause and evaluate—for your child’s safety.

The lack of information on MTS, leaves you back with the entity you signed contracts with. For most people, that appears to be “Be., LLC”. Erik DeSando is still listed as the official contact for that entity on State records. The address is still the Hollis address in Emeryville. It appears that Mr. DeSando is physically in Los Angeles.

This feels like one big shell game, doesn’t it? But regardless of where you are in the process, you probably want to talk about what action you can take NOW. Here are some things you can do today, if you feel that your experience with Be Productions was not satisfactory to you:
1. Gather all your data. Receipts, credit card statements and cashed checks. Promotional materials they used to sell you the services. Contracts. Emails from them. Pay stubs from “jobs” they booked you on. Assess what services you actually received and what you did not. Note different business names.

2. Make notes about what you experienced. Write it down! Think about promises that were made, what people said, the names of those staff people, etc. Ask your child what they experienced when you weren’t around. We know things were probably “fun”, but was “fun” what you paid for? Avoid talking on the phone to Be or MTS staff about your situation…try to get as much in writing as possible. Legitimate businesses are willing to put it in writing.

3. Define your “loss”, if any. Think about what you feel went wrong? Was your contract not fulfilled? Was it false advertising? Was your child actually at risk? Was your identity (or your child’s compromised)? Did you “lose” money?

Most parents have asked us how they go about getting their money back. The answer is…it depends. Each of you had a slightly different situation, so there is no one-size-fits–all answer. We can however, give you options to consider. Many of these options will be most effective when done simultaneously.

1. Ask for your money back. Seems simple, but since this company is technically still in business, you really do need to let the company know that you are not happy and why. You need to ask for what you feel is fair.
2. Work through you credit card company if you used one. In some cases you can dispute charges, and/or cancel the card they are still charging on.
3. File a small claims case. In California, this is fairly easy, and the money they owe you is under $7500, this might be the most cost effective option.
4. For those who were involved in the television productions Be produced, consider the conditions under which your child worked. Were they paid, and were Coogan deposits were made for your child? If not, you may also consider filing for an Unpaid Wage Claim at the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement:
Further, let the DSLE know and ask questions about other possible violations of child labor law, if they existed. Ex. Did Be have a Permit to Employ Minors in the Entertainment Industry? Was a licensed studio teacher there (they are required by law 24/7—even in summer)? Did your child work overtime (illegal in CA)?

Civil Options
5. Hire an attorney and file a case on your own. This can be costly, but it is an option. We highly suggest that you try to interview several attorneys before settling on the person you want to hire. Ask about areas of law like Consumer Fraud and specifically about the Advance Fee Talent Service Law.
6. Participate in a class action lawsuit. This can be very effective, but it requires some cooperation between the victims. For most victims, it requires you to do nothing—one victim will take the lead and the whole “class” gets the benefit. I know that several parents have been interviewing attorneys this week. That is a great thing, but you need to understand that having multiple lawsuits can backfire. One of the attorneys familiar with the case (we are not necessarily endorsing this one) has provided is with this link for more information, although he is NOT involved in sending this letter in any way:

Criminal Options
7. Seek criminal prosecution. It appears, from things parents have said and from the apparent business structures, that this whole operation may have violated some laws. This should be investigated, and many of these laws allow for the recovery of all the money paid to the business, and in some cases, punitive damages. This requires each person to report. Without victims, there is no crime, and bad guys count on that.

Some red flags we see, that law enforcement might be interested in hear about are: false advertising, promising employment, and charging for a job opportunity. They are apparent violations of the Advance Fee Talent Law (read more about that here:, and those would include some of Be’s sub-contractors, and may be continuing. We also see possible labor code violations (see the DLSE contact above).

To report to law enforcement, we suggest you do two things (do both!):
A. The California State Attorney General is aware of Be, and accepts complaints at this link:
B. Contact the Consumer Unit of the City Attorney or County District Attorney in the area of Be’s operation. Mention Advance Fee Talent Service when you do. Here are some places to get you started:
-Emeryville (Alameda County):
-San Jose (Santa Clara County):
-Tarzana (City of Los Angeles): City Attorney Consumer Fraud (they are the original writers of the Advance Fee Talent law, so they “get it” 213-978-8092
-San Diego: County of San Diego Consumer Fraud:

No matter what you other options you choose to pursue, PLEASE consider reporting your story to criminal investigators. Let them decide if something has violated the law.

OK…so you got our money back. Or you want to keep this from happening to someone else. Good for you! Remember, Be Productions is still in business. Our reports indicate they were recruiting new talent in Dallas just last week. You can help the next family make good decisions by sharing your story with:

1. Better Business Bureau. They have the locations listed separately, and some under “My Artist’s Place”. The headquarters profile is here:
Note: 54 complaints!
You can help update their listing by letting them know the new names: Be., LLC, Be Productions, and My Talent Service.
There are other similar consumer websites such as You can post your stories there and they are very effective since they google high in the listings. Please, make sure that whatever you post is 100% true.

2. Legislators. There is a bill currently in the California Senate called AB1319. It needs your support NOW. It would clarify the current Advance Fee Talent Service law. You can read the bill here:
You can find your legislator here:
Just write a short note, tell your story and title it, SUPPORT AB1319. You can call too—it’s easy and fast.

3. Local Media: There have been at least two news reports about Be Productions previously, done by ABC and NBC in the Bay Area:
I would guess that those stations might be interested in doing a follow up. Usually reporters that are handle these kinds of stories are labeled as “consumer alert”, “watchdog”, or “investigative” reporters. One example is ABC’s “7 on Your Side” team. You can also try the “money” reporters…the financial news. Sometimes reporters will even assist you in getting your money back if they feel they can. To find your local reporters, just google the station name (ie. “CBS News San Diego affiliate”). Most have email functions to share a story idea or contact specific reporters. They like to hear real stories, from average people. BizParentz can help out if they need statements or referrals to other experts.

The hardest part about his whole thing is the effect is has on children. Having been through this before, we suggest using this as a learning situation in an age appropriate way, but making sure kids know that any negativity is NOT their fault. Just because something bad happened at the beginning of your showbiz journey doesn’t mean that your child is not talented.

Hollywood is a tough place. If your child is going to be a professional, what can they learn from this? What can you learn from this together? Food for thought:
1. “Nice” does not equal “Good”. In fact, in Hollywood, most of the predators are nice and tell you what you want to hear.
2. Never pay advance fees. If it were that easy, we’d all just pay the bill. There are no short cuts and one-size-fits-all training programs simply do not work. While there are professional business standards in this industry, each of you will have a slightly different career path.
3. Always, always, always investigate those working with your child. Ask the entity for the owner’s real names. Do they require background checks, fingerprints for your child’s safety? Google names. Google the name plus the word “scam”. Check the BBB. Look for them on Facebook and Myspace. Check credits on Ask around.

Count your lessons and move on. For many of your children, you discovered something that they truly love. Perhaps they even have a gift. That is a wonderful thing that no one can take away from you!

You may decide that staying with some of the businesses involved (such as Rising Stars) is the right answer for you. Others may want to start fresh with a clean slate.

We have multiple FREE articles on our website that can help you be pro-active in finding your own agent and making other strong business decisions. We also suggest joining a supportive community where experienced parents can steer you to professional level photographers, acting classes and other resources. One such forum is called Professional Actors Resource Forum. It’s free, and can be found here:

We truly hope that all of you are able to find the settlement you desire. We hope that your children are able to emerge from this experience as more confident, stronger people.
And lastly, we hope that the truth about his business will someday be revealed, whatever it is.

Good Luck and Hugs to Your Talented Children,

Anne Henry
Paula Dorn
BizParentz Foundation

No comments: