Friday, August 31, 2012

i2 Discovery Cruise

I'm hoping this can be a help to people who are searching for more information on the i2 Discovery Cruise so they can make a more informed decision than I was able to.  While I was looking for information, there was hardly anything available on this cruise, good or bad, so it was very difficult to ascertain what it was exactly.

In a nutshell, the i2 Discovery Cruise is a program produced by the International Models and Talent Association (IMTA) and ICE Model Talent Management that features scouted talent in a number of modeling and talent competitions over a five-day period.  Watching these competitions are representatives of modeling and talent scouts from around the country and even outside the US.  We were told this is a lower-cost option to the regular IMTA conventions, which are larger and are held annually in New York (June) and Los Angeles (January).  If I remember right, the i2 has been around since 2005.

In doing research, virtually all of what I found related to the main IMTA conventions in New York or LA and IMTA itself.  The basic charge is that they are scams, or at the very least, way overpriced.  I wasn't able to find any direct pricing for those conventions, but comments indicated they were in the neighborhood of $5,000 just to attend.  There were charges that the model and talent agencies represented at IMTA weren't really any of the industry's top names along with allegations that the judges for the competitions were in many cases corrupt.  In the age of the Internet, it's hard to tell how accurate or wide-spread these charges are.  At the very least, it seems the convention is vastly overpriced.  The i2, we were told, was developed as a lower-cost option for people because IMTA felt they were losing a lot of talent because people just couldn't afford to go to New York or LA.  Looking back, the presenter made it sound like getting to LA or New York was the problem, when actually it seems that the convention itself is the biggest problem financially.  IMTA itself has a long list of famous alums (Elijah Wood, Ashton Kutcher, etc), but like any alumni list, it seems to be a tiny fraction of the amount of people they actually deal with.

How did I get involved with all this?  About 2 weeks ago I received an email that talent scouts from IMTA would be in Cleveland on August 24th and that I needed to email back to reserve a spot.  I figured what the heck, and did.  The audition was held at the large Holiday Inn in the Cleveland suburb of Independence, Ohio.  Going into the audition I knew almost nothing about what I was auditioning for or even what to expect or prepare.  The instructions from the follow-up email (which came several days after my reply) were very vague.  When I got to the audition, things continued to be vague.  The table where we signed in wasn't marked with any kind of sign and only after I found a flyer that had some information did I even realize it was for some kind of cruise.  Further, I don't think the email that said I had to "reserve" a spot was accurate.  When I got there, we signed in.  There was no other list they checked to see if I had "reserved a spot" and everyone who came auditioned together.

I went through the audition mainly just for the experience of it all.  The audition had only about 20 people, varying in age from 5 years to 30 or so.  Each of us did a runway walk like a model and then read a short ad like we were doing a commercial.  Before that there was a video about the cruise (the same video that can be seen at and about IMTA.  The only mention of cost was that it would require a small "investment" on our part.  Absolutely no details about cost of any kind were given at this first audition.  Looking back, the audition seemed WAY too simple and easy.  I felt like I did well, but not THAT well (maybe relatively) and it certainly didn't seem like a very accurate way to determine how talented or not talented I was (or anyone else there).  In small print was the fact that this audition was organized by (and ultimately booked trough) ICE Model Talent Management, an agency with offices in Charlotte, Cincinnati, and Toronto.  ICE produces the i2 with IMTA.  It's not totally clear what the relationship is between ICE and IMTA, though.  ICE's website was rather unhelpful in terms of information and while they have their own website for the i2 Cruise (at, all the forms and info packets you could download were from 2008 and did not mention the price.   

Well, I made callbacks for the next day, which were held at the same hotel.  The second stage was an interview process.  We were shown some more videos and finally given a breakdown of the actual costs, which totaled $2,695.  That included a $795 (the paperwork said $695) deposit, said to be non-refundable, but does not include getting to and from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Just for kicks, I checked out the prices for the cruise itself, which is on the Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.  The total cost for a basic interior stateroom, which is what the $2,695 will get you, is about $1,600, meaning the program itself costs about $1,000.  As for my interview, it wasn't much of an interview to be honest.  It was more of a "do you want to do this" type of thing and "you're so awesome" pep rally with just a few questions about my experience in theater and music.  For someone like me who's had job application after job application not even looked at, it was definitely something I wanted to hear.  Unfortunately, it was also accompanied with urgency that I needed to commit right there without any more discussion.  The people around me were very nice.  I didn't feel immense pressure, but definitely felt some pressure to accept this or I'd never get another chance.

Now, do I think this is a flat-out scam?  No.  It's not a scam in that you really will get a cruise for your money and there will be a program as advertised.  That's not the issue.  The issues for me are, first, that those responsible are not up front about the cost from the moment you walk in that door.  There is absolutely no reason that information needs to be withheld until right before the decision needs to be made, especially if this is a legitimate operation.  The website provided doesn't make any mention of the costs either.  Why?  I was told that's standard practice and they don't disclose that information until they've narrowed it down to the people who they feel are "interested" (i.e. the ones that make callbacks).  Heck, I think if I had known about the costs up front, I would've left right then and let someone else take my callback slot.  Initially, I think I expected that all I'd have to pay for was getting to Florida if I was selected.  Boy was I clueless!!

Second, with any such large decision like this that involves lots of money, there should be some kind of grace period to back out if circumstances arise.  Along with that there should be a period to consider it, even a day or two, rather than making it something that needs to be decided right then.  Making it immediately binding and non-refundable just reeks of greed and money-grabbing as opposed to genuinely searching for talent and providing a lower-cost alternative to be "discovered".  Further, the no-refund policy does not come from the cruise company, Royal Caribbean.  RC's own website gives people a minimum of 60 days to cancel cruise reservations for a full refund.  Anything after that and partial refunds are given.  RC will not refund the deposit only once the 60-day threshold is crossed.  That is not a day that has been crossed yet as the cruise is scheduled for November 10th (71 days from now).

In looking up Ohio law, though, we have what is known as a "rescission" right, as part of the 1973 Home Solicitation Sales Act.  This applies to any good or service over $25 sold at a place rented by the seller on a temporary basis (like a hotel conference room, for instance).  Merchants must provide information about rescission rights (in writing), something that was not given to me (and likely not anyone else), and it gives consumers three days to rescind a contract or payment.  Funny, when I brought that to their attention today, it was met with the "well, every state has different laws..." excuse.  IMTA is also doing the "you have a reserved spot" excuse like I prevented someone else from going.  Cry me a river.  If they really wanted to, they could contact any of the other people they auditioned not only here in Cleveland, but elsewhere.  They have their contact information from the audition form.  They said Cleveland was their last stop.  It may have been, but that's not my problem.  I didn't make their schedule; I should not be penalized because of their schedule.

Again, while I don't think it's a flat-out scam, it certainly has the characteristics of a scam in terms of quickly snaring you with no way out and acting like if you do want out that it will cripple them financially.  I hope that people will find this post when they Google this cruise and IMTA in general.  It's definitely a case of buyer beware.  If it's in your budget and something you want to do, go for it.  I don't doubt there will be some exposure from such an event, even if it isn't necessarily the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.  All indications show that this is a legitimate cruise (though you can book a spot on this cruise without the IMTA stuff, so it's not an exclusive cruise), though I can't really speak for the quality of the agents attending since I have never been and obviously won't be going.  But if it's not in your budget, there are many other ways to be "discovered" that don't involve huge financial losses for people who are more in my situation and can't afford $1,000 conventions. I'm learning as I go; learn from my mistakes and experiences!

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