Pitching the public a shot at the Way and the Truth and the Lights of Broadway, an outfit called Actors, Models & Talent for Christ is bringing its traveling road show to West Palm Beach later this month.
Will the next great Christian rock star arise out of Palm Beach County? Will some virtuous young maiden from the land of the Butterfly Ballot take the Good News to the runways of Milan and Paris? Will they, as promised, "make good bolder" in show business as "reflections of Christ and His truth"?
It could happen, say the faith-based talent scouts at AMTC, especially if you pass the audition and then fork over four or five large for the training program.
Based in the Atlanta suburbs, AMTC is a family affair started in 1982 by the mother/daughter team of Millie and Carey Lewis. According to its website, Millie was a fashion "industry icon" in the 1940s who "became a TV and radio personality, a 'Who's Who' among fashion circles and even pioneered civil rights in the South." AMTC claims "she was even the subject of a comic book based on her life, called Millie the Model," though we couldn't find any evidence of that.
In 1960, Millie Lewis turned from modeling to coaching, opening the first of a small chain of South Carolina "modeling and finishing" schools, "mostly to help young girls improve their appearance and confidence." Carey Lewis entered the business, which began organizing model and talent conventions, where "agents, managers and VIPs... came looking for fresh talent." Its major event is in Orlando twice a year.
Worldly success wasn't enough for Carey Lewis, however, who had a "come to Jesus" moment in 2006 and "felt called to bring AMTC along." As she tells it:
'People thought I was crazy, that AMTC could not exist as a boldly Christian company, but they were wrong,' laughs Lewis. 'When God appoints a person or a company to a mission, He will see it done and nothing on earth can stop it.' Carey is thankful that AMTC has become a shepherd of God's movement into media: the most influential mission field on earth. 'God is preparing an army of performers.' She says, 'AMTC's job is to find them and guide them up the mountains of arts and entertainment.'
AMTC registered for nonprofit, tax-exempt status in 2012. That same year, it took in $6.3 milliion in revenue and had $5.3 million in expenses, leaving $1 million "earmarked for program expenses for 2013." Salaries are modest: Carey Lewis ("Chief Serving Officer") pulling down $73K, AMTC Executive Director (and Lewis' son-in-law) Adam She clocking $54K.
In a preemptive strike, Carey Lewis has registered the domain name amtcscam.com. She also regularly and vociferously defends her legitimacy, as here and here. AMTC failed to respond to New Times' request for comment.
AMTC is, to put it charitably, squishy on the matter of "success rate." Its website states:
Every performer will be successful if he or she gets ready by God's standards and waits on His timing. God heads our placement department.
There is no shortage of claims of at least limited success by AMTC grads, though that includes no one more high-profile than Mena Suvari, who attended an AMTC convention as a 13-year-old.
Among those modeling industry poobahs referenced by Carey Lewis as vouching for AMTC's bona fides is Ray Lata, formerly chief honcho at Wilhelmina Models' Miami office. We tracked him down at his current post, at the agency's L.A. office.
"I haven't dealt with AMTC in some time," Lata told New Times. "Maybe six years ago. We do locate talent at those conventions, so for a small minority, it's everything it claims to be." How small? "The odds are better than a lottery ticket."
Odds on the Powerball at the Florida Lottery top out at 1-in-175,000,000, pick-6 Lotto at 1-in-23,000,000. AMTC may offer better odds than that. But there ain't no lottery ticket that sells for $5,000 a pop.
UPDATE: In an email Tuesday evening, AMTC Executive Director Adam She wrote:
AMTC's success can be seen through thousands of grads who are working in entertainment. But AMTC's success can also be seen in thousands more who come for self-improvement and education. For that reason, placement stats in entertainment are misleading and do not speak to the purpose of AMTC, which is educating and equipping performers not only to go successfully into media, but into the world in general. Because the benefits reaped by godly guidance to improve our communication skills and confidence cannot be measured. Furthermore, we do not recommend anyone join AMTC who's sole purpose is career placement.
Christians believe that success depends on God. AMTC is a Talent Missionary training program followed by the SHINE Conference, where God's performers meet dozens of industry professionals from mainstream and Christian media. AMTC prepares performers for entertainment by real-world standards, but also by God's standards. God's definition of success is to be a person of love, truth and integrity. Actors, models, singers and dancers have a destiny of stardom by God's standards--not by the world's. It's AMTC's job to teach that standard to our best ability.
Actors, Models & Talent for Christ. Auditions Saturday, October 26, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Embassy Suites West Palm Beach 1601 Belvedere Road, WPB Phone: 561-689-6400
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