Reporting David Goldstein
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — If you want to be in show business, L.A. is the place to be. But a CBS2 undercover investigation has found that there is a film school in town that is cashing in big on Hollywood dreams and not delivering.
William Wesley is the owner of the Los Angeles Feature Film Academy. According to its website, the school seems like a dream come true for students trying to break into Hollywood, promising in bold letters, “our students make feature films for worldwide release.”
“You’ll get screen credit on these films you’ll graduate with more than a degree; you’ll graduate with a career,” it continues.
But some former students said that the promise was too good to be true.
“We didn’t prepare a movie there; we didn’t read script there, just nothing. Eyebrow raising,” said Aj Hordijk, who we interviewed via Skype from Holland.
He claims he paid Wesley about $15,000 in tuition last year and came to L.A. just to attend the school. But he said the classes were held in Wesley’s apartment in this building in Downtown L.A. and there was no movie.
“He’s really banking on people’s dreams and it’s an easy dream to sell, you know? Everyone wants to be in the movie business, especially in L.A. I crossed the ocean from Europe to do this,” Hordijk said.
“He told me I was going to get a lead role in one of his comedy films,” said Jonathan Villalvazo, who paid over $11,000 in tuition last year.
Villalvazo said that Wesley promised him a starring role in a feature film. It never happened.
“Basically, I’d been lied to,” he said.
Because of complaints, California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education ordered the school to cease operating, hit it with a $50,000 fine and ordered it to pay back just over $30,000 in tuition.
The website disappeared. But like a Hollywood sequel, it’s now back under another name.
Now it is called the American Feature Film Academy, but it seems only the name has been changed.
We wanted to see if he was making the same promises, so we had two people contact Wesley to get more information about the school. He did not meet at his apartment, but instead at the L.A. Center Studios in Downtown L.A.
Our undercover cameras were rolling when Wesley gave a tour of the studio, claiming students would be filming there.
“We’d be on this lot filming everything,” one of our undercover would-be students asked.
“Lot, wherever the script calls for. If it’s a desert, we’re out in the desert,” Wesley replied.
He said they “would” be making a movie.
“You get screen credits on the 12 weeks. There’s a collaborative feature film that you will all be making with the professionals and then you get screen credits,” he told them.
“Were you ordered shut down by the state,” I asked Wesley?
“No, not shutdown,” he replied.
At first Wesley denied being shut down, then claimed the state had no right to do it.
He defended the school, claiming that classes are held at L.A. Center Studios. The studio said that he rents space there, but could not say if he taught any classes.
But when we asked, Wesley could not name a single movie that his students have produced.
The state has now ordered him to get a license for American Feature Film Academy or risk a $50,000 fine.
This comes as good news to former students, who hope their experience will be the closing act for the school.
“It’s not very easy to be an artist out here. It takes a lot of guts and for someone to take advantage of people like that, makes me very angry,” Villalvazo said.