The Hollywood Complex Dylan Nelson and Dan Sturman

The Hollywood Complex Dylan Nelson and Dan Sturman
A Hollywood casting agent sees 3,000 head shots of child actors, auditions 100 and selects one for the role. Those are the odds that countless children and their parents face when they move into the Oakwood apartment complex in Hollywood each year during "pilot season."

Pilots are test episodes of new TV series and very few of those earn a network berth. This fascinating film follows the struggles of several families spending at least $5,000 a month to beg for an audition, pray for a call-back and, God-willing, land a role.

"It's the same highs and lows as gambling," says one grown-up. Mothers and siblings cram into an apartment so they can encourage their potential child star during these trying weeks. One Midwestern mother changes agents so her daughter can land more auditions. Another mother scours dumpsters to gather returnable bottles. An African-American boy sings his heart out before a casting director. The wife of an Air Force pilot refuses to let her child audition for any shows that praise Satan (she says this with a straight face). Everyone attends acting classes, poses for professional headshots and chases the same handful of roles.

Though the tone of the film is playful and its characters charming, I got a queasy feeling watching this doc, because Hollywood is brutal, heartless and atavistic even for adults. "It's like slavery," warns a former child actor. "You're being bought and sold."Welcome to showbiz, kid.