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Excerpt from "My Kid Could Paint That," directed by Amir Bar-Lev
February 23, 2005
[Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes] We begin tonight with something of a mystery.
It involves a 4-year-old girl who lives in Binghamton, New York. Her name is Marla Olmstead, and in most ways she is just like any child her age. She goes to pre-school, plays with dolls, and she loves to draw and paint. But Marla's paintings end up in homes across the country.
She has already earned more than $300,000, which, her parents say, has all been put into a college fund.
With some 200 buyers on her waiting list, Marla Olmstead stands to make millions. So, just who is the little girl behind ...
Anthony Brunelli began hosting shows for Marla. So what do we have here?
[Anthony Brunelli, Gallery Owner] You have a genius.
[Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes] A genius?
[Anthony Brunelli, Gallery Owner] Yeah.
[Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes] Is there any other explanation?
Ellen Winner is a psychologist who has studied gifted children. We showed her several of Marla's works.
[Ellen Winner, Psychologist] It's absolutely beautiful. You could slip it into the Museum of Modern Art and absolutely get away with it.
[Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes] Are you serious?
[Ellen Winner, Psychologist] I think you could.
[Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes] People would say it belongs here. This is the work of a gifted artist.
[Mark Olmstead, Marla's father] It's unbelievable.
[Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes] We showed her more than 50 minutes of videotape shot by us, and by Marla's parents. Winner's enthusiasm immediately turned to concern ...
[Ellen Winner, Psychologist] This is eye opening to me to see her actually painting.
[Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes] ... and suspicion. Eye-opening in what way?
[Ellen Winner, Psychologist] Because she's not doing anything that a normal child wouldn't do.
She's just, kind of, slowly pushing the paint around.
[Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes] After our interview, the Olmsteads agreed to let us place a concealed camera where Marla paints, so she wouldn't be distracted by its presence. It took Marla about five hours of painting ...
spread over the course of a month to come to this point.
[Mark Olmstead, Marla's father] It's not bad.
[Ellen Winner, Psychologist] I saw no evidence that she was a child prodigy in painting. I saw a normal, charming, adorable child, painting the way pre-school children paint. Except that she had a coach who kept her going.
[Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes] That coach is Marla's father, who's often present when Marla paints. He can be heard on this tape, directing her, sometimes sternly.
[Mark Olmstead, Marla's father, on TV] Paint the red! Paint the red! You're driving me crazy. Paint the red!
[Mark Olmstead, Marla's father] "You're driving me crazy. Paint the red. If you paint, honey, like you were ...
[Mark Olmstead, Marla's father, on TV] This is not the way it should be.
[Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes] Her parents told us this painting was a struggle for their daughter, saying she seemed stuck.
Still, during the month or so that the hidden camera was in their home, they claim Marla was able to finish these four other paintings off-camera, with no problems at all.
Ellen Winner also believes the painting captured on our tape is less polished than some of Marla's previous works. How do you explain that difference?
[Ellen Winner, Psychologist] Well, I can only speculate. I don't see Marla as having made, or at least completed, the more polished-looking paintings, because they look like a different painter. Either somebody else painted them, start to finish ...
or somebody else doctored them up. Or Marla just miraculously paints in a completely different way ...
than we see on her home video.
[Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes] Marla is having her first West Coast gallery opening later this week ...
and it will include this painting, captured on our hidden camera, which has already been sold for $9,000.
[60 Minutes: King of Queens, Next]