My very first job out of college was in the Extras Casting Office at a TV and Film Production company. I dealt with a lot of actors and agencies, and, I also was an actor on the side. I’ve been asked many times, how parents should go about getting their kids into “the business,” so here are my answers.
You know your child best, so before exposing them to a world of constant let downs, harsh criticisms, and long hours, be sure that they are mature enough to handle a whole lotta rejection and hard work if they are actually cast. Also, ask yourself these questions:
- Does she/he show MAJOR interest?
- Does she/he have a good sense of self-esteem?
- Am I doing this for my child’s best interests (or am I trying to fulfill my own dreams or make some extra money for the family)?
If the answers are a resounding YES! then go for it. Start on a small level and gauge their awareness and ability to bounce back after that first “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” That kind of rejection can be hard on a child, on anyone, for that matter, so talk to them frequently about their self worth and stay in tune with whether or not they are enjoying the process. If they were “born to perform” then waiting until they are a bit older might be the better option.
2. FIND A REPUTABLE AGENT:
All paid actors need agents in order to “book gigs.” But my biggest piece of advice is: NEVER PAY AN AGENCY or an AGENT! EVER.
The so-called “agencies” that ask for a lump sum of money up front are not reputable and even though they will put your child in a fashion or get them in “front on casting agents,” at a huge open call, they are not on the up and up. Actual agents take a percentage of what the actor or model gets paid AFTER the gig is over.
For a list of reputable agents in your area, check out the SAG & AFTRA website.
3. HAVE A GOOD HEAD SHOT: You do not need to spend a lot of money on head shots, you can even take it yourself if you have a good SLR camera. Just pay attention to these few tips:
- Have a simple background
- Wear a bright color that pops and looks good with skin tone
- No logos or busy patterns
- Show some personality in the picture
- Photograph from the bust up
4. TAKE ACTING CLASSES:
Classes are a must. You will hear of experienced, professional actors who still take classes because they want to “hone their craft.” Taking classes will give them confidence and the tool they will need for auditions and actual gigs.
5. BE INVOLVED:
We all have witnessed the unraveling and coming-undone of many child actors throughout the years, which can be attributed to the piles of money and the crazy life-style that accompanies fame. Staying involved in your child’s life AND career choices is essential. Also, constantly talking to them about their self-worth is a must, so they can distinguish between what is about them personally and what is about “the business.”
Now I can’t guarantee that by following these steps that your kiddo will become the next child-actor-turned-A-List celebrity like Drew Barrymore, nor can I guarantee that they will NOT become the next child-actor-turned-train-wreck like Lindsey Lohan, but at least you can enter your kiddo into the world of showbiz with some confidence and knowledge.
One of the best real life examples I can use as a testimony to the tips above is bright and upcoming young actress named Chloe Noelle. For the past year, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Chloe, and her family, in the green room at Fox 5 San Diego, as she does the Kid’s Korner segments, just after our Ask the Moms segments. Chloe has been acting since she was six years old and is most famous for her role on True Blood, as Emma Garza, the shape-shifting werewolf. When she walks into a room, you know that she is meant to be a performer; it’s in the way she looks, talks, acts and carries herself.
When I knew I was going to write this post, I emailed her lovely mother, Jennifer, asking her details about Chloe’s road to “the biz.” Her answers, and also the way I see her interact with Chloe, solidified all the notions I stated above.
When I asked her how she knew that Chloe was meant for this industry she said, “She was ALWAYS a performer since she was very young. She would volunteer to go on stage at Disneyland when she was only 2! She loved the audience cheering for her. When she did theater she was never nervous about performing, she just always loved it! Now when we are filming commercials or TV shows she just lights up. I can tell she is doing what she loves.”
What I love most about seeing Chloe week after week, is that I also see her mom and grandparents always close at hand, supporting her, nurturing her and guiding her. Chloe has an incredible head on her shoulders and I can’t wait to watch her career soar.
If you are in the San Diego area, check out this post on TodaysMama.com for more tips on San Diego agents, acting classes, and all the things you’ll need, like a work permit and special bank account.