How To Get Your Child Into Acting - Advice From An Experienced Stage Mom - Part 1

The Author's Daughter Filming a Scene with Dylan and Cole Sprouse on the Set of, "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody"

Child actor working with Dylan and Cole Sprouse on the set of, "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody."
Child actor working with Dylan and Cole Sprouse on the set of, "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody." | Source

Does your child love to act? Has he/she expressed an interest in being in movies, or on TV? Do you think your child has what it takes to be cast in commercials? Would you like to help him/her reach this goal, but don't even know where to begin? I can help!

I am an experienced stage mom from California. I have two children who've spent several years working on TV show, movies, commercials and in music videos, in Hollywood. Here is our story, followed by my advice on how to make it all work, and not get conned out of your hard earned money in the process.

My daughter started acting at the age of 12. She began by taking drama classes at her middle school, and acting in the school plays. She also took very affordable acting classes through our local school district. She drove me crazy for a full year, asking me to help her get acting roles in Hollywood. My first reaction was...no way! I was raised in conservative New England, and still being fairly new to California, I thought that Hollywood was a crazy place. When her passion for acting continued to grow, I realized that this was really her choice to make, and that my role was to help her to realize her dreams, all the while making sure she remained safe and grounded throughout the process.

I signed her up (as well as her younger brother) with a children's management company called Studio Kids Management. This company works with the majority of the casting companies in Hollywood, and places children in paid, non-speaking (background) roles in movies, TV shows, commercials, and music videos. No audition was required, and the only money we paid was a $50, one time, registration fee. This company took a very reasonable, 15% commission from each paycheck that my kids received from the acting jobs that Studio Kids arranged for them. I give Studio Kids very high marks. The roles they got for my kids were above and beyond my expectations. This was a great way for my kids to begin their acting careers. They did not need to audition for these types of roles, and therefore were able to work a lot. They learned about set protocol, rules, working with directors, and handling some long work days. They were able to keep up with their regular schoolwork, as they were required by the child labor laws to attend class on the set for three hours a day.

Almost a year later, and after taking several acting classes from highly respected instructors in Hollywood, my daughter auditioned for, and landed an agent. Please know that a legitimate talent agent will NEVER take money from you up front. Agents work on commission, and earn a small percentage from each of the roles that they secure for you. Once you get to this level, you are auditioning for most every role. Know that it takes many, many auditions (in most cases) to land your first role. There were several days that we drove from Orange County to Los Angeles (a good three hour round trip) for a ten minute audition. The good news is twofold. First, if she got the part, it was worth every minute of effort that was put into the pursuit of it. And second, most of the casting directors are very nice, and your child is never rejected on the spot. If they like him/her they will call your child back, via his/her agent, for a second audition (a callback) within the week. If the casting people are not interested in your child for that role, you just won't hear back.

Both of my kids have had some very exciting roles. Both kids worked on the entire first season of, "Everybody Hates Chris." My daughter played a small part on an episode of, "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody." My son played the ten year old version of Piper's son (Wyatt) in the finale of, "Charmed." My daughter worked on commercials with Jesse McCartney and Jamie Kennedy. My son played a soccer player in the movie, "The TV Set." My daughter has modeled for websites and catalogs, danced in a music video, and had the main speaking role in two commercials for Cox Communications. I could go on and on. But, you get the gist of what is possible.

In hind site, this was a wonderful experience for the kids. They met and interacted with many different people. They had the thrill of being a part of something much bigger than themselves. They learned a lot about the entertainment industry, how to behave on set, follow directions, and what it takes to hold down a job. They also added some money to their bank accounts in the process. The kids were treated very well, and did not have any bad experiences. I think they grew quite a bit, and became more worldly as well. They maintained totally normal lives while they were acting. Acting was basically one of their extracurricular activities. The fact that they were able to experience Hollywood, while still being kids, gave them the best of both worlds. I found that this was also a great way for a new stage mom to start as well. I learned a lot from Studio Kids, and time spent on various sets, about the workings of Hollywood and the myriad of child labor laws.

The Author's Children Filming a Scene with George Clooney on the Set of, "The Good German"

Child actors working with George Clooney on the set of, "The Good German."
Child actors working with George Clooney on the set of, "The Good German." | Source

Parent's Checklist for Helping Their Child Reach His/Her Acting Dreams - Part 1

1) Enroll him/her in school drama classes, or local acting classes, to make sure their dream of being an actor is not just a passing fancy. This will give them the opportunity to learn the basics as well.

NOTE: DO NOT PAY A PROGRAM THAT CHARGES FEES FOR ACTING OR MODELING LESSONS AND PHOTOS, THEN PROMISES YOUR CHILD ACTING ROLES! The only acting roles that they can guarantee are called background, or non-speaking roles. Studio Kids, and another company called Central Casting, can both get these parts for your children, and have access to far more of them than the "acting and modeling schools." When your child signs with an agent, that agent is most likely going to want new pictures of your child anyway. When they are ready for more advanced acting classes, there are books that list the most well respected instructors in Hollywood.

2a) IF YOU LIVE IN THE LOS ANGELES AREA: Call Studio Kids Management, or Central Casting, and sign your child up with one of these two companies. I prefer Studio Kids for children, as kids are all they handle. You will find that they offer a much more personal approach. They will call you directly with offers of roles for your kids. Central Casting handles both kids and adults, and has a much larger list of actors to work with. They use a voicemail system where you have to call in each day to find out what jobs are available. If you are not one of the first to call back and accept that job, you won't get it. With either of these companies, you have the option to accept or decline the roles your kids are offered. TWO NOTES HERE: 1) It is ok to pay the registration fee up front to one of these two highly respected companies. You will make back all of that money with your child's first paycheck. 2) DO NOT decline offers for roles for your kids too often. The management companies will call on their most reliable actors, and those that decline roles will be called upon less and less.

2b) IF YOU DO NOT LIVE IN THE LA AREA: There still may be opportunities to act in movies and TV shows. Each major city has a Film Office. You will need to google this to find the contact information for the one nearest you. They should be able to provide you with a list of agents and casting companies, as well as information on how to access casting notices (lists of auditions for roles) for your location.

3) Apply for an Entertainment Work Permit for your child. Under NO circumstances will your child be allowed to work without this. Make sure to complete and mail in the free application ASAP, as it can take several weeks to receive the work permit back in the mail. You will need to renew this work permit for your child every six months, until they are 18 years old. See the link below, for a copy of the application for an Entertainment Work Permit..

4a) Plan your schedule so that you will be able to accompany your child on the set. It is important to know two things here: 1) Everything in Hollywood is done at the last minute. You will most likely receive less than a day's notice when your child lands a role. 2) You, or an appointed guardian over the age of 18, needs to be on the set at all times with your child. If it is not going to be you, you must give the adult who will accompany them, a letter of guardianship specific to that day's events. The letter must contain emergency contact information for you. See the link for a sample Letter of Guardianship below.

4b) Plan your child's schedule so that you can make last minute changes to accommodate his/her acting jobs. Your child will need to bring three hours worth of schoolwork with them to the set each day, or they will be sent home. The section of the child labor laws dealing with education is very strict. The length of time a child can work in one day, depends on their age. When your child gets a part, plan on being on the set much longer than the scheduled amount of time.

5) Find a very reasonably priced photographer who has experience taking headshots (photos of a person from the shoulders up,) and have several color photos taken of your child. Have them wear different clothing, and show a variety of expressions in the photos. Reproduce ten copies of your favorite photo (preferably one with a warm smile) in 8 x 10 size. Make sure the photos are professional quality. This is important. Even if your child is just beginning, they should present themselves in a professional manner right from the start.

6) Create a resume for your child. It will need to list their name, age, height, weight, hair and eye color, as well as an e-mail address and cell phone number for you. It can be very basic, but should list any type of music, dance or acting training that they have had. Add to it any type of acting they have done, such as school plays. It should also list any special skills your child has. NEVER list your home address. See the link below for a Sample Resume.

7) Go to your local bank and open a Coogan Account for your child. Child labor laws require each child actor to have a bank account that their parents aren't allowed to access. This trust account will stay in tact until your child is 18 years old. He or she is the only person who will be allowed to access those funds at that time. Fifteen percent of your child's earnings from their acting jobs will be required to be deposited into this Coogan Account. The Coogan law is named for former child actor, Jackie Coogan. Coogan's parents, unbeknownst to him, spent all of his earnings, leaving him almost totally broke by the time he reached adulthood. For more information on Coogan Accounts, see the link below.

Learn More in Part 2

This information should get you started. I have much more information to share with you as well. Please see my second article on this subject entitled, "How To Get Your Child Into Acting - Advice From An Experienced Stage Mom - Part 2." Also feel free to ask me any questions you might have in the comments section below.

The Author's Son Filming a Scene For the Finale of, "Charmed" with Brian Krause

Child actors working with Brian Krause on the set of, "Charmed."
Child actors working with Brian Krause on the set of, "Charmed." | Source

The Author's Daughter on the Set of, "Numb3rs" With Rob Morrow and Judd Hirsch

Child actor working with Rob Morrow and Judd Hirsch on the set of, "Numb3rs."
Child actor working with Rob Morrow and Judd Hirsch on the set of, "Numb3rs." | Source

The Author's Son Being Put in a Locker For a Scene on, "Everybody Hates Chris"

Child actor working on the set of, "Everybody Hates Chris."
Child actor working on the set of, "Everybody Hates Chris." | Source

The Author's Daughter Filming a Segment For, "American Inventor" on ABC

Child actors working on a segment for, "American Inventor."
Child actors working on a segment for, "American Inventor." | Source

The Author's Son Filming a Soccer Scene For the Movie, "The TV Set" with Ioan Gruffudd

Child actors working with Ioan Gruffudd on a soccer scene for the movie, The TV Set."
Child actors working with Ioan Gruffudd on a soccer scene for the movie, The TV Set." | Source

The Author's Daughter With Tequan Richmond Filming a Scene For, "Everybody Hates Chris" at Paramount Studios

A child actor on the set of, "Everybody Hates Chris" with Tequan Richmond.
A child actor on the set of, "Everybody Hates Chris" with Tequan Richmond. | Source

The Author's Daughter Shooting a Print Ad For Frontgate Catalog

Child models shooting a print add for Frontgate catalog.
Child models shooting a print add for Frontgate catalog. | Source

The Author's Daughter Filming a Scene For a Time Warner Cable Show

Actors filming a scene for a Time Warner Cable Show.
Actors filming a scene for a Time Warner Cable Show. | Source

The Cast of, "Luv, Kara" with Amanda Bauer (Tale of the American Sleepover) and Drew Garrett (General Hospital) as Well as The Author's Daughter

Child actors (the cast) of "Luv, Kara."
Child actors (the cast) of "Luv, Kara." | Source

More by this Author


Comments 27 comments

Karen N profile image

Karen N 5 years ago from United States

Very useful information for anyone who has a child wanting to break into the acting industry.


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 5 years ago from Orange County, California Author

Thanks Karen. It takes a while to figure it all out, so I thought I would share it with all who are interested.


Rachel Addison L. 4 years ago

Thank you sooooo much!!!


Ewa 4 years ago

Hello! My son is 3. I have a question. Headshots for beginner need to be 8x10 too or I can use our home pix 4x6?


Marci 4 years ago

Hi! Thank you for all your generous advice and information.

Do you have any advice about where to persue this dream for my daughter in Canada? Are there similar agencies in Canada like the ones you have suggested in the U.S.A.

Thank you for your reply.

All the best - Marci


phebe 4 years ago

Your advise was amazing ...thank you. We are starting this jorney


mom-2013 3 years ago

how do you you still let your daughter to land acting jobs but not move to california and how do you find someone to take a 4x6 photo shoot with white background?


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 3 years ago from Orange County, California Author

Hi Ewa!

All headshots need to be 8 x10 color photos. You should tape a copy of your son's acting resume on the back using double stick tape.


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 3 years ago from Orange County, California Author

Hi Marci!

I am so sorry, but I do not now too much about Canada. Vancouver seems to be the most popular filming location in Canada. I would suggest Googling, the film office for your location and see what you can find.


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 3 years ago from Orange County, California Author

Good luck Phebe! :)


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 3 years ago from Orange County, California Author

Hi!

Not living in the Los Angeles area makes it really tough. There are some small film projects happening in other parts of the country though. Check with your cities local filming office. They would be your best source. She can also do school and local plays.

Her headshots should be 8 x 10 and have her resume attached to the back with double stick tape. They don't have to be on a white background. Google local headshot photographers.


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 3 years ago from Orange County, California Author

You're welcome, Rachel! :)


Will 3 years ago

Hi, this was super helpful!! But my son does not have any experience. He is 13 and there are no local plays happening, what can he do to get some experience?


Ivy 3 years ago

How did you go about findin am agent?


Marie in OC 3 years ago

You did a great job for your kids! I know it's a TREMENDOUS effort and you should be applauded. Also, thank you for sharing for us newbies.

Were your talent agencies or acting coaches in CA?

Thanks and great job again! I hope your kids remember all your efforts when you're a great Grandma and can use a little extra love and health care :) hee hee


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 3 years ago from Orange County, California Author

School drama programs are the best option. Both of my kids were part of the drama program in their middle schools. Most cities also have a Film and TV Office. You can google that for your city and see what is available.


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 3 years ago from Orange County, California Author

Once my daughter got her first speaking part (Principle Role) we purchased a book called "The Agencies" from www.samuelfrench.com/bookstore. We began to send her professional headshot and resume to agents until she got auditions.


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 3 years ago from Orange County, California Author

Thanks Marie! :)

Yes, all of my kid's agents, managers and coaches are in either OC or LA. They began taking classes in OC and then took them at The Young Actors Studio in LA.


Mike 2 years ago

For a young, very passionate child starting out, what would you recommend looking for in a film acting school? Hours/week etc. Thank you for taking your time to answer these questions.


Jennifer 2 years ago

Thank you for all the advice, and your time you took to write this. My daughter who is 11 and son who is 12 would love to act that is all they talk about, but living in Tusla ok I would have no idea where to start as in acting classes. How do you know what Agencies to send headshots too how do you weed out the the bad agencies to the legit ones to send the headshots? "oh" I could go on and on with questions for you And would love to pick your brain some more on this, but I don't want to take up too much of your time!! =)


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 2 years ago from Orange County, California Author

Hi Mike!

The very best way for a child to start is in their school's drama program. That way it doesn't interrupt their schooling. It's free, and it give the child a chance to find out of they really like acting and all of the work it takes. If you live in LA or OC, there are quite a few additional choices for acting schools after that.


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 2 years ago from Orange County, California Author

Hi Jennifer!

Definitely have the kids signup of any available drama programs at school. By middle school, most schools haver drama classes and put on plays. In addition to that, I would contact your state/local film and TV office. You will have to google to find that.

Legitimate agents will NEVER ask for money up front. They ALL work on commission, by receiving a portion of your child's earnings. I would also look at reviews for acting classes. Those that charge you a lot of money and say they will get your kids acting work are NOT worth it. They have no control over casting. Good luck to your kids! :)


Jennifer 2 years ago

Hey there again, ;) I'm wondering how you would go about getting younger kids in acting ages from around 3-8? I know in the previous comments you had said drama classes for the older kids in middle school. But was seeing if you had any info and helpful advice for youger kids wanting to act? Thanks so very much for your time!!!!! :)


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 2 years ago from Orange County, California Author

Hi Jennifer!

Contact http://www.ok.gov/oklahomafilm/OFFICE/TULSA_FILM_&... and ask them how to find out about auditions happening in your city. Also, google acting classes for young kids. Remember to check out the reviews for these classes and instructors.

Well rounded, happy kids do the best. Put him in the sports he loves (my son started karate at 3 and baseball and soccer at 4,) enroll him in a kids art or music class.

Local theatre companies sometimes need very young kids for small parts. Try goggling everything you can find about acting opportunities in Tulsa.

Good luck to all of your children!


Jennifer 2 years ago

Thank you so very much!!!!! :)


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 2 years ago from Orange County, California Author

Hi Everyone!

If you are still looking for information on how to get your child into acting, call Phyllis Henson. She is a National Children's Talent Consultant who has been in business for 35 years. Phyllis helped to launch the careers of Jodi Sweetin and Drake Bell. She has also helped over 2,600 other kids get their starts in show business. She's very nice, and VERY well connected! Her number is 949-851-0920. Here is her company's website, www.kidshollywood.com. I think Phyllis could give you a lot of good information in her consult, and I know that she doesn't charge much. She can even tell you how to find possible work for your kids, where you live. I hope this suggestion is helpful! Good luck to all of your kids! Jill


Keisha 23 months ago

Reading this makes my deoisicns easier than taking candy from a baby.

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