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How To Get Your Child Into Acting - Advice From An Experienced Stage Mom - Part 2
Chris Rock and Tom Cruise Chatting Outside of Stage 17 at Paramount Studios. Chris Rock Was Directing This Day's Episode of, "Everybody Hates Chris"
How To Get Your Child Into Acting - Advice From An Experienced Stage Mom - Part 1
After completing the first part of this article, I thought about something crucial that I left out of it. Probably the most important piece of advice that I can give to you, is to make sure that you are doing this for your child and not for yourself. The passion to act has to be their own. Because of the time and effort that they will have to put into this job, your child needs to love every minute spent on it!
If you have not already read part one of this article, please do so before moving on to this one. This article builds on the information in part one. The link to, "How To Get Your Child Into Acting - Advice From An Experienced Stage Mom - Part 1" can be found to the right.
Hopefully by now you have been able to put some of the tips from the first article into action, and your child is ready for their first acting role. Now is a really good time to discuss set etiquette. The set is the location where the filming will take place. In a nutshell, the way both you and your child act on set will determine if your child will be called back or put on the, "banned from the set list." Some jobs will last no more than a few hours, and some can last an entire TV season or more. Remember that casting directors (the people responsible for selecting the cast for TV shows, movies, etc.) cast for multiple productions. Having your child banned from a set can mean more than losing that one day's work. The reverse is true as well. If both you and your child are easy to work with, multiple opportunities can be gained from just one job.
The Author's Kids Filming a Scene For, "Everybody Hates Chris" on New York Street at Paramount Studios
RULES FOR THE SET
Rule 1) SHOW UP ON TIME - Arrive at the check-in table on the set five minutes prior to the scheduled, "call time" that you were given when you accepted the job. The call time is the time you are scheduled to show up for the job. Make sure that you check your child in with the set staff there. Plan for LA traffic, as it is never predictable.
RULE 2) BRING YOUR CHILD'S WORK PERMIT- If you do not have your child's original, valid, work permit in your hand, your chid will be sent home. Kids under 18 years old are not allowed to work without this. If this is your child's first time working on this particular show, also give the person checking your child in a copy of his/her headshot with their resume double stick taped to the back of it.
Rule 3) BRING MONEY FOR PARKING - Fill up a round, plastic gum container full or quarters and leave it in your glove compartment. If you end up having to street park, you will be prepared to feed the meters. Parking garages will usually accept credit cards. And yes, many times you will be responsible for the parking fees.
Rule 4) BRING MONEY FOR FOOD AND PACK A LUNCH - Almost every set will offer Craft Services (a table stocked with free snacks and drinks, as well as free meal service, for the actors, directors, and set staff.) NOTE: Some sets will not provide this service for background actors (also known as extras) or parents. The large movie studios have cafeterias, but smaller, remote locations will not. Always make sure that you bring food and drinks with you.
Rule 5) HAVE YOUR CHILD BRING AT LEAST THREE HOURS OF SCHOOLWORK - Most all filming is done during the week. This means that your child will be missing school when they work. Children are required by the child labor laws to attend school on set for three hours per day, during the regular school year. It they do not have at least three hours of their own schoolwork to work on, they will be sent home. Set school is very different from traditional school. Although they hire a certified teacher to oversee the classroom, the teacher does not teach. He or she may be able to answer your child's questions, but I would not count on it. Set school is essentially a study hall. It is crucial that your child behave and be respectful to the teacher. Same rule applies here. If another child is acting inappropriately, move away from them. Set teachers will report bad behavior back to the set staff.
Rule 6) BRING THE APPROPRIATE WARDROBE - Make sure to bring several clothing options for the wardrobe department to evaluate. You should be given wardrobe, hair and makeup instructions when you get called about the job. The wardrobe department will be the ones to determine what your child will wear during filming. It is best to have several options that are appropriate to the scene, for them to choose from. Sometimes wardrobe will be provided, but many times you will be asked to bring your own. I bought my kid's some very inexpensive clothing items at Ross. Consignment and thrift shops are good choices as well. Buy an inexpensive, small, rolling suitcase. It is a long walk from the parking garage to the set at many of the movie and TV studios! Included in this category are hair and makeup. Most sets have hair stylists and makeup artists, but many will only provide these services for their principle actors (those that have speaking roles.) There is a good chance that you will be doing your child's hair and makeup. Don't worry. It will be very basic and easy.
Rule 7) DO NOT BRING ADDITIONAL PEOPLE TO THE SET! EVER! - The only people that are allowed on set are the actors and one guardian for each actor that is under 18 years old. Period. The fastest way to get your kids banned from a set is by bringing additional people. If you have other children who will not be working, get a babysitter for them. I once saw an entire, large, extended family show up on set, and watched all of them eat a full meal from the Craft Services table. Not cool! Needless to say, the child whose family did that, was never asked back. The bad part is that he was a really sweet kid. It is sad to see adults ruin a child's opportunity.
Rule 8) BEHAVE PROFESSIONALLY WHILE WAITING IN THE HOLDING AREA - The holding area is an area where the background actors and their parents wait until they are called to the set. The holding area can literally be anything. It can be outside. Make sure to bring warm clothing in the winter, and sunscreen in the summer. DO NOT let your kids run around, be loud or annoy other people. Talking, playing quiet games, and doing homework, are all perfectly acceptable. Outdoor holding areas will most likely not have chairs. Throw a few fold-up, soccer chairs in the trunk of your car just in case. It is a good idea to bring a Game Boy, book to read, or some other quiet activity to keep your child occupied for long stretches of time. Also, make sure both you and your child speak positively. You will encounter many very nice parents (mostly mom's) and you can learn a lot from the experienced ones. Unfortunately those stereotypical, nightmare stage moms do exist. Luckily they are few and far between. Politely steer clear if you encounter one!
Rule 9) TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT HOW TO BEHAVE ON SET - Explain to them that this is a professional job, and that they are getting paid to work, just like adults do. They need to know that it is very important to listen while the Director, and the AD (Assistant Director) are speaking. Tell them to wait VERY quietly once they are on the set, as it is likely that another scene will be being filmed while your kids are waiting in the wings. If other kids are acting up, tell them to move away from them. They should also know that it is very important to follow the Director's instructions. Make sure to have this conversation prior to your arrival on the job. There is a good chance that the parents will have to wait in the holding area while the kids are on set filming.
Rule 10) HAVE FUN - After all, that is the reason they are doing this in the first place. Enjoying what they are doing will lead to an even better performance.
Rule 11) CLEAN-UP AFTER YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILD, AND SAY THANK YOU BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE SET - Make sure that you leave the set as clean as when you arrived at it. Be sure to say thank you to the PA's (Productions Assistants) and AD's (Assistant Directors) that are out in the holding area when you leave. If it is a union job, you will have to pick-up your child's time sheet prior to leaving as well. (Unions are a whole other topic and will be addressed in an upcoming article.)
Rule 12) THANK THE MANAGER OR AGENT WHO GOT YOUR CHILD THE JOB - Managers and agents tend to be very busy, so do not call them. Just a quick e-mail thanking them, and telling them that your child is really looking forward to his/her next opportunity, is sufficient.
The Author's Daughter at Paramount Studios Getting Ready for Her Guest Starring Role on, "Everybody Hates Chris"
KARMA APPLIES HERE
My two kids and I spent six months on the set of, "Everybody Hates Chris." It was a really great experience for them, and I enjoyed watching them be a part of something that most people will never get a chance to experience. It's all what you make of it.
I watched a boy get into a flight with another child and get kicked off the show on the spot. I watch one mom bring her two year old son with her to the set (a huge no-no.) He ran around the set uncontrollably, eventually leading to her daughters not being asked back. Another mom thought her son was the next Tom Cruise, and told the AD's how talented he was and how he should be upgraded to a speaking role. We didn't see him again on the show after that.
My kid's story is completely different. They behaved well, and appreciated their opportunities. I was fairly inconspicuous and made sure that my kids were on time and prepared each day. They were both chosen to be permanent, "Corleon Kids" for season one. They played the classmates of Chris Rock's character. My son was smaller at the time, and so they were able to use him in all kinds of fun and crazy scenes. My daughter was cast to play a cheerleader, and her character was given lines in one episode, which upgraded her to a principle role. She is still receiving residual checks for this role from 2005, to this day. (Residuals are a topic for a future article.) This industry is what you make of it.
There are a lot of great opportunities out there for your kids if they (and you) have a lot of perseverance. Please click the link directly below to read my next article in this series, "How To Get Your Child Into Acting - Advice From An Experienced Stage Mom - Part 3" to learn how to help your child take his/her career to the next level.