How To Get Your Child Into Acting - Advice From An Experienced Stage Mom - Part 3
The Author's Daughter on The Disney Set With Selena Gomez
How To Get Your Child Into Acting - Advice From An Experienced Stage Mom - Part 1 & 2
A child's acting career can be a long and exciting journey. There is a lot for parents to learn in order to guide their children along the way. Hopefully you have read, "How To Get Your Child Into Acting - Advice From An Experienced Stage Mom - Parts 1 & 2." If not, please click on the links to the right to read both of those articles before moving on to this one.
By now, hopefully your child has taken acting classes, acted in school plays, and worked on TV and/or movie sets as a background actor. Now they want to take the next step, and you are wondering how to help them do that.
Obtaining principle (speaking) roles is much more difficult than getting background roles. There is a lot of competition, and your child will need to audition in order to be considered for them. Before taking this next step, speak with your child and tell them what to expect. They will need to have a really good attitude, tons of motivation, and a lot of perseverance to be successful on the next part of their journey. Here is a checklist of what you need to do to help your child take their acting career to the next level.
HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD BECOME A PRINCIPLE ACTOR
1) FIRST STOP, SAMUEL FRENCH BOOKSTORE. See the link at the bottom of this article. Make the trip to one of this store's locations. This is THE bookstore for actors. Talk to one the professionals at the store and ask for suggestions. You will need two things. A book listing all of the credible talent agents in Hollywood, and a book of children's monologues that suits both your child's age and personality. Consider getting a book listing the top instructors and acting coaches as well.
2) FIND A GOOD AGENT TO REPRESENT YOUR CHILD. Legitament talent agents will not take money from you up front, or charge you any kind of a fee to sign your child. Agents work on commission, and get paid a small percentage (usually 10%) of all of your child's earnings from jobs that they arrange for them. You will need to write a short, precise cover letter listing your child's special skills and experience. Make sure to be clear about the kinds of roles your child is looking for, theatrical (movies and television,) commercial, theater, and/or modeling. Include with the letter an 8x10 color headshot of your child with their resume double stick taped to the back. Mail these out to the agents you've selected, in an envelope that is not sealed. As crazy as that sounds, many agents won't open sealed envelopes. Do NOT put your return address on the envelope, or your home address on the resume. This is for your child's protection in case either get lost.
3) HELP YOUR CHILD FIND A MONOLOGUE HE/SHE IS COMFORTABLE WITH. Have your child practice this monologue until they have it memorized and can perform it when asked. Agents will require your child to audition for them. Some will give children a script, while others will ask them to be prepared with a monologue to perform. They will also want to interview both you and your child to determine whether they feel that your child is marketable, and that you are both a good fit for their agency.
4) CHOOSE AND SIGN WITH AN AGENT. Once you do, they will begin submitting your child for auditions. Please know that in most cases it takes many submissions to get an audition, and many auditions before your child gets a part. Being selected to audition is a huge compliment, and shows that the actor is on the right track.
5) DON'T RELY ON YOUR CHILD'S AGENT FOR EVERYTHING. You can also submit your child for acting roles. Only agents can access Breakdown Services (the publisher of the detailed casting information that is used by legitimate talent representatives in Hollywood.) There are, however, a few other sources where you can access casting notices and submit your child for roles. Note that these may be smaller roles, but they can be both a lot of fun, and a great experience. The two I suggest that you sign your child up with are: LA Casting and Actors Access. These are the top two casting subscription services. In my experience, the others are not worth the money, as they have duplicate content and/or are much less complete than these two. See the links to both of these sites below. At the time of publication, LA Casting costs $15 a month, and Actors Access cost $67 per year. Both sites allow you to create a profile, and upload a resume and photos for your child. Included in those subscription fees is the ability to submit your child on-line for the roles that suit them.
6) HAVE YOUR CHILD CONTINUE TO TAKE ACTING CLASSES. Classes should be taken up in Hollywood from reputable instructors and acting coaches. Not only will this help to build their resume, skills and confidence, but it will also broaden their network. I can recommend one company to you that has a very good reputation with agents and casting directors. My daughter took classes from them, and learned a lot. See the link below for The Young Actors Space. Note: Don't be afraid to ask for referrals. Many of the good instructors will refer their top students to agents. A referral is the BEST way to get an audition, whether it be for an agent, or for a role.
The Author's Children Getting Makeup Touch-Ups on the Set of the Movie, "The Good German."
The Author's Daughter at Disney Studios with Raven Symone
Managers and Unions
There are two more topics that I want to touch on. You can discuss both topics with your child's agent to get their opinion prior to making a decision on whether to go with either one.
Talent managers are different than agents. Their job is to promote their talent (actors.) They work in conjunction with agents, and recommend their clients to casing directors, etc. They usually take 15% commission (in addition to the 10% your agent takes) on all of your child's jobs. Most children do not need a manager when they first get started, but this is a topic I would discuss with your agent to get their recommendation.
There are two main unions that you will come in contact with. SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Radio and Television Artists.) The most important thing you need to know, is that once your child joins a labor union, he/she can no longer work on non-union roles. Most roles in Hollywood that your child will get when they first get started will be non-union roles. It is probably best to wait to join a union until your child gets some experience under their belt, and is landing roles more frequently. Also know that union dues are expensive. AFTRA allows actors to join at anytime. SAG requires actors to become eligible to join their union by working on a certain number of SAG projects prior to being accepted into the union. Again, this is a topic that should be discussed with your child's agent.
I hope that these three articles have given you a good, basic understanding of the workings of Hollywood, and how help your child to become a part of it. Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have in the comments section of this article. Break a leg!
Samuel French Bookstores
Young Actors Space
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists