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How to Break Your Child into Acting

Updated on April 2, 2013
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Lights, camera, action! Welcome to the captivating world of Hollywood, a place filled with power, prestige, wealth, celebrity, glitz and glamour. That’s the fun side. The flip side is loaded with setbacks, insecurities, rejection, disappointment, defeat, and unmet desires. As a producer, wife to a filmmaker, and former actress, I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly side of the entertainment business. And, although it’s a tough industry to crack, parents are lining up, in hopes of giving their child a shot at fame, and a chance at fortune.

Unfortunately, many parents take shortcuts when trying to jump-start their child’s acting career, wasting time, money, and momentum, because they have no idea on what it takes to break into the business. Yet, even with all the pitfalls, if properly handled, a child’s acting career can give them a significant head start on adulthood, help them develop leadership and teamwork skills, improve their self-confidence, and generate a steady stream of income.

So, whether you’re paving the way for the next child star, or cultivating a passion they’ve already expressed, you need to start with a basic foundation of knowledge. Below are ten principles, every parent should know, if your child is considering the actor’s life.

1. Get Familiar with SAG-AFTRA

SAG-AFTRA (also known as, The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) is a labor union that represents over 160,000 film/television and background performers. Although your child may not be a member of SAG-AFTRA yet, this union offers many valuable resources for young performers. They even hold a young performers orientation at local SAG-AFTRA headquarters once per month. Visit http://youngperformers.sagaftra.org/ for more information.

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2. Get Your Child Some Acting Experience

If your child is old enough, have them audition to be in a play, whether a local production or school performance. Or, find a student film that is seeking kids for their next project. This is where you can test the waters. Do they enjoy being on set? Do they love the stage? If they’re too young for plays then determine how they are around other people. Are they sociable and outgoing, or shy and withdrawn? Observing them perform in front of a crowd, will give you an idea of your child’s talent and interest.

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3. Find a Good Acting Class for Your Child

Acting classes for kids typically begin at age four or five, so check your local trade magazines or the Internet for youth acting classes. Find a reputable class by doing the research, getting referrals, acquiring references, checking the ratings, plus digging into the instructors’ background. Don’t just pick the first class that pops up on Google. Do your due diligence. An accomplished instructor will bring out the innate abilities within your child, and there’s no substitute for a great acting class.

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4. Get a Headshot

It’s important to have a headshot of your child to get them in the right doors with casting and talent agents. This 8 x 10, professional, photograph is a vital tool in getting your child work, so choose your photographer wisely. Because babies and toddlers are growing so fast a simple snapshot is normally okay for them. And, be forewarned, if a self-proclaimed, “talent agent” wants to send your child to their photographer for pictures then proceed with extreme caution, if proceeding at all. It’s probably a scam, and the agent is more than likely receiving a kickback from that photographer. Speaking from experience, be very careful; the road to Hollywood is littered with victims of fraud.

Sample Beginner Resume

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5. Get Your Child a Resume

Once your child gets a few credits under their belt then add their experience to a resume. Be sure to include their name, your contact phone numbers; their statistics: hair color, eye color, date of birth, height and weight; relevant acting experience; and any training or special skills they have. Once you have their resume you can print it on the back of their headshot, or some people post it to websites they’ve created. Sometimes agents and casting directors will hire a child based solely on their charm or look, but since this is such a competitive field you want to do everything you can to make an unforgettable impression, just as with any job interview.


6. Find Good Representation

Now that you have a great headshot and resume it’s time to find representation, whether it’s a talent agent or a manager. There are two main types of agents, theatrical (agents for film and television), and commercial (agents for commercials and print work). The agent’s primary role is to find your youngster work. Once a job is booked, and your child is paid, the agent will receive 10% of their earnings. Check with SAG-AFTRA for a list of Franchised agencies that specialize in representing children.

Some parents opt to begin with a talent manager, who is generally easier to secure. The manager’s principal job is to help guide your youngster’s career, whether it’s locating the right acting class, helping them create a demo reel, or showcasing their talents to potential agents. You can contact Talent Manager’s Association for more information at http://www.talentmanagers.org. Managers will make 10-15% of your child’s earnings.

Once you’ve complied your list of potential representatives then you will submit a photo and resume to their office, and if they’re interested you may be called in for a meeting or audition. Remember, agents and managers receive tons of submissions per week, so be patient, but remain persistent.

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7. Let Your Child Audition as Much as Possible

The more auditions your little actor goes on the more seasoned he or she becomes. Auditions are where you’ll see plenty of hopefuls vying for the same spot as your child. Don’t be intimidated; don’t get discouraged. These times are where they’ll get some of the best experiences, especially if they are still deciding whether this is something they really want to pursue. And, be prepared, your child may have two, or more, auditions per week, so make sure your schedule is flexible, or that you make proper arrangements for them. Acting’s a true commitment for both the parent and the child, and sometimes you need to be ready at a moment’s notice.

8. Be Prepared for Rejections

99% of the time your child won’t get the job they’ve auditioned for. It’s the nature of the business. Your little angel may be the most talented, and cutest kid in the room but still receive a big fat, “no,” because they don’t have “the look” the casting director needs for that particular project. Rejection can be very difficult for a person’s confidence, let alone a child’s, so it’s up to the parent to encourage them, as much as possible. Make the auditioning process a fun, family-affair, and don’t dwell on the outcome. It’s an accomplishment just to get an audition. Hopefully, auditioning will build their confidence and self-worth, if not then you should reevaluate if this is the right field for them.

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9. Decide if Your Child Really Wants to Act

As mentioned earlier, acting is an exciting profession, but don’t be distracted by the potential notoriety, riches and esteem that can accompany an actor’s career. As a parent, you should be able to determine if acting is fun and appealing for your child or burdensome and stressful. Don’t force this industry on your son or daughter if they aren’t ready, or don’t really want to pursue it. Don’t be one of those over-zealous parents trying to live vicariously through your child.

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10. Don’t Get in This Business Just for the Money

According to a Los Angeles Times analysis, 72.1 percent of actors make less than $5,000 per year, and less than 2
percent of the thespians making above $5,000 earn enough to own a Bentley. Some actors have been pursuing this craft for years and are still juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet, but they love what they do. The harsh reality is that most actors don’t make enough money to earn a living, let alone to raise a family. So, make certain your child is acting for the love of acting because financially, they’re better off setting up a lemonade stand.

The business of acting can be a challenging profession, especially for children. But, if you follow these ten guidelines and continue to educate yourself about the world of entertainment, you and your child will be well ahead of the pack. And, if you think your future star has the requisite talent and passion, commitment and drive then get ready, get set and go for the dream.

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    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      Long term she wants to become a DOP like her daddy. No interest in being a writer or director. :(

    • Careermommy profile image
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      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      LongTimeMother, I don't blame you. Even though we're in the entertainment industry, acting is a profession we would not want our kids to be in.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      She chose to become a professional fire dancer instead, lol. While still a teenager she was hired to perform at a Cirque de Soleil VIP party. She had no interest in expanding into acting. In many ways, I am pleased she said no.

    • Careermommy profile image
      Author

      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi LongTimeMother, thank you for your encouraging comments. Good for your daughter for not giving in to any pressure and making up her own mind. She could have been the next Nicole Kidman, but that's another story. LOL.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      Great hub, Careermommy.

      My middle daughter was encouraged by a director to audition for Home and Away (an Australian soapie, stepping stone for Chris Hemsworth, Melissa George and others) when she was a teenager, but she refused.

      Demonstrates the value of your hint #9. :)

    • Careermommy profile image
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      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      MarleneB, I agree. if the child is enjoying this pursuit then I think a lot of the stress of it goes away as well. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      It sounds like getting a child into acting is quite intense. I like your tip #10. I think a lot of the stress goes away when the child is enjoying the process (both the positive results and the negative results). This is a valuable hub for anyone thinking of helping their child enter the acting world.

    • Careermommy profile image
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      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Yep, good point chinared. LA is the place to be for the entertainment industry.

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      Yes, you're right, but for the movie industry, you're lucky to be in L.A. I didn't know I'd take it so seriously until after I moved here. Great luck to you, and I'll read some more of your hubs tomorrow. Bedtime here now.

    • Careermommy profile image
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      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      chinared, thank you for your comments. So, it sounds like you've got a circle of people in the entertainment field as well. And, being a screenwriter, I'm sure you can get some great writing inspiration by living in China.

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      Nice hub and information. My brother is an aspiring actor and I'm a screenwriter. I also have an actress friend who had a school for children in California and now in Atlanta, GA. She told me pretty much exactly what you describe above. You're right on. Voted thumbs up and useful. Great job!!

    • Careermommy profile image
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      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Paul, thank you for reading and sharing this hub. I agree, I don't think this field is for everyone either. There are a lot of people pursuing this dream, but don't necessarily have the chops for what it takes.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      careermommy,

      I found this hub very interesting and useful. When I was in high school, I wanted one of the leading parts in a school play, but I didn't get it probably because of my shy, introverted demeanor. I did, however, get a very small part of being a bystander next to a smudgepot in the play Pygmalion. I don't think acting is for everyone. You have to have the innate talent besides the interest. Voted up and sharing with followers.

    • Careermommy profile image
      Author

      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks for reading KoffeeKlatch Gals. I tried to be as thorough as I could be. And, thanks for sharing it with your daughter. I hope she finds it useful!

    • Careermommy profile image
      Author

      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks for reading KoffeeKlatch Gals. I tried to be as thorough as I could be. And, thanks for sharing it with your daughter. I hope she finds it useful!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Very good information. You're quite thorough. I'll be sharing this with my daughter. Up, useful and interesting.

    • Careermommy profile image
      Author

      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Insightful Tiger, acting is very fun. You can suggest to her school plays or local theater to see how she likes it. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Insightful Tiger profile image

      Insightful Tiger 4 years ago

      This is a very interesting hub. My daughter-in-law has been searching for something to do, she has tried Tball, soccer, gymnastics and has not liked it enough to stick with it. She is great at pretend "play" and will frequently create scenarios and roles for everyone. I don't know why we haven't thought of it before. I will suggest acting! Thanks for sharing!

    • Careermommy profile image
      Author

      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thank you for reading billybuc. Yes, it's a different world out here. I agree. And, for most it takes some getting used to. But, there are actors who move out here from all over the country, so maybe someone in some small town out there will read this and decide to give Hollywood a chance. (-:

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very interesting! It's a different world down there in Southern California. This is a hub that has California written all over it. :) Good information my friend.