How to get Your Child into Acting
Assuming your child is interested in pursuing acting, it's a good idea to get he or she involved in some amateur productions as well as some professional coaching - but don't pay too much because it's not necessary. There is such a thing as 'natural raw talent' but often it needs to be coaxed; plus it would be stressful to the child to throw them in the deep end at auditions with no prior experience. Ideally acting should be fun and a genuine interest before it becomes a paid concerned. Successful child actors are generally very confident, outgoing children; it can be difficult to put forward a shy, introverted child, although if they come alive on stage then that's a different matter. Another advantage of getting your child involved in some acting fun first is that they will have a resume of experience to lug around at those early auditions.
First and foremost if you're going to steer your child toward any sort of acting, modelling or television advertising career, you will need a good, professional headshot. It doesn't have to be a plethora of photographs from every angle so don't let yourself be ripped off by opportunistic photographers who might tell you you'll need a thousand dollars worth of photography. It should cost no more than around $200 and perhaps another $100 for a whole lot of copies, which you will need for distribution purposes.
- The Casting Website: Casting calls and Auditions for Young Actors
The Casting Website is an online service for young actors to connect with casting directors through auditions and casting calls for kids and young people.
Find a Reputable agent
The next step (or you can do this before the photographs) is to find a good, reputable agent, who will be invaluable for finding the right auditions, making your child known to the right people etc. Sometimes an agent acts as a manager or you may decide on a separate manager or perhaps choose to manage your child's affairs yourself.
Finding an agent will depend on where you are in the world but you'll need to do some research to find a list of good ones. In addition there are 'casting websites' (see example at right) where you can pick up information, but be very careful about splashing personal information on public web pages. Best to use these sites for research to begin with, then you can contact them through phone or email if you wish to go further.
Another thing to consider is that an agent will only take your child on if they see potential and confident projection, some training, 'cold reading' and experience will make all the difference.
Stage parents have to walk a complicated line between promoting their child and getting their image and name out there while at the same time, protecting them against exploitation. The Screen actors guild offers some sound advice for the parents of young performers, which I've precied here:
- Know your photographer; check references and try to get some reliable word of mouth information.
- Know your manager. Check what experience they've had in the industry and again word of mout is a good source of information.
- Monitor your child's behaviour on the internet; who they are chatting too etc.
As far as your child's wages go, (should they score a paid job), fortunately there are stringent laws now to protect against misuse of a child's income, either from an employer or a parent. There are also regulations about schooling and how many hours a child can work. See Coogan's Law...although regulations will vary from place to place and country to country.
Coping with Auditions
No matter how cute and adorable your child is, looks alone wont cut it. A confident reading will be worth all the dimples in the world. If your child fails an audition though, try not to be discouraged - child actors are usually in demand and there's always another audition, play, film, catalogue or commercial around the corner. Failing audtions is an actor's lot and they may as well learn that early. Some tips for surving an audition:
- Be on time! Work out exactly where you have to go beforehand.
- Be aware of what's expected. You're agent should be able to tell you this
- Take a head shot of your child with you to give to the casting director
- Help your child learn any lines they will be required to speak. If they can't read you will have to guide them.
- Dress your child plainly but not dowdily. You don't want too many dazzling distractions like frills, ruffles, cutesy hats and logos
- Sign your child in. Ask at the office entrance if you can't find where to do this.
- Help your child to relax if you have to wait; he or she will pick up on your stress and nervousness so sit quietly and keep worry to a minimum. Now is not the time to go over lines or muss around with hair etc.
- When your child's name is called, hand the headshot to him/her and walk in with your child calmly and confidently
Although many child performers find acting a rewarding and enriching experiences, others find the stress hard to cope with and some complain about "losing their childhood". Just something to be wary of; no doubt, you will pick up on how your child responds. Your child will also probably have to learn to deal will dissapointments, as rejections are common.
In her autobiography, Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, former child actress Maureen McCormick wrote of the pressures of working regularly in a popular television series. The problems were compounded by a dysfunctional home life but when the series was cancelled MaCormack found herself adrift after having lived so intimately with her onscreen character for so long. The young actress spent years addicted to cocaine and quaaludes, drugs she had been introduced to while still working on the show.
A stage mother is the parent of a child active in the performing arts and she (or he, it can be a dad) will do all the running around, driving, watching the clock to make sure the child is on time, making sure everything is okay on the set and occasionally act as the child's agent as well.You'll have your work cut out for you.
However "stage mother" is also a term for a parent who interfereres all the time, is pushy, controlling, often puts the needs of the child after her own vicarious ambitions and is just generally a pain in the neck to all and sundry. Notorious stage mothers include Brooke Shields's mother Terry Shields, Shirley Temple's mother Gertrude Temple and Drew Barrymore's mother, Jaid Barrymore. Sometimes it's the stage mother who wants the career and not the child, so if you do want to get your child into acting it might be a good idea to find out if it's what they really want. As wonderful as showbiz is, it's not necessarily the easiest road to hoe.
Don't put your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington!
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