To all you wonderful teens out there...
First of all, congratulations for taking the time to ask questions and learn all you can. You are the ones who will succeed.
If you truly have the passion to work hard, be able to move on from one aspect of the process to another, deal with the endless disappointments that are bound to come your way and still never give up, then you will make it. The positive results will be amazing.
I have to tell you... starting out as a teen that is under 18 is probably the most difficult place to be. If you know this going in, then there are no surprises. You will be dealing with first and most importantly, having your parents support and their supervision. Legally, you cannot do this on your own. Your parents are still responsible for you and are also required to sign your contracts. Having a child or young adult work in this business creates a major change in every young actor's family's life style. It can be a very positive change, but it takes teamwork and flexibility to make it work and run as smoothly as possible.
Many parents are not ready to give up their own jobs, if necessary, or change their routine. They still love you dearly, but sometimes it just takes time to figure out how to balance this new commitment and make everything work. Please, be patient! It takes teamwork and flexibility on everyone's part.
Another reason it's a hard place to be is because you are at that age (unless you are very small for your age where you can be hired to play younger) where you are too big to play 12 or producers would rather hire 18 year olds to play 14 to 17 year olds. Producers would rather hire older teens who can work longer hours, who are out of school or emancipated (meaning legally signed over by your parents to an adult status, but emancipation is not what is always best for everyone) Also, emancipated actors still need to attend school and can negotiate to do school on the set if they have not finished their schooling. Becoming emancipated does not mean you're automatically out of school. Now, each situation is different and I don't mean to be getting you down, it's just the reality and the business side of it you need to be aware of. I still know lots of kids that are working at ages 14 to 17. It just depends what the producer and/or director is looking for. You just never know, that's why if this is what you really want, then you should never give up. That happened to my son. He was 14, going through a major voice change and thought he wouldn't be working in anything musical for quite awhile. Well, there was a director that was looking for that "growing into manhood" sound in a new musical. He heard my son and he booked it. We couldn't believe it. That's the best part... when you least expect it, something amazing will come your way.
Also be aware that some productions take so long to come together that even when you book a job, you might grow out of the part before you actually start the shoot or the performances. You have to be prepared for all sorts of things to just... happen! That's just the way it can be and it is out of your control. But, wonderful things happen, too. You just never know what new door is going to suddenly open for you - it happens all the time. You just have to keep the faith and never give up.
Okay, here's the biggy... a very important thing to remember when dealing with all of this is to keep your sense of humor.
In the mean time, you need to start putting a resume together. Your resume includes any talents, skills or experience you've had with acting, singing, or dance as well as cheerleading, gymnastics, musical instruments, martial arts, drama awards, etc. As you start or continue to participate in acting, music and/or dance classes, choirs, school plays, community theatre, or whatever, all these will be added credits to your resume. Be sure when listing high school credits, not to put the words high school on the resume. List the name of the the school's theatre or just the name of the school and then the word Theatre, without the words high school, if the school's theatre does not have it's own name. Such as, Jefferson High School Theatre would be Jefferson Theatre. Student films are a great way to gain experience in front of the camera and also give you some footage to have made into a directors reel. These can be listed under the Film category on your resume, if it is a lead, principal or supporting role (a role with lines you have spoken). Do not list extra or background work. Check out the local colleges in your area and see if they have a film department. Some of them have a place where you can submit your headshot and resume for them to keep on file for student projects. You want to do anything you can (within reason) to help further your training and experience. That is the FIRST thing that the agents will be looking for. Also, many Casting Directors read an actor's resume from the bottom up. They look at the training first.
Information on resumes and resume formats:
Acting is Everything by Judy Kerr - info and format.
Self-Management for Actors: Getting Down to Show Business by Bonnie Gillespie - excellent billing info.
NEXT! An Actor's Guide to Auditioning by Ellie Kanner and Paul G. Bens, Jr. - info and format
http://more.showfax.com/columns/corner/archives/2005_02_21.html http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/2005_02_21.html http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/2005_02_28.html
If you have not yet had any training or experience, now is the time to start. Become involved with any of your school's drama and/or choir activities. Join the Drama Club if your school has one. Work backstage if you're not performing on stage. There are lots of ways to be involved, which helps you learn to appreciate and respect each crew members job. Gain as much experience as you can in every aspect of performing.
Training is very important, so in addition to your school, look into classes that are outside of your school. You can usually audit the first class (not pay and observe or participate) to see if it's right for you. Take these classes seriously. You/your parents and your classmates will be paying good money to have such an opportunity and please, no text messaging during class! LOL (I actually sat in front of someone in one of my acting classes that was texting while the instructor was talking and while others were performing their scenes. Talk about disrespectful, distracting and annoying!!! Needless to say she never returned. She was not there for the right reasons).
Background work (working as an extra in film and TV) is also a great way to gain some experience and to learn what goes on behind the scenes, but remember, it does not count as "acting" on your acting resume. When you are first beginning to gain experience and don't have much on your resume you can list it as on-set experience under the Special Skills category. Here's a site for BG actors http://www.backgroundbeat.com
Next, you'll need a couple of photos to submit to the agents with your resume. Home snapshots are fine. You can have professional headshots taken before you get an agent if money is not an issue, but be prepared to have new ones taken if your agent requests it. They usually do. If you plan on auditioning on your own without an agent then you probably should get a set of professional headshots taken. A serious or more dramatic look for theatrical and a smiling shot with more energy for commercial and comedy work.
You can get a list of reputable agencies from SAG - Screen Actors Guild by calling 323-954-1600 (LA Branch), online at www.sag.org , the ATA - Association of Talent Agents www.agentassociation.com the book The Agencies--What the Actor Needs to Know published by Acting World Books, in either the NY or Hollywood edition. It is filled with current agency information, helpful details and is updated monthly, or the Ross Reports which are available in acting related book stores. The Ross Reports is a small, bi-monthly booklet that has television production, films in development, agent, manager and casting director listings, which can be ordered through Backstage and found at most book stores.
Finding an agent and knowing how to deal with them can seem a bit overwhelming. Two excellent books that can help answer all your questions about agents are How to Agent Your Agent by Nancy Rainford and An Agent Tells All by Tony Martinez.
Some actors just getting started prefer to have a manager to help them with their careers. Managers can be very helpful, but remember they will also receive a commission - a percentage (15 - 25%) of any earnings you receive from jobs they help book for you, in addition to the agent receiving a commission (10%) that the manager worked with for that booking. The commission percentage depends on each individual manager and/or agent and the job it related to. I believe print work is a higher percentage (20+20%). Here are the best places to look for legitimate managers: TMA - Talent Managers Association, Inc. www.talentmanagers.org, the NCOPM - National Conference of Personal Managers http://www.ncopm.com, for LA the Personal Managers Directory of Managers for Performing and Creative Talents published by Acting World Books, for NY the Henderson's Personal Managers Directory http://www.hendersonenterprises.com and for LA and NY the annual (Jan/Feb) Personal Managers Guide in the Ross Reports here on BackStage at http://www.backstage.com/bso/rossreports/article_displa...01843115&imw=Y&imw=Y
For more information on agents and managers, here is an excellent column worth reading.
To submit to an agent, send in your photo/s (one close-up and one 3/4 body shot if possible), a resume and a brief cover letter stating that you are looking for representation in whatever fields you are interested in whether it's Theatrical (Film and TV) (in NY Theatrical includes Film/TV and Stage), Commercial, Print, Stage, Voice-over, etc.
A legitimate agent does not advertise in the paper or approach you in the mall, solicit by mail or on the phone. Those are the "scam" artists to avoid. Legit agents only accept 10% commission from jobs you've booked, with nothing in advance. They do not demand you use "their" photographers or take "their" classes or use "their" vendors. Legit agents will recommend places for you to choose from.
If you are under 18 and planning on working in CA or NY, you will need an Entertainment Work Permit. The application form needs to be signed by both your parent and your school. For CA, the form can be obtained through the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement office. The application must be mailed in along with a certified copy of your birth certificate and a SASE - self-addressed, stamped return envelope. If it is for a renewal, be sure to include a copy of your current permit. The offices are no longer supplying the permits in person and it is preferred that you mail it in. You may take the application into the office, but it will be mailed back to you (supposed to be a 3 day turn-around). Be sure to follow all the directions on the form very carefully. Your grades must be a C or better in each of your classes. This should be taken care of as soon as possible, before booking your first job.
CA - http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DLSE-Forms.htm
NY, I would check the labor laws at http://www.labor.state.ny.us/child/index.htm
since the laws in NY are constantly changing. The office is listed below.
NY - ACS Administration for Children's Services
Office of Child Performer Permits
150 William Street - Fifth Floor, Room 1
New York, N.Y. 10038
You will also need to open a Coogan Blocked Trust account at one of the major banks or financial institutes that handle them. Go to http://www.sag.org and click on Young Performers. It is stated on the CA work permit that the Coogan account is to be opened within 10 days of receiving your permit.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the constant changes regarding work permits and Coogan account information, an extremely helpful site has been established to help keep you up to date and try to answer all your questions. You can also subscribe to their free Newsletter. I highly recommend this site. www.bizparentz.com
US Passports - Be sure you and at least one parent or guardian has a US Passport. You don't want to book a job and then suddenly lose out because it's being filmed outside the US and you don't have your passport. Things happen quickly in this industry and you need to be ready to go at a moments notice. When you have it, be sure to list US Passport on your resume. http://travel.state.gov
If you want to find auditions on your own, there are several places you can look. #1 of course, is here or the hard copy/printed version of Back Stage or Back Stage West on the West coast. Show Business Weekly is another good one for New York and the tri-state area. The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety sometimes have casting information, as well as your local newspaper for local theatre groups. There are also preproduction notices in The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesdays and Daily Variety on Mondays (cable), Thursdays (TV) and Fridays (film) and the Ross Reports. There are also several online casting sites. The most reputable are: www.actorsaccess.com - (actors access allows you to post your resume and a couple of photos online and peruse the breakdowns for free), www.lacasting.com www.nowcasting.com www.actorsequity.org www.actornews.com www.nycastings.com http://web.playbill.com/jobs/find www.extrasaccess.com and www.showbusinessweekly.com.
Start finding and collecting classical and contemporary monologues you like that are appropriate for your age. If you sing, have different styles of songs ready with the sheet music in your key. There are several styles of music, but the most common styles for auditions are musical theatre, up-tempo, ballad, pop/rock and gospel. Remember, in addition to singing a song you are comfortable with that shows your vocal range, you want to show off your personality, or the characterization of the role you are auditioning for, with what you sing. An example is you may know the National Anthem, but it's not a wise choice to use unless it is requested. That choice would show your vocal range, but it would not show very much personality.
The KEY to any audition is to BE PREPARED! Learn as much about the materieal or project that you can. Read the script, if possible. Learn about ALL the characters and how they relate to each other, not just the one you are auditioning for. If you are auditioning for a musical, have choices of music as listed above and also learn the songs from the show, so you will be prepared for anything.
Also, read, read, read as much as you can, starting with all the threads on this message board (use the "Find" button above, to search for specific topics), "How To" books on acting, auditioning, self-management, the business of acting, casting director and actor interviews, plays, screenplays, autobiographies, etc. Anything you can get your hands on. There are many helpful suggestions right here on the boards or if you go to www.amazon.com it will also show you other books that are recommended in that particular area of interest. Here are some highly recommended suggestions you can choose from to get you started.
First of all, you should be reading Back Stage or Back Stage West, religiously, either here online or in print. The printed version comes out every Thursday, sometimes available on Wednesday afternoons in drama book stores.
There are also very informative columns written by well respected industry professionals Bonnie Gillespie and Mark Sikes on Showfax http://more.showfax.com/columns, Bonnie's newest column covering cities outside of LA http://more.showfax.com/plus/pov, and NowCasting https://www.nowcasting.com/actorsink. Showfax also has an excellent discussion board if you need more help in finding the information you are looking for http://more.showfax.com/bbs2/index.php
A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Melissa Bruder, Lee Michael Cohn, Madeleine, Olnek, Nathaniel Pollack, Robert Previto, Scott Zigler. This is a great one especially for teens to begin with that is not too big or too expensive. It's less than 100 pages. It is used in many high school and college classes.
ACTING For Young Actors: The Ultimate Teen Guide by Mary Lou Belli and Dinah Lenney - this newly released book (Fall 2006) is perfect for any teen actor.
Acting is Everything: An Actors Guidebook for a Successful Career in Los Angeles 11th Edition by Judy Kerr - also known as the Bible for LA actors, although it includes information for several cities throughout the US.http://www.judykerr.com
Self-Management for Actors: Getting Down to (Show) Business 2nd Edition by Bonnie Gillespie - a must-read. What every actor needs to know to help them successfully manage the business side of their career. You will also find some of the information in this thread for teens in this book.http://cricketfeet.com/smfa
Casting Qs: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews by Bonnie Gillespie - another must-read for beginning actors as well as established professionals. A delightful and insightful collection of Casting Director interviews that help the actor see the business side of acting from the Casting Director's POV. http://cricketfeet.com/castingqs
Acting Qs: Conversations with Working Actors by Bonnie Gillespie and Blake Robbins - A wonderful collection of inspiring life experiences in the entertainment industry expressed truthfully by working actors. http://www.cricketfeet.com/actingqs
An Actor's Guide-Making It in New York by Glenn Alterman - one of New York's best actor's resource. http://www.glennalterman.com/books.htm
Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part by Michael Shurtleff
How to Get the Part Without Falling Apart by Margie Haber with Barbara Babchick
Act Right: A Manual for the On-Camera Actor by Erin Gray (of Silver Spoons) and Mara Purl - this book is not a how-to-act as in "acting" book. It's about appropriate behavior on a set which everyone, cast and crew alike, will relate to. It describes so many little details from personal experiences to the in's and out's that other books leave out about working on a set for film or television. Another great read!
How to Be a Working Actor: The Insiders Guide to Finding Jobs in Theatre, Film, and Television by Mari Lyn Henry and Lynne Rogers
Acting for the Camera: Revised Edition by Tony Barr
Breaking into Commercials: The Complete Guide to Marketing Yourself, Auditioning to Win, and Getting the Job by Terry Berland, Deborah Ouellette
Acting as a Business/New Edition: Strategies for Success by Brian O'Neil
Hitting Your Mark - What Every Actor Really Needs to Know on a Hollywood Set by Steve Carlson
The Glam Scam: Successfully Avoiding the Casting Couch and Other Talent and Modeling
Scams by Erik Joseph
For more reviews on any of these books, you can check them out on www.amazon.com
Scams are something very important to watch out for. Never accept an audition or go for an interview from a phone call when the caller says someone referred you to them. Same goes for being stopped in the mall with someone saying, "Oh, you have the perfect look for modeling or acting. Please come in for an interview." Don't waste your time. They just want yours or your parent's money.
Here are the links to help you research and/or report possible SCAMS: Better Business Bureau http://www.bbb.org Federal Trade Commission http://www.ftc.gov Easy Background Check http://www.easybackgroundcheck.com
Safety is an important issue for any age. Due to so many ways of people's identities being tampered with or stolen, it is very important to NEVER list your social security number on anything, even if it is requested on a sign-in sheet (unless you are at the audition for "over" an hour, you are union and they need your SS# to pay you for your time - so be sure to always sign out when you leave an audition) or a size card that is filled out at some auditions. You can write in "On file" or "Obtain upon hire" or if you are a union member, write in your member number. Also, do not ever write down you home phone number or address. These cards are tossed in the trash for anyone to find, so always us a cell or pager number and if possible a P.O. Box address or business address of a family member. You can even leave it blank. When you're hired is when you can give your personal info that is required.
One more thing... BE NICE! Please, please remember your manners. Always show the utmost respect and kindness for the people around you. You'll be very pleased to see how far that will take you and when you make it BIG, remember those same manners. Show respect for yourself and for the people who helped you achieve your goals. Stay grounded. Keep your standards and your values high. Don't let anyone take that away from you.
A few other sites that are especially geared to parents of working, or soon-to-be working child actors and teens who want to share and learn more are:
Professional Actors Resource Forum known as the PARF board http://people.delphiforums.com/showtalk www.actorsite.com http://bizkidstg.com
Signing off! - I know... it's about time!
Enjoy the journey and cherish every moment.
Excellent advice for anyone MIB!
Thanks, Csilvera! You know me... just trying to help! :smirk:
You're the best Mominbiz! :grin:
Awwww... like I tell my kids... I try!
bumpity bump bump
You're welcome, Nomad!
Wow this is real helpful. Grats on a brill post mate =)
I appreciate all the hard work you put into this post.
This is all a bit overwhelming at first .
Hello MIB & everyone else,
I have a question. A few years ago my son worked on a feature film. He was hired as an extra and didn't have any lines, but because he played the lead actor as a child he did receive a screen credit. Is it appropriate for him to list this as a credit on his resume?
Was he upgraded?
No. He still was paid as an extra.
Bummer :-( Did he "act" at all?
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