To all you wonderful parents, grandparents aunts and uncles out there...
First of all, congratulations for taking the time to ask questions and learn all you can. Doing the research will definitely help you with your journey of pursuing your child's interest in performing. For those of you with "wee' ones, this will help you know where to start, but you must allow it to be your child's choice as they get older and can decide for themselves. Just like a sport or hobby, you don't want to "push" your child into something that they are not comfortable with.
You may ask - how do I know if my child is interested or is right for the entertainment industry? Many children start imitating everything they see on TV or sing songs all the time, whether it's something they've heard or something they've made up. They put on their own little skits or plays. They like to perform for family and friends. They love to talk to strangers and are very outgoing.
Now, some don't do this if they've not had any exposure to things like this yet. Exposure is the key. In addition to TV, or if you don't own one, take them to childrens' plays, movies, a ballet (boys, too), the baseball game and take note of the anthem singer, anywhere where there are performers. Also, see how they react with strangers. I know the world we live in can be a scary place, but with guidance, see how they interact with adults. That will be something they will be doing on a regular basis when they become involved in performing.
Get them involved in school plays and/or community theatre groups. Giving them the chance to be on a stage will let them know if they like it or if they don't. See how they react. Do they want more? Let them guide you. If they love it and continue to be involved in different shows, it's important that they also shouldn't feel that they always need to be the "lead" in any and every show they are in. Just being a part of it is what should count. I love the saying - there is no "I" in ensemble. Having the right attitude will take them far. Earning the lead is one thing and there are some children that are sometimes blessed with that factor, but having a "diva" attitude gets old real quick!!! Also, please don't be the parent that thinks their child should always have the lead. Let them earn that on their own.
If this is something your child truly has a passion for, be ready to make the commitment. For many households it's a major change in life style. Not the glamorous kind, but the I'm-on-the-road-all-the-time kind. It's long hours and hard work for both parent and child. It takes team work and flexibility for the entire family. You will be constantly juggling schedules, classes, auditions, bookings, rehearsals, transportation, family time, money - you name it. Your child will be working hard to keep their grades to a minimum of a "C" in each subject or class at school, while taking acting, singing and/or dance and learning lines for auditions. You and your child must be able to move on from one aspect of the process to another, deal with the endless disappointments that will come your way without dwelling on them (easier said than done) and still never give up. There are no set rules, amount of time, or number of auditions to go by before your child books their first job. They may go on 50 to 100 auditions before he/she books something. Just keep plugging away. The positive results will be amazing, but it takes time, hard work, commitment and a positive attitude.
Just because your child doesn't book anything quickly does not mean he/she is doing something wrong. What one casting director or director doesn't see in your child, another will see. It just depends what the director is looking for. The director has a vision and if your child is the vision, they usually know the minute the child walks in the door.
Another aspect of the "business" (it is a business) to be aware of is that some productions take so long to come together that even when your child books a job, your child may grow out of the part before they 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 your child - it happens all the time. You and your child just have to keep the faith and never give up.
Another very important thing to remember when dealing with all of this, is to keep your sense of humor. Uh-huh! Laugh! Be silly! Keep it fun! When it stops being fun for your child, it's time to move on.
In the mean time, you need to start putting a resume together for your child. If they are still young and have nothing to put on a resume, just have a great description of your childs' strengths, talents and attributes to list in a cover letter. They are friendly, outgoing, has a cute giggle, loves to talk to strangers, dances around the house, sings all the time, taught himself the national anthem at age 3, loves having their picture taken, etc. For older children who have something to put on a resume, it would include any talents, skills or experience they've had with acting, singing, or dance as well as cheerleading, gymnastics, musical instruments, martial arts, drama awards, etc. As they 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 their resume.
Student films are a great way to gain experience in front of the camera and also give your child some footage to have made into a directors reel. These can be listed under the Film category on their resume, if it is a lead or supporting role (a role with lines you have spoken). Do not list extra or background work. You can 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 child's 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 child's training and experience. That is the FIRST thing that the agents will be looking for.
Background work (being an extra in film and TV) is also a great way for your child to gain some experience and to learn what goes on behind the scenes, but remember, it does not count as "acting" on your child's acting resume.
Next, you'll need a couple of photos to submit to the agents with your child's resume. Home snapshots are fine. You can have professional headshots taken before your child gets an agent if money is not an issue, but be prepared to have new ones taken if your child's agent requests it. They usually do. If you plan on having your child auditioning on your own without an agent, lets say for student films, then you probably should get a set of professional headshots taken. A serious pose for theatrical and a smiling pose for commercial and comedy work. One good pose may work fine for all submissions. They should be natural and not a glamour shot. Casting directors look for "real" and natural looking children - not all made up. It is important that your child's headshot looks like what they will look like when they walk in a casting director's door.
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 - click on the talent agent area then click on the city or state or are looking in, the ATA - Association of Talent Agents www.agentassociation.com the Ross Reports, or 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. The Agencies book and the Ross Reports are available in acting related book stores. The Ross Reports is a small 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 major book stores.
Some parents just getting started prefer to have a manager to help them with their child's career. Managers can be very helpful, but remember they will also receive a commission - a percentage (15 - 20%) of any earnings your child receives 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=40%). 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, the Personal Managers Directory of Managers for Performing and Creative Talents published by Acting World Books, Henderson's Personal Managers Directory for NY http://www.hendersonenterprises.com and 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. http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/2006_03_27.html
To submit to an agent, send in your child's photo/s with name, age, height, weight hair and eye color and contact number on the back of each photo (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 for your child in whatever fields you and your child are interested in whether it's Theatrical (Film and TV) (in NY Theatrical includes Film/TV & 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% of jobs 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. To be sure an agent is licensed go to http://www.dir.ca.gov/databases/dlselr/talag.html
If your child is hoping to work in CA or NY, they will need an Entertainment Work Permit. The application form needs to be signed by both you, the parent, and your child's 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 child's birth certificate, a Pediatrician's signature if the child is 1 month or younger and a SASE - self-addressed, stamped return envelope. If it is for a renewal, be sure to include a copy of your child's 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 childs' grades must be a C or better in each class. This should be taken care of as soon as possible, before your child books their first job.
CA - http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DLSE-Forms.htm
For NY, I would check the labor laws at http://www.labor.state.ny.us/child/index.htm since the laws in NY have been changing. The office is listed below.<br />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 for your child at one of the major banks or financial institutions that handle them.
Go to http://www.sag.org and click on Young Performers.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the constant changes regarding work permits and Coogan account information, a new and 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. The moms that started this are amazing and they are doing all they can to help make working in this industry a safe, positive and rewarding experience for both parent and working child.
US Passports - Be sure your child and at least one parent or guardian has a US Passport. You don't want your child to suddenly lose out on a job they just booked because the job is being filmed outside the US and your child and whomever is going with them does not have their passports. Things happen quickly in this industry and you/guardian and your child need to be ready to go at a moments notice. US Passport should also be listed at the bottom of your child's resume. Remember, when you apply for your child's passport, both parents must be there in person or if both of you cannot, you are required to have a notarized letter stating approval. 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 and Show Business Weekly on the East coast. 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 reputable information and casting sites which 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 http://web.playbill.com/jobs/find www.actornews.com www.nycastings.com and www.showbusinessweekly.com
Start finding and collecting classical and contemporary monologues - toddlers and up to age 4 shouldn't have to worry about this. For young children it can be short poems or cute children's short stories that they pretty much tell in their own words or even songs they like to sing. As they get a little older they can memorize age appropriate material. If they sing, have different styles of songs ready with the sheet music in their 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, you want to show off your child's personality, or the characterization of the role they are auditioning for, with what they 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.
Also, read, read, read as much as you can, starting with all the threads on this message board (use the find/search button for specific topics), "How To" books on acting, auditioning, self-management, the business of acting, casting director and actor interviews, plays, screenplays, autobiographies, the informative columns on the casting web sites, etc. Anything you can get your hands on. There are many helpful suggestions right here on the boards or if you go to Amazon.com it will also show you other books that are recommended in that particular area of interest especially for children.
Even though your child may not be reading these yet, here are some suggestions for you to learn from. The more reading you do, the more you can help your child in addition to having a better understanding of the business and all the people it takes to make this business work. It's not just about having a talented child. It's about collaboration and respect for ALL those involved.
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. Another good one is Show Business Weekly focusing on New York and the tri-state area.
Here is a wonderful BackStage article about child performers http://www.backstage.com/bso/news_reviews/features/feat...ontent_id=1003255826
There are also very informative columns written by well respected industry professionals on Showfax http://more.showfax.com/columns http://more.showfax.com/plus/pov and NowCasting https://www.nowcasting.com/actorsink
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 manage the business side of theirs or their child's career, no matter where they live. http://cricketfeet.com/smfa
Casting Qs 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 you see how Casting Directors are really on your side. This will help parents know what casting directors are looking for and what they expect of the actors while waiting in their office. http://cricketfeet.com/castingqs
Acting Qs: Conversations with Working Actors by Bonnie Gillespie and Blake Robbins - a collection of heartfelt conversations with working actors, sharing their experiences from the time they were first interested in performing. A great read. http://cricketfeet.com/actingqs
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!
It's a Freeway Out There!: The Parent's Guide to the Film and Commercial Industry by Judy Belshe - geared for parents in the LA area. Very informative.
ACTING For Young Actors: The Ultimate Teen Guide by Mary Lou Belli and Dinah Lenney
Acting is Everything: An Actors Guidebook for a Successful Career in Los Angeles 11th Edition by Judy Kerr - everything the LA actor needs to know, including a child actors section. This book is also known as the actor's Bible for LA, although it has information and references for other states as well. http://www.judykerr.com
An Actor's Guide: Making It in New York City by Glenn Alterman - great information for NYC.
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
The Glam Scam: Successfully Avoiding the Casting Couch and Other Talent and Modeling Scams by Erik Joseph
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, your child has the perfect look for modeling or acting. Please come in for an interview." Don't waste your time. They just want your money. They will tell you all kinds of things any parent or grandparent would love to hear about their child. Anything to hook you and take your 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 peoples' identities being tampered with or stolen, it is very important to NEVER list your child's social security number, home phone or address (the city is okay) on anything, even if it is requested on a sign-in sheet or a size card that is filled out at some auditions. You can write in "On file" or "Obtain upon hire" or if your child is a union member, write in their union member number. Be sure to always sign out the time you left on the sign-in sheet when leaving an audition. If you are at a union audition for more than one hour, then do include your child's SS# when signing out, as your child will be paid for audition overtime and they will need the SS# for the paperwork.
I know that there is so much information to take in and at first it may seem overwhelming. You are not alone! Working in this industry is a continuous learning process. As you go along, everything will eventually come into place. Just take it one step at a time. Your first step is to research - and look - you've already started! I'm still learning myself, and I've been at it almost all of my life. There are so many resources that are available today that I did not have many years ago, so I'm happy to share what I've learned first hand from experience. This is only the beginning.
One more thing... and this goes for children and well as parents. BE NICE! Please, please remember your manners. Always show the utmost respect and kindness for the people around you, especially other child actors and their parents. Be quiet and respectful during auditions. Don't be blabbing on your cell phone for others to hear. Go outside to talk, whether it's on the phone or to other friends you see in the waiting room. Also, please don't turn your child's experience into a competition. That's not what this industry is about, although it may seem that way at times. Just don't let it happen. I've seen all sides and it ain't pretty for those who allow this to happen. Show respect and thoughtfulness at all times. You'll be very pleased to see how far that will take you. AND, when your child makes it BIG, remember those same manners. Show respect for yourself and for the people who helped your child achieve their goals. Keep your child grounded. Keep their standards and values high. Don't let anyone take that away from them or you.
A few other sites that are especially geared to parents of working, or soon-to-be working child actors who want to share and learn more are:
Professional Actors Resource Forum known as the PARF board http://people.delphiforums.com/showtalk
Actorsite - get on their free mailing list for their worthwhile weekly newslettershttp://www.actorsite.com
For background (extra) work, check out http://groups.msn.com/ScreenChildrensMoms/homepage1.msnw and www.backgroundbeat.com.
Well, I hope this helps you get started. Enjoy the journey and cherish every moment. Trust me, it's quite an adventure.
bumpity bump bump
In need of a BUMP!!!
MIB~~Your informative posts should get daily bumps
Thanks, MIB! This is a lot of great information for parents with kids getting started and I know it will help many people. It definitely helped me!
Great Information. Only tihng I would add is Never post your HOME address and phone numbers on any website
or data base you may use for your child.
Momactress - Hey there! Thanks!
DianeNYC - You're welcome, Diane! Glad you found the info helpful.
Mom2actors - Welcome and thank you for adding more good and important info to this thread. That's what this forum is for. The more we all add, the more others will learn.
I remember this topic being in the other forum, before the "crash." There was a lot of information that was lost. If we all keep at it, we'll be able to fill the archives once again. Yay!
On another thread there was the info to open a kids account at Actors Credit Union. I have called three times to have them send me a form and still nothing! I'm not impressed. Anyone have any other suggestions for a NY "Coogan" account?
Nevermind! The forms came in the mail today.
LOL!! I was just about to post that I called the Actors Federal Credit Union in Manhattan and requested the forms. I had them in the mail in 2 days.
Maybe they were on "summer mindset" the times I called. It's September now so everyone is back to work! :grin:
Isn't this COogan like account a new requirement for NY kids acting? They may have been inundated with requests.
Here is a link for NY trust accounts, which also includes info on NY entertainment work permits.
For NY, it's called a Child Performer Trust Account instead of a Coogan Account.
I would like to add an important item to this thread regarding being respectful of others and etiquette during a class or while in the waiting room for an audition, for both parent and child.
In addition to not talking on your cell phone while in a room with other actors who are either in a class or concentrating on their lines for an audition, PLEASE, PLEASE don't think that text messaging is any quieter. I, myself, have recently been in a class and the waiting room of a casting office where people were text messaging. The constant clicking was EXTREMELY distracting and rude. PLEASE, take your business outside so as not to disturb others.
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