As the parent of a child actor, I’ve had several people message to ask me about how they can get their child into the industry. I’ve also been asked if child actors make a ton of money. So, I’ve put together a few things that I think some may be interested to know.
Does Your Child Have a Real Interest in Acting or Modeling?
Listen parents, I’ve spoken to many parents who will tell me they always wanted to be an actress when they were a kid. I cannot stress enough that the last thing a parent should ever do is not push a child into acting just so the parent can fulfill some broken childhood dream of their own that they never achieved. If it was your dream, then get some headshots and start auditioning for roles on your own.
Kids will not fare well if they’re forced into something and you are going to be an overbearing parent on set who can and will ruin any chance your child may have of moving forward in the industry. I’ve seen so many parents who have to fuss and essentially bribe or beg their child to film, and all this does is annoy everyone on set, including your child.
If your child approaches you and asks if they can be an actor, then take time to find out why they want to do this. If their only response is something about them wanting to be on a Disney show or because they want to have a lot of money, then this may not be what they really want. Let them know that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be an actor or model and that chances are, they will not land a Disney show and they are most definitely not going to suddenly be wealthy.
Don’t get me wrong! It happens, but not every child actor has a fairy tale life where they are discovered by a big movie director while sitting at the local Starbucks. It takes hard work and dedication to advance in this industry.
If your child enjoys entertaining others and they seem to have a knack for performing, then begin to check into finding an agent or even taking a few acting classes to see how they do. If you help guide them without pushing them, your child will let you know if they really want to be an actor just as quickly as they will let you know they don’t.
Finding a Talent Agent
If your child is a natural performer, then get some good headshots and check your local area to see who your local talent agents are. Here’s some tips on this:
- A true talent agent is NOT going to ask you to pay them money to represent your child.
- Legitimate talent agents will not require that you sign up and pay for classes through them. Sign up for classes where you feel comfortable.
- A talent agent will not require you to pay them for professional headshots or require that you use their “in-house” photographer. You will need good headshots though, and when starting out you can snap a few of your own, but eventually, you need a professional photographer.
- You will possibly need to pay a small fee (Anywhere from $50 to $200) to be listed on the talent agency website. Many of the big agencies won’t need anything to list your child, but yes there are some smaller agencies who will require a listing fee to pay their IT person to upload everything to the website.
- Do your research and I mean dig deeply to check reviews from others and even check with the Better Business Bureau to see how an agency has fared over the years.
Do your homework on the agencies that interest you. Be sure to ask them for references and see talent they represent. If an agency claims to have been in business for more than 20 years and they cannot show you even one actor who has been successful, it is best to keep looking.
Does your child need to have a talent agent?
The base answer to this is: Absolutely not!
Unfortunately, just saying no is not a simple answer. To be honest, the work your child gets is going to be up to your child entirely. An agent cannot audition in place of your child, they cannot pose for headshots and they cannot speak on camera in place of your child. The bottom line is, your child must truly want to be an actor and they must rehearse even when other kids may be having playdates or attending birthday parties, sporting events and other fun things that kids do.
When it comes to finding auditions for commercials, films and television shows, an agent may have listings that the average person won’t have access to. I’ll be honest though, every show my daughter has been in has been because I stay on top of the casting sites and social media pages of every casting agency within a 500-mile radius of where we live.
She has an agent but not once has an agent ever sent a casting that I didn’t already know about from my own research. If you don’t have at least a couple (or more) hours every day to spend networking, searching casting lists on 10 or more websites and social media pages and sending out emails, updating a resume and otherwise promoting your child, then your child is not going to act.
This does not mean your child will have no life outside of the industry, but those who want to achieve success will work hard to get what they want. Take time to schedule playdates with friends and make sure your child has ample opportunity to grow and develop socially as well as maintain a good education.
An agent will often have access to castings that you will not have. You might also find that it can be difficult to gain entry into some of the bigger films (downright impossible actually!) and television shows that your child may want to audition for. Making sure your child has a good agent can be a great benefit and while it is not a requirement for non-union jobs, an agent is going to help move your child’s career down the right path. Also, if your child is selected for a feature film that works as a SAG-AFTRA union job (We’ll get into SAG-AFTRA another time) they should have a SAG franchised talent agent.
Speaking of education
School systems across the country have stringent policies about absenteeism. Films, television shows, fashion shows and other shoots typically take place during the week. Since my daughter started acting, she’s had one weekend where she had to shoot a television show and that was due to snow during the week before. Other than the one weekend, she has been required to be on set on weekdays.
A requirement of her agent is that she maintain good grades and she is not to miss any school unless it is to be on set or if she is extremely ill. Thankfully, we’ve gotten through the current school year with no major illnesses. She also has an “A” average in school. She is nearing her limit on absences, but we monitor those and do what we can to avoid excessive absences.
If your child lands a lead role or a recurring role for a feature film or well-known television show, there is a good chance that the studio will have a tutor on staff to ensure the kids on set have ample time for school. Chances are this is not something you will need to worry about for a while if your child is just starting out.
Does Your Child Have the Right Look?
That is a joke because in all honesty, it does not matter if everyone says your child is the most beautiful child in the universe or if your child resembles “Sloth” from the movie The Goonies. In the acting industry, there is a need for every face, body shape, height, weight and race out there. The right look is essentially, any look you can see.
Yes, when it comes to casting, Casting Directors will put out casting notices with specific appearances they need as well as weight, height and even age range, but whether they need a tall slender person or a short round person, that role will be filled because somewhere out there is the person with the right look for the role.
Every child actor has the right look. The thing that is going to really matter however is how much your child stands out among the thousands of other kids vying for the same role.
This is important!
When you see a casting for a role in a film, commercial, television show or any other production that requires a casting notice, please take note that the notice is usually very specific about what the production company needs.
For instance, let’s look at a casting notice that my daughter might submit for:
Production company accepting submissions for a feature film.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Must be available Friday at 4:00 PM and be flexible with hours.
Rate is $8/+OT
8-year-old female African American
Must have shoulder length brown hair
Must be no larger than a size 10 girls clothing size
Blue or green eyes only
Should be able to sing well and needs to know how to do a back somersault.
Once a casting notice such as this is posted, it is picked up within seconds by numerous talent agencies and other casting companies who will send it out to their clients or post it to their social media feeds. Suddenly, a casting notice that you see is going to be in front of thousands of people.
The CD may receive 50 submissions for the role or they may receive thousands! When you submit your child for this role, they are going to be in competition with many other children and guess what? Practically every child submitted is going to look like your own child.
You, and your child must ensure they stand out from everyone else. You can do this by having excellent head shots, or by submitting an outstanding self-taped audition if one is asked for or being on time for the in-person audition. The production company is not looking for mediocre. They want the best, and the best if what they are going to hire.
This is the time that your child is going to really need to put their talent to work and show the CD how hard they will work for them if hired for the role. Now is not the time to shine!
Be on Time!
Speaking of auditions, you should never be late for an audition. Even one minute late and a Casting Director will often refuse to see you. They have many people to see and if you are not able to have your child arrive on time, they don’t want to waste their time.
Your child could be the next Denzel Washington or Jennifer Lawrence, but no one will ever know because they were late for an audition.
Another thing about auditions, a CD might call you at 7:00 on a Monday evening to tell you they need your child to audition at 9:00 the next morning at a location that is several hours away. They’ll possibly send lines for your child to read at the audition and this means your child who is most likely tired from being in school all day will now need to read lines for a couple hours that evening, sleep for a short time and then sit in a car for several hours on the way to an audition.
As for you, you’re going to have to make sure your car is in top condition and that you can easily take off at a moment notice to get your kid to auditions, classes and to set on time if they land a show.
For many of us adults, we grew up being taught never to divulge our income with others. While I cannot say an exact amount that my own child actor has been paid for any of the television shows, commercials or other work she has done, I can give you an idea of what you can expect when it comes to money.
Broke. That’s right. Expect to find your wallet empty and your bank account drained as you work your way through paying for outstanding professional headshots that can often cost upwards $1000 or more for just a couple poses.
Once your child actor starts getting callbacks, you also need to consider hotels. If you need to drive hours away from home for an audition or a film shoot, you’re going to need to rest after the day is over and unless you have hundreds of free hotel nights racked up on a rewards card, you’re going to find the hotels can take a huge chunk out of your bank account.
This is not to mention fuel for your car, or round-trip plane tickets, meals while off set and clothing. Yes, I said clothing. Chances are, unless your kid strikes gold and is ushered into a huge contract for a feature film, you’re going to be the one supplying the wardrobe for the smaller shows they will be in. This means you need to have a wide array of solid colored, non-trendy clothing on hand for your child to wear during filming.
A Class Act!
Let’s also consider the fact that no matter how cute your child may be and how great they look when you have them make their own little videos at home or even when they act in the school play, if they are going to be an actor, they must take acting classes!
In this industry, there is just no way around this fact.
Classes are important to take not just once, but many times throughout your child’s acting career. In under two months, my daughter took four classes with an average of eight to ten hours per class. You should also know that classes can be expensive, especially since they are going to be necessary more than once. You can expect to pay anywhere between $75 and upwards of $500 or more for one class.
Something else you should be aware of is that while acting classes can be fun and are necessary for actors, they can be physically and emotionally draining. After a ten-hour class that involves acting out highly emotional scenes, even adult actors find themselves exhausted.
Another thing about classes is that you need to take time to see which classes are going to be beneficial. You can find acting classes with a quick Google search but be sure to check the instructors out to verify they know what they’re doing. Check their IMDb pages and see if they have worked in the industry.
The Bottom Line:
Acting can be an expensive career. You can expect to pay more money out than your child actor will earn, especially in the beginning. Not many kids land lead roles in feature films and television shows and start making “the big money” and you need to be prepared to spend a lot of money if you want to help your child succeed in this industry.
If your child does not like the long hours they must be on set (and yes, they can spend many hours on set waiting to be filmed for less than ten minutes) then this may not be the road they should take. Never force them to be in front of the camera if they have already made their mind up that this is not what they want to do. The most important thing is to make sure your child is having fun with it while also being able to maintain tough work ethics and if they can do this, they have the opportunity to continue to grow and achieve success in the acting industry.