Is your child an entertainer?
Is she one of those kids that sets up a stage on your coffee table, uses every single flash light in the house to create studio lights, mixes her own music on the garage band app and then, wants you to watch her sing, dance, tell a story, perform a my little pony shadow show or other stuff like that? Does she like attention and like making people laugh?
I have one just like that. I also have one nothing like that. I took the non entertainer to an audition once and she held onto my leg and cried, and that’s ok too! I mean, that’s not ok, it makes for a very awkward audition but my point is – don’t force your kid who doesn’t want to entertain, to entertain, it’s painful, for everyone involved.
How do you know your kid is ready for acting? I guess you can wait until they are old enough to tell you. For those of us with super young kids we have to force them to do what we want until they say otherwise. That was a joke obviously, I don’t know about your 4/5 year old but I can’t get mine to eat broccoli, let alone memorize a script and perform it happily in an audition. Jokes aside, parents with young kids just have to roll the dice and weigh the benefits. It’s a lot of travel, last minute planning, money and damage control.
I wanted to see if O would enjoy acting because it was something I was into and I thought it would be cool if we did it together, so when an opportunity presented itself I submitted her. She auditioned, she did a call back and she ended up booking it. Let me just say honestly it was a lot of work. Two full ten hour days of nonstop damage control, for a thirty second commercial! Whatever O wanted she got! But she was also so good, and seemed to have fun. She did everything anyone asked of her, and did it really well. Literally, the Director was elated. “takes direction well” is a popular description of that skill.
So, I started researching how to get O representation and these are the traits that the internet says agents/managers supposedly look for;
- Children who enjoy the spotlight, are comfortable around other children and adults and having “all eyes on them“
- Children with Big Personalities.
- Children who will make eye contact and shake the hand of a stranger.
- Children who want to tell elaborate stories, and have long, distinct answers to questions. They smile. They react. They are expressive or animated. And they are not shy at all. Even the little kids at age 3 are required to audition in the casting rooms without their parents.
- Children with a happy demeanor, are bold, smart, and charismatic. Often people are just attracted to them for a variety of inexplicable reasons. i.e. the “it factor”
- Their look is interesting/unique. Luckily commercials seem to be leaning toward more quirky and natural kids rather than the typical gorgeous model types. Features that are intriguing; awesome hair, adorable freckles, or huge eyes… O’s last booking read “4 year old girl, playful with a sense of wonder, naturally funny, real, fun, quirky, NOT picture perfect!”
- Children that can focus, pay attention to what is going on in front of them and take directions. This is an aspect that a lot of parents overlook when they make an assessment on whether their child is cut out for this business. (It is one of, if not the most, important factor in children under the age of 10 getting signed by an agent.)
- references (http://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/backstage-experts/4-things-make-kids-stand-out-agent/
Me being a crazy stalker mom outside the callback for the YMCA. Little O was only 3!
Here are a few more general skills that are helpful;
- ability to emote
- looks younger than actual age
- talent in dancing and/or singing
- good communication skills
- good memorization skills
- good reading ability
When do you know if your kid is ready for the next step (representation)? I have no clue. I probably went about the whole thing backwards. As a matter of fact, I have met parents with children on set and even in other auditions who say their kids are “shy” or “need a minute to warm up”. How the heck did they get representation? Again, no clue. Maybe these parents don’t really know what “shy” is. O was a shy baby, and by “shy” I mean we discouraged strangers (hell, even family members) from making eye contact because she would start crying, hysterically. It was annoying.
When we shot the YMCA commercial it was all very strange hearing everybody talk about how natural O was at acting. In hindsight those statements mean a lot more now than they did at the time but I just decided to submit to a few agents and see what would come of it.
I googled and googled and googled agencies. I submitted to five agents. I still don’t know which agents are ranked where but there are lots of discussions on those topics on the Backstage discussion forums. I actually ended up submitting to two agencies that didn’t even represent actors (only models) so even after my extensive research I messed things up. Go figure, not as savvy a researcher as I thought.
Link to the Backstage Forums – http://bbs.backstage.com/
Actually, Backstage is a pretty great resource for acting tips and information in general, they have lots of kid specific articles too. http://www.backstage.com/
Backstage also has a section called Resources where you can look up talent agencies you are interested in and see how they accept submissions.
I realize I have mentioned Backstage a lot, just fyi I am not affiliated with them in any way nor am I being compensated in any manner, I just really do use that site a lot.
IMDBpro is also really great for stalking if your into that like me. You can look up agencies or even specific agents/managers you are interested in and see what kinds of talent they represent and also what kinds of shows their talent is working on. And if you have real balls you could email them direct because their email addresses are sometimes provided. Just remember only tv/film credits show up on IMDBpro so any commercial talent won’t be listed. https://pro-labs.imdb.com/
Next time, what to expect meeting reps!