I remember reading Teen Beat as a young girl with the biggest celebrity crush on Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Don’t even get me started on Devon Sawa and how I would have traded my siblings for a chance to play Christina Ricci opposite him in Casper or Now & Then. I knew in my heart of hearts that if I could just be famous, then everyone would LOVE me and endless opportunities would come knocking at my door. What did I have to do? Just look as cute as possible while walking around our nearest mall and pray that some undercover talent agent whisked me away to Hollywood.
For the big dreamers out there reaching for the stars, it doesn’t work like that. I’m not telling you to give up on your “I-Was-Discovered-In-A-Mall” dream. I’m not even saying that it couldn’t happen. Never say never, right? I just want to offer a more realistic approach to getting noticed. Here are five tips for entering into the world of child modeling and acting.
1. Know Your “Why”
Why do you want to get your child into the entertainment industry? If it is simply fame or fortune, please reanalyze your decisions. It’s one thing to make that decision for yourself. It’s another entirely if that’s your end goal for a minor. Why do I say that? Because there is no ceiling when it comes to fame or fortune. Even if you have it, you want more. You will end up taking jobs and opportunities for your child that mightnot be in their best interest, simply for the sake of attempting to advance their career.
When I ask why to my friends who inquire about modeling, specifically, they often say that it’s because their child loves the camera. Again, I’m not trying to discourage anyone at all because a love of the camera is extremely important. However, MANY little kids love the camera because when you are taking their picture, they are getting your undivided attention. For example, if you’re jumping up and down singing “Baby Shark” on loop, clapping your hands, dancing and smiling, of course your little one is going to love the camera. It’s not the camera they love; it’s you! It becomes a conditioned response to smile when they see a camera because they associate that experience with their love of family and what typically comes with a photo op.
You notice that I didn’t give you a correct answer to the “Why?” question. That’s because there isn’t one. It has to be your why. Not a regurgitated response that someone told you to say to have the best chance of getting ahead. Make sure this is something your child actually wants to pursue. When you are at an agency interview or an audition, the agents and casting directors can always differentiate between the parents leading the kids and the kids who are leading their parents. Let your child be your guide.
2. Take Classes
I am often asked where to start. That depends on what your child is interested in. Musical theater, film or television, modeling, or maybe you aren’t totally sure? Research your local options. While I will list some here, there are SO many more.
In regards to theater, Aria did her first ever camp at The Act. She played an alley cat in their production of The Aristocats. This got her stage experience and taught her to work with a cast and basic stage directions in a fun, encouraging setting. We have also participated in productions with NTPA. There’s also DCT, Studio 7, Septien Entertainment Group, and so many more.
As for us personally, Aria prefers being on camera to the stage, but she does enjoy both. So we typically invest in semester acting and film classes while doing musical theater camps during the summer and holiday breaks. Aria has been training with Cathryn Sullivan since she was 4, and she still attends her classes today. We have also loved Young Actor’s House, The Acting Corner, and working with Wendy Pennington with Improv Dallas when she has offered youth classes.
Not located in Dallas? No problem. Research what you can find and even reach out to the theater department at your local schools. Often times the performing arts teacher will have advice or suggestions as well. Just always be careful and do your research.
3. Follow Instructions
There is definitely a lot that you can do on your own. However, to truly have the best opportunities, I suggest signing with a reputable, local modeling and talent agency. Follow instructions! So many people reach out to agencies through private messages on social media, or they just find an e-mail address and start writing and attaching photos. Agencies will have information on their website on exactly how and what to submit. If it says to put one headshot, one full-body shot, and a resume in the mail, do exactly that. Don’t send in an entire photo album or decide that you will just friend request the agent of the youth talent division and blow up their inbox.
Do you need professional headshots? No, you do not need them. With that said, I personally recommend them. While they are not necessary to get your child signed with an agency, you should always dress for the job you want. That means look at current kid models and actors. They’re taking classes, have professional headshots, know how to slate, and typically have prepared contrasting monologues depending on their age. When you submit a professional headshot with a resume showing that your child is training, it proves that you take this seriously and have been doing what you can as the parent.
To start, I suggest finding someone offering headshot minis at an affordable price. An excellent option for us has always been Carin Curry Photography. Wait on a full portfolio session until after you sign so that you can get advice from your agency.
4. Have A Flexible Schedule And Be Prepared
Auditions can occur at a moment’s notice. One of our greatest opportunities came when a little girl that was booked got sick and had to cancel. We received a call that morning asking if we could be on location within the hour to replace her. I left work, picked my daughter up from school, and headed straight to the job. That one job led to many others with the same company. Thankfully, I had a flexible schedule where I could go, and I was prepared.
By prepared, I mean I always carry a model bag. This includes my daughter’s acting folder with extra headshots, resumes, and model vouchers. I also have several basic outfits pressed and hanging in the car with several shoe options. I even carry a bag now with medicine, sunscreen, and bug repellant after getting super sunburnt on a commercial set. That’s just it; we learn as we go. Just because we have kids signed and working doesn’t mean we know everything. We certainly don’t, but we support each other and learn from previous jobs.
I want to be clear that I am NOT saying you have to quit your job and stare at your phone in case an audition comes through. However, if you continually say no (or only choose the auditions that sound interesting to you), then you will stop getting asked. The same goes for any sport. If you only go to practice when it is convenient for you, then you are not being a team player. That’s exactly what you are with your child’s agency. A team working together to help support and grow your child’s modeling and acting journey.
5. Don’t Give Up!
Be prepared for continual emotional roller coasters. Perhaps you don’t hear from an agency after the first several attempts. Maybe you are signed with an agency, but you aren’t booking callbacks or jobs. There are always ups and downs for everyone. Remember that you only see the yeses on social media. Try not to compare your journey to others. Just make sure your little actor/actress is continually crafting his/her skills in this extremely competitive industry. Be patient and stay positive; your time will come.