So, you are wondering how does somebody get their child into acting or modeling.
Does your child tell you that they want to be a Disney actor, attend a Disney audition or get into showbiz?
First things first, you really should be close to an area with a film industry or a large market where the actual work is. Most movies, commercials and modeling jobs are available where they film, where the studios are such as Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. For those that do not live around those areas, it may be difficult getting your child to auditions if the drive is long and many casting directors may not even consider people that live too far away.
An audition is basically a job interview without any guarantee of getting that job. Driving 100s of miles is usually not worth it as the cost of the trip may be greater than any pay for landing the gig. Plus, travel is not paid and there are other people applying for the same modeling or acting job, so there is no guarantee that your child will even get the gig.
I know a few stage parents and it is a job for them. It is not uncommon to attend dozens of casting calls, all over the city, before even getting the job. If the parent has a full time job, it may be rather difficult getting your kid to those auditions during regular office hours. Casting directors work out of offices, during normal business hours and normally set up appointments on weekdays.
Another thing to keep in mind is how well your child handles disappointment. Each audition will have multiple applicants, sometimes dozens of kids apply for the same role and only one of them will actually land the role, leaving all the other children disappointed. Parents that are tight on cash may find that its not worth the expense driving to multiple auditions a few times a week as it may cost more money in gas than the job may even pay.
The next thing to consider is your child’s personality. Is your child shy or very outgoing? Does your child love social situations with many strangers or do they shy away? How well does your kid follow directions?
Also, really important is the parent. Parents must be able to to get their child to and from not only the auditions, but also any modeling jobs or acting jobs that the kids land. Depending on the shoot and gig, the time on set that will be required can be anywhere from a few hours to the entire day. Parents must have the availability to stay on set with their child and mostly stay out of the way. It will end up being a job for the parent as well.
What does your child need to start their show biz or modeling career?
Good news is that it actually isn’t much. Children grow quickly and casting directors require pictures of the children currently. For that reason, kids do not need any professional photos and many casting directors frown on professional photos. Most request nothing more that simple snap shots, cell phone pics, that were taken recently. There is no need to pay money for professional photographers or invest in professional headshots as they want to see what your child looks like today, not last month, last year or anytime in the past. Basically, you can take the pictures yourself or have a friend take them for you.
When it comes to pictures, casting directors want to see exactly what your child looks like right now. Do not use any filters or apps that make your kid look different. That means refrain from using the apps that make your kid look cuter or change the picture in any way. Casting directors need to see the child, so do not use props such as hats, sunglasses, makeup or anything that blocks a part of the child from the photo or changes their appearance.
When taking the photos, make sure that it is well lit and the photo is against a neutral background such as a light colored wall. Natural daylight works great and refrain from unnecessary shadows such as a bright light pointing at them or too much light coming from behind such as an window with light coming in. Lastly, make sure that your child is the only one in the picture. No pets, friends or family members in the photo.
The casting directors want to see what your child looks like naturally. All you need is a snap shot of your child smiling naturally from the shoulders up and another photo of your child standing against a wall which goes head to toe, a full body shot. For clothing, pick something neutral such as a light colored t-shirt and shorts. While you may want to dress up your child and change their look to make them look older, younger, cuter, etc., refrain from doing it. Productions know what they are looking for, you do not, so their age appropriate, normal, natural look, is the way to go. When casting directors hold auditions for an 8 year old, they expect pictures of regular 8 year olds, not 8 year olds wearing makeup that makes them look 13.
Now that you have your snap shots all done, you get online and find some reputable agents in your area. Call around and inquire what their submission process entails and follow their instructions. Reputable agents are not pay to play showcase services or anyone selling you a service such as portfolios, classes, online profiles or anyone that promises anything.
There are many shady companies that pretend to be talent agents, have parents attend fake auditions and then request payment for some kind of service.
Always keep in mind that real talent agencies do not come to you, do not try to talk you into spending money or buying any packages. Real talent agents and casting directors you must reach out to and send in your child’s photos for consideration. Real talent agents do not hold conventions, rent conference rooms in hotels or throw sales pitches at you with many compliments. They do not try to sell you on promises of Disney stardom for a fee.
Check out this article about how some of the Disney child acting audition scams work and what to watch out for. Also, here is another article on the subject of Disney auditions and red flags to look for.
How to get an agent for your child:
Sag-Aftra has a list of franchised agents here. You can contact local theater groups, local casting directors and reach out to people in your area who are in the entertainment industry as well as modeling agencies in your area to inquire if they have a children’s division. It’s actually pretty easy. If I do a google search of “modeling agency New York” I get a list of agencies as business listings (NOT ADS), clicking the first takes me to their site and I clicked on kids and that page had the instructions to submit photos. Also, there is a blog which has been online forever which has lots of tips and a list of kids agencies, See https://hollywoodmomblog.com/10-top-talent-agencies-for-kids/
Real modeling agents will have a website selling their models, not trying to sell you on becoming a model. They will have links for their model portfolio, categorized by divisions such as “men,” “women,” “kids.” They will not have sales material such as “our success stories.” Real agents are selling their models to their clients. They are not selling themselves to potential models. If the page is oriented towards selling them to you, or geared towards attracting models to their services, that should be taken as a red flag. Many companies are in a gray area, not complete scams, but not agents that can get you work. There are many sales people masquerading as casting directors or agents which may try to talk you into taking THEIR classes, buying THEIR headshots and a slew of other worthless services. Watch out for them as they have nothing to offer. Always remember there is no such thing as a talent scout in kids modeling and actual agents work in offices and do not hang out at malls, parks, grocery stores, looking for cute kids to sign up.
There are very few sites you can subscribe to, Actors Access and Breakdown Services. Those 2 sites list casting calls which come from actual casting directors. Other subscription sites
Make sure that you lookup and research any agent, company, etc. that offers anything or that you are interested in.
Now, depending on the state, your child will most likely need a work permit and many states enquire licensing for agencies that deal with kids. Also, some states require that the agents have a special permit that allows them to work with kids such as a Child Performer Services Permit. Some states and productions require that you create a special account for your child, called a Coogan Account, in order to get paid. The account is a trust for your child.
Remember that agents make money when you do as a percentage of the pay, you do not pay them upfront because their job is to book auditions for the talent they represent with another party such as a brand or production. Agents do not hire talent and can never guarantee a role as it isn’t their job.
Lastly, I will say this again, be prepared for rejection and have a realistic expectation of pay if actually booked. I know people who average 1 booked gig for every 30 auditions attended. There is no guarantee. Most gigs are not going to pay you the big bucks like they do to Hollywood movie stars. Rates for bookings can sometimes be as little as a few hundred bucks for small local spots leaving a chance that you will spend more in gas than you will actually make…if your kid even lands the job. If your child does not handle rejection well, this may not be the best course for them.
The biggest thing to remember, always is to follow your instincts. If something seems too good to be true, it most likely isn’t true.