Whether it’s Mackenzie Fuller in Interstellar or Patrick Renna in The Sandlot, we all have fallen in love with a child’s performance before. Have you ever looked down at your child and thought that he or she would be perfect for a career in front of a camera? If so, maybe your child is destined for greatness! So let’s explore the topic of how to become a child actor, whether you are one or simply looking out for kids of your own.
Believe it or not, child acting is one of the most lucrative areas of show business right now. There is a high demand for child actors because of the high turnover rate when they grow up so fast. This high turnover rate should not deter you- many successful actors have moved seamlessly from child acting into full careers. Although you usually hear only about the horror stories, people like Leonardo DiCaprio, Natalie Portman, and Drew Barrymore all began their professions as children, and look how well they turned out!
If this is sounding right for you, here are some important steps to getting your child into the limelight!
1. Evaluate and Commit
Transforming your child into a young actor is not an easy task. Although it can be profitable once the child starts getting jobs, it can be incredibly risky to begin. For example, if the family lives in America they have to commit to moving to Los Angeles. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to procure child acting jobs and agents outside of LA, as most of the commercial, television, and movie industry operates there nearly exclusively.
Not only does a family need to move, but it will also need to spend a considerable amount of time and money to start the child’s career. Headshots are required at each audition, and a simple headshot shoot can cost upwards of three hundred dollars. That doesn’t include the embossed copies of the photos that must be handed out at each audition or cattle call. Another commitment needed to make your child successful is a cosmetic one. Things like skin treatments, teeth whitening, and attractive hair cuts and styles are usually necessary to make your child look their best at auditions, and this can be very expensive over a longer period of time.
Parents also need to be extremely available to their child for transportation. Since their auditions and later places of work will be scattered all throughout the city, the family has to be prepared to spend a lot of time driving, and usually at odd hours.
2. Start Booking
Once you commit to child acting, it is a good idea to immediately begin attending as many auditions as possible. The first jobs will not be Shakespeare- most likely a commercial or a modeling gig- but they will be key. Not only will they expose your young actor to the show business world and teach them how to interact with the equipment and crew, but it will give you a chance to network among important people in the industry.
A lot of show business operates on a ‘who knows who’ basis, and if a director remembers a child being talented and well-behaved on the set of a commercial, he may be inclined to put them on the set of television show or movie. In those early days, making good impressions will be everything.
3. Get An Agent
While parents can scout for audition opportunities on their own, it’s usually a good idea to get an agent to do that for you. Agents are already saturated in the Hollywood world. They have connections, insights into processes, and know all sorts of insider tips. Remember that each time a child employs a new agent, the agent will request an entirely new set of head shots, even if you’ve already been using some for auditions. Since these can be pricey, many families hire an agent immediately when they get to LA. This makes the purchase of more than one set of headshots unnecessary.
Never pay an agent up front to represent you- they should always take a percentage of a commission a child earns. This not only gives the agent an incentive to get a child actor the most jobs as possible, but it prevents you from getting seriously scammed.
4. Create a Brand
When your child walks into an audition, you want them to be noticed immediately and remembered later. While you definitely shouldn’t go overboard (no one wants to see an eight year old with arm tattoos) that does mean that you have to be creative in how your child presents themselves.
Your agent will probably have some good ideas, but no one knows your child better than you do. What makes your child unique and special? Is there a specific trait or characteristic you can accentuate? If you were a casting director, what would be the first thing you would notice about your child? Would it be memorable? Would you want them to work for you?
5. Stay Grounded
There is a fine line between being proactive and being extreme in show business. Parents and children should remember that while acting may be a kid’s life’s calling, it is not their entire life. It is important to remind yourself that things like school, interpersonal relationships, and wellbeing must take higher priority than acting work.
As you and your child get more successful, it will become harder to carve out time for ‘normal’ things, but simple activities like playdates, trips to grandparents, and visiting the dentist will be growing even more important to the mental health of your child. The last thing you want is to follow the tragically long line of child actors and their families who have lost touch with reality.
All in all, child acting is both a wonderful and risky idea. Although your child could earn some serious money and possible fame, you have to weigh the risks of moving to LA and beginning an entire new life. You will also have to work increasingly hard to keep you child grounded and emotionally healthy. It is a tough decision, but with enough grit and talent, making your child a star might just be the right one.