By Guest Blogger, Sue T.
Every parent thinks that their child is the most beautiful child in the world. And there is nothing more flattering than hearing that your child should be a model. But how do you get started down the right path without getting caught up in all of the industry excitement? How do you know if your child really has what it takes to be in this very competitive business? And, importantly, how much does it cost to get started?
While I am not an expert, my daughter decided in the1st grade (she is in 8th grade now) that she wanted to be an actress and I have been trying to help her pursue that goal ever since. Here is what I have learned along the way.
You can’t get work on your own. To get in front of casting directors, you really need an agent. The best places to start are by going online to check for talent agents in your area. Charlotte has a list of them. The three that I have heard the most about are: Carolina Talent; Wilhelmina/Evolution; and JTA Talent Agency.
If you check their web sites you will see that many of the agents have “open calls.” This is an open house of sorts where they encourage new talent to come in and interview. It is a good idea, to bring a number of (quiet) activities to keep your child busy – along with a few light snacks – you may have to wait 2 to 3 hours to get in front of the agents. It is best to dress “nice casual” and not overly trendy or Sunday best. And, one other note, many agencies have a minimum starting age. You may want to verify this before you transport your little one.
Personality counts. Primarily, that is your child’s personality and not yours. The agent is looking at the personality of your child and are not as concerned (as you are) with how your child performs or reads the assigned script. They are looking more at how your child interacts, pays attention and takes direction. To that end, when they ask your child questions, they want the child to answer and not you. Don’t be tempted to repeatedly jump in and answer for your child. (You may want to practice a bit of Q & A at home before you go.) As far as your personality goes, do your best to be polite, laid back and not too anxious. Agents don’t want to work with overzealous “stage moms.”
Read the small print. If the agent expresses interest and wants to sign you, the next step is the contract. As always, read it carefully. There should be no upfront fees or hidden costs. The Agent acts as your representative and gets paid when you work. Their payment is a commission based on the acting or modeling work that your child will do. This fee typically ranges from 10% to 20% depending on the job. All of this should be clear in the contract. If you have any questions at all, ask the agent to review the details.
A quick side note about fees and agents. Don’t be deceived by companies that are overly interested in your child. (This happened to us!) There are some agencies out there that will dangle the idea of “becoming a star” in front of parents – all to the tune of a 6 month modeling training contract for the cost of $2,000+. Also, they may pressure you to sign immediately. Any serious agent will allow you time to think about signing and not charge you “training” fees related to getting work. If you have a question, check out the Better Business Bureau, ask the agent for references or go to easybackgroundcheck.com.
Photos help. It helps to have a good quality digital photo to take to the initial audition. It is not necessary for the Open Call, but it helps. It shows that you understand the process and have done a bit of homework. Often the agent will take their own digital shot, but in that fleeting 3 seconds, they may not be able to capture your child’s cute smile or charming personality. A 4x 6 size is fine. Make sure you remember to label it with your child’s name and age and your name and phone number.
Professional photos will be the first step of the process after you are signed. This is something that you will have to pay for and will be required by your agent. You will want either headshots or comp cards. Headshots are primarily for actors and comp cards allow for a variety of “full body” shots and are used for modeling.
These professional photos will be used to submit your child for work and to post online on the casting websites. You will need to pay for this and work with a professional photographer. The photographer is usually recommended by the talent agent. Feel free to ask for a number of recommendations and talk to each photographer before deciding. One idea is to network with other parents to share a photo shoot. The photographer may be willing to reduce the fee, if the session is shared. Some “new” photographers may also be looking to build their portfolio and will also offer lower rates. However, you want the photos to be as professional as possible. Rates for a headshot start at $100 and comp cards may range from $250 to $400.
Your child has to want this. Even if your child is lavished with complements and encouraged to “be a model,” in order for this to work, your child has to “have the fever.” It is very easy to spot the kids that are bored to tears and are being dragged from one audition to the next. A good way to cultivate the interest in your child is to sign them up for acting classes. These classes will help develop poise and acting ability and nourish their acting and modeling abilities. An extra bonus is that these classes can also be listed on their resume.
A good place to start looking for classes is with your agent. They may offer training that is exclusively for their talent or they may have established relationships with acting coaches/schools.
There are many wonderful opportunities for acting classes or drama training in Charlotte. The Charlotte Observer just published their Summer Camp listings and I saw numerous options. My daughter’s favorites include Children’s Theater; Creative Kids Production Camps offered at Providence Day School and Matthews Playhouse.
Private lessons are also a possibility and I have heard that Helen Kearney Konen is great with kids, has reasonable rates and offers both group classes and private lessons.
Keep in mind that the more experience the child has, the better they will look to the agents and casting directors
And if this is truly something that you think your child would like to pursue, two good books are Break A Leg; The Kids Guide to Acting and Stagecraft and The Complete Audition Book for Young Actors.
Thanks, Sue! This is an industry that is extremely difficult to navigate. Your insight is much appreciated. -Jen P.