Once you do sign with an agent the next step is to be prepared. Your agent and/or manager, should you sign with one, will help you in choosing a good photographer to shoot headshots for your child. They will then choose what they feel is the best photo of your child. In the past I found that mom did not always agree with the choice since her little one looked so "cute" in another picture. Be aware that we look for much more than cute, it is a certain look in the eyes that says something is special, so trust your agent.
When on an audition never bring a different headshot since the audition was given based on the headshot submitted. If after a few weeks you feel the picture they chose is not working then call and ask to meet with your agent and/or manager.
A resume is attached to the back of each headshot it will list any projects your child has been involved with, and what training they have had or ongoing. There is no standard format so check with your agent to see how they would like it done.
Waitng for auditions
Waiting for the phone to ring is the hardest part of all. I have had clients who left the office after signing and had an immediate call for an audition and some that had to wait a week or more. You never know when it will all happen so you need to be ready at all times. Sometimes you will have less than an hour to get to an audition. My clients all know to keep extra clothes in the car, and always have several headshots with them. Make sure you have a good map of the city so you know where you are going, your agent does not have time to give you directions.
It can happen that you will have two or three auditions in one afternoon, the record was five for one of my clients. Since all auditions are usually held between 3 and 7PM it is hard to get through town so it is a good suggestion to check with your agent to see how long the Casting will be going on just in case you get held up. If you are going to be late and I would not be, let your agent know as soon as possible so they can notify casting. Casting Directors do take note on who is late as this could cause them problems should you book the job and show up late to the set.
What every actor needs
I recommend that you always have the following with you, a special backpack kept at the ready will help you to know you are always prepared:
•A Thomas Guide (map of Los Angeles County & Orange County a must have)
•Headshots with resumes attached
•Current Work Permit
•Coogan Information (see below)
•Extra copy of script if possible
•Extra shirts and pants
•Money for parking a must in LA
•Comb and brush
•Snacks, individual serving size are great
•Actor's Interview Log: available online and at Samuel French Bookstore. This is a great book for keeping track of auditions and callbacks.
Also include a book to read and any games or books your child will like. Sometimes you hurry up and wait at the auditions so take the time to relax and go over lines if there are any.
Advice for Parents
Do not over-rehearse your child it is important to keep their performance fresh. You may see other parents drilling their child beforehand but if your child is prepared let them relax and read.
While at the audition it is best to avoid conversation with other parents unless they are friends. There are some parents who will do anything to undermine another actor so their child will look better. If you spot one of these "mommies" just smile and ignore them, hopefully they will move on to someone else
Do not share information about auditions be as vague as possible should you get stuck in a conversation, and do not believe everything you hear from them either. I actually had one parent try to tell my client that her child's hair was supposed to be curly not straight, of course that was a lie but I had one upset client for a few minutes, worried that she had messed up. Sad to say but some people can get pretty desperate about this business, I had one mom that was so detrimental to her child's career I had to drop them in hopes she would stop, but she is still trying to this day to make him a star.
When you arrive at the audition make sure you sign in and check to be sure there are no changes in the script or a new script posted. There is no rhyme or reason to how Casting does things so do not get upset if you have to wait, as long as you are on the list they will see you. If it gets to be over an hour let your agent know and be sure to sign out after your audition using a pen not pencil. No one is supposed to wait more than an hour for an audition and the Casting office can be penalized, and the talent paid if it gets to be to long. This keeps Casting from bringing too many people in for auditions. This rule only applies if this is a Union job; non union work has no rules sorry to say.
Pilot Season in Los Angeles
If you decide to come to LA for a period of time you have to consider where you will live and how much you are willing to spend. Most people come to LA for Pilot Season, the time when all the new shows for the upcoming year are cast and filmed. Pilot season runs from January to the end of April. During that time hundreds of shows are pitched to the Networks and many are chosen to film a Pilot. From the Pilots several for each Network are chosen to join the Fall lineup of shows. This means there are many opportunities for work, that coupled with the Commercials that are filming makes it an opportune time for new talent to come out and try their luck.
Every year kids and their parents will come to LA for 3 to 6 months and see what can happen for them, many great careers are formed during this time. Where to stay for the short term is the biggest dilemma. The largest group goes to the Oakwood Apartments in Universal City. This complex provides furnished apartments for short term but is the most expensive place to stay. There are other great alternatives too numerous to mention, including an RV park for those with access to an RV this is the least expensive option. I have had several clients that have taken this route and found it quite enjoyable. If you would like further information please email me. Recently
we experienced a prolonged strike by the writer's union which stopped
the production of new pilots for the season. Some studios have even
suggested that Pilot Season as we know it is a thing of the past. It
would be best to check with your agent or manager before making plans
to move to Los Angeles.
Keeping records of all your expenses will help if during the course of the year your child books enough work and has to file taxes so be diligent in keeping every receipt. If your child is fortunate to book a commercial or two there is the possibility of earning a decent sum of money in one years time.
Whenever your child books a job the check is sent to the agent. The agent will deduct their ten percent and forward the check onto your manager if you have one, or directly to you if not. The manager will take his ten to fifteen percent, whatever you have negotiated, Uncle Sam will deduct his taxes and then there is the Coogan Account.
Every child that works in the state of California must have a Coogan account named for actor Jackie Coogan a child actor from the 1920’s. Fifteen percent of all monies a child earns must be put into a special trust account that cannot be touched until the child is 18. Every child actor must have a Coogan account number before they can be paid, the money is automatically deducted and paid into their account before the check is sent to the agent.
It is important to check and make sure this money has been deposited in the account. This guarantees that some of the money earned will be held for the child. In the past to many children have turned 18 only to find that their parents have spent all the money. I always told my parents that is was okay to reimburse themselves for out of pocket expenses but asked them if they would charge their child for baseball uniforms and driving to practice? Most of my parents opted to save the rest of their child’s money in a separate account so the child did have access to it.
As you can see even though the actor earns a good deal of money much of it is paid out to different people. Once an actor becomes more successful there is the added cost of lawyers and public relations firms, a never-ending supply of payouts.
Acting Scams & Ripoffs
In any business there are those that prey on the hopes and dreams of people and never more so than in the acting business. It seems that every day there is a new way to separate you from your money with nothing to show for it.
With the advent of the internet there have been several websites devoted to “showcasing” talent supposedly for agents and managers, each of them claim to be successful in providing careers for their clients “for only 29.95 per month”. The Agents, Managers, and Casting people that you are trying to reach use none of these websites. The “Casting information” they provide is of little or no use especially when it comes to children. The jobs they offer are usually just extra work.
The same applies to photographers who charge huge fees, let your agent help you choose a legitimate photographer who knows what the agent truly wants. Just know that children only need a good color headshot for both print work and acting. Children do not need a “Portfolio” if they want to do print work nor special Comp cards so best to save your money for things that will help in planning a career for your child.
The biggest problem we seem to be facing now is the sale of headshots on the internet through EBAY. It is an ongoing problem where sellers get hold of children’s headshots and post them for sale. It gives us pause to wonder who would buy a child’s headshot but they sell everyday, even if the child has never worked. There are several organizations that are working hard to stop this practice.
Choosing the right Agent and Manager
To ensure that you are dealing with ethical Agents please check on the Screen Actors Guild website for a list of either SAG franchised Agents or Association of Talent agents, http://www.agentassociation.com. The Talent Agents and SAG have been in prolonged negotiations for a new contract, some agencies have stayed with SAG while others have opted to stay with the ATA until this is resolved. If they are on either list you should be fine.
As I said before Management firms are not licensed or regulated which can lead to problems. Some Management firms sign every child who walks through the door and become nothing more than a clearinghouse for children. If you sign with a manager be sure to ask how many clients they work with. Even if they have assistants helping them a good Manager should have no more than 20-25 clients. After all you are paying the Manager for their time and expertise, not an assistant who is answering the phone. There is no way a manager can service their clients if they have more than 25 clients, there are not enough hours in the day.
Be wary of Internet “Management and Talent” firms or those that offer classes, most of them handle hundreds of clients with little or no result. Your agent will be able to recommend a good acting coach for children that have proven themselves through the years. Before signing up with any acting coach find out what their credentials are, and be sure to follow through and check them out.
There are a multitude of books out there about getting your child into acting but most have no value in the long run. I have included links to some that I have found helpful but the bottom line is agents want children who have natural talent not over-rehearsed mimics, best to save your money.
Acting Message Boards
I made the decision not to have a chat board or forum on this website after reading some of the others that are out there. The purpose of this website is to give you the basic tools you will need to get your child involved in this business. I have found that chat boards tend to become subjective and biased on certain issues. Some of the members will set themselves up to be “experts” on this business based solely on the fact they have a child in it. When new members post opinions these other parents sometimes challenge them and make them feel they are making mistakes. I wonder sometimes if the agenda is not to discourage other parents from getting their children involved, as they might be a conflict with their child. The opportunities in this business are there but they are always looking for that “new face” especially in commercials. Should you decide to visit some of these boards be very aware that the decisions you make should be your own, and that the “expert” may not be so after all.