Children who wish to be in the acting profession seem to follow the beat of a different drummer. I always called my clients the “square pegs who don’t quite fit into the round holes of life”. Children who are interested in sports are encouraged to do so; their families are willing to put forth the effort and money entailed to help them succeed. A child who wants to be an actor can sometimes find resistance from family and friends who do not feel their dream is a realistic one, nor worth the time and money it involves. However they would think nothing of investing hundreds if not thousands of dollars to pursue a dream in sports.
The actor’s dream is just as important and realistic and should be encouraged.
There are several ways to get a start in this business and there is no right or wrong answer but only what works best for you. If you live in Los Angeles or other major market like New York or Chicago then you have a better chance of success since you are considered "local" talent. It can be as simple as sending pictures to an agent to see if they are interested the key is in finding the right agents especially for children. Since the quality of an agency can change I will not post them here but can provide you with a list if requested.
A WORD OF CAUTION: NEVER EVER PAY MONEY UP FRONT THAT IS NOT HOW LEGITIMATE AGENTS WORK
Submitting to Agents
• A simple 4x6 body shot and one face shot in play clothes, no school pictures they are too "posed"
•Include information Height, weight, size, and contact information on the back of each picture
•Cover letter simply stating you are looking for representation and would be interested in meeting with them.
It may take up to a month to receive a call, Agents will only call if they are interested. DO NOT call them to see if they have your submission. The best time to submit is from May through August as they are not busy and are looking to replace talent that may have gone home. However children's agent's are always looking for that new talent.
If you are in a smaller area you might still find local agents who represent talent for regional commercials and sometimes that is the best way to see if your child has what it takes. Simply follow the same idea as above in submitting pictures to them. The Screen Actors Guild website can give you a list of legitimate agents in your area. Screen Actors Guild
What are Agents Managers & Casting Directors
There are definitely differences among the three and none should try to do the job of the other, rather they should concentrate on what they do best. Be wary of Companies that state they do it all.
The Agents job is to procure work for their clients negotiate contracts and make sure their clients get the best deal possible for the projects they work on. There are all different levels and types of agents, Commercial, Theatrical, Voiceover, Variety acts, Literary, Behind the scenes, to name a few. Some agents are great when you are starting out, they are willing to take a chance on new talent and help groom them for better project. At some point however it becomes almost necessary to move up to a stronger agent in order to get better jobs. It is very rare for a talent to stay with the same agent as they become a bankable star.
The agent takes a Ten percent (10%) commission on all monies earned by their clients. Agents should be licensed and bonded by the State if they are legitimate and should be either Screen Actor Guild Franchised or members of the Association of Talent Agents. Agents are never paid fees upfront, so if you are asked to do so, leave immediately.
The Manager is the one who guides you through the process of building a career. There are pros and cons as to whether a new actor needs a manager so make the decision based upon what you feel you might need. A Manager's job is to make sure their clients have the right agent who will work hard for them. They do not solicit work for their clients and in California are prohibited by law from doing so.
Managers take between Ten percent (10%) and Fifteen percent (15%) on all money earned. As a manager I always took ten percent (10%) and recommend you negotiate with a manager before you sign. Managers do not currently have to be licensed or bonded which means anyone can call themselves a "Manager". Always ask which agents they work with if you are considering signing with them or to speak with their clients if possible. Managers are never paid fees upfront even if they are providing services before a job is booked, make sure you clarify this with them before signing a contract.
As a manager of child actors I feel that most children need good management from someone other than a parent. It is important that as a parent you remain someone your child can go to if the pressures of the business become too heavy. Too many parent/child bonds have been damaged or broken due to parents trying to run their child's career. Certainly as a parent you should be active and caring about your child's career but leave the everyday workings to the professionals.
The Casting Director is hired by the Company who is making a commercial or film/TV project. It is their job to find the talent needed as indicated by the script they receive. This information is only given to agents and legitimate managers who subscribe to a service that provides it. The agent then knows which clients to submit for the audition based on the description they are given. While the manager cannot submit his clients he is aware of the project and can communicate with the agent about submitting his clients.
Modeling and Talent Schools
There is much information out there about the pros and cons of taking classes at a school or attending a Convention as a way of getting started in this business. Negativity abounds with some people when you even mention an Acting school or Convention, but others have found them to be very helpful in starting a career. The bottom line is you want to go with what works for you individually. It is important that you check up on them as much as possible in order to have a complete picture of whether they are legitimate and if they can deliver what they promise. As in anything there is both the good and the bad. The cost can be expensive but if your child wanted to be a professional figure skater and showed some talent the money would most likely be spent to fulfill the dream. The cost for lessons alone is upwards of $1.00 a minute and that does not include all the other expenses involved before they can even begin to compete. I am always curious to know why the support is not the same if your child wants to be an actor, especially when they have a greater chance of finding success in acting.
Acting classes abound in Los Angeles but in smaller areas a school might be your best or only resource to train and get information. Sometimes they will also act as a local Agency for casting regional work
Companies who specialize in bringing agents, managers and casting people to view new talent, usually put on Conventions once or twice a year. The talent comes from modeling/Acting studios that charge a fee to bring their students. The fees can seem expensive but usually include training, headshots, airfare, hotel, and the cost of the Convention.
There are definitely some out there that offer little and charge a lot of money. There are some however that offer a lot of good information and provide quality when it comes to the agents and managers who attend, so do your homework before signing anything.