14 DOs and DON’Ts For Getting Your Child Into Showbiz

Here’s the scenario:  You’re at the mall, child in tow, window-shopping leisurely, when a young woman rushes towards you, carrying a clipboard.  First come the compliments – your baby is so adorable, your son is gorgeous, your daughter is a natural star.  Then comes the question – have you ever thought of getting your child into show business? And then the hook – we are an established agency holding a discovery campaign right here and would love to talk to you about signing your child. All you have to do is sign on the dotted line…

Your initial instinct is to smile politely and move away, but…you hesitate half a second.  What if they are legit? What if this could be the start of something big?  What if, what if, what if?

The thought of fame and fortune can be quite alluring, but before you sign on the dotted line, it’s best to understand that the showbiz world is full of traps and mines. Protect yourself and your child and consider this list of 14 Dos and Don’ts for Getting Your Child Into Showbiz:

  1. DON’T ever pay anyone up front - Legitimate managers and agents only make money if your child makes money (they receive a standard commission if your child books a job).  You do NOT have to pay to sign with an agent or manager; you should never be bullied into paying them to have their photographer take headshot pictures; you should NEVER give out any important information such as social security numbers, credit card info, or any other private information until you are signed with a legitimate manager or agent.
  2. DO understand that professional acting is a business - Kids are expected to behave like adults. They will need to know their lines, take direction, and be extremely patient and flexible. There is no time – or place – for complaints, whines or tantrums.  Pursing professional acting must be 100% child driven.If you force them into the business, it’ll be miserable for everyone.
  3. DO try local opportunities first – Check out Community Theater opportunities, local acting and dancing classes and school shows.  Make sure your child is truly committed to rehearsals and at-home practice.
  4. DON’T underestimate the time commitment – Some weeks your child could have three or four auditions, which means driving into the city three or four times.  Then there could be callbacks, fittings, rehearsals and workdays.
  5. DON’T ignore the money commitment as well – Train tickets, tolls, subway rides, taxis, parking garages…it all adds up.  And then don’t forget potential headshots (when a child is established), audition clothes, acting classes, and other training.
  6. DON’T pay hundreds of dollars for a professional head shot – In the beginning all you will need are a couple of good snap shots.  Just make sure they are clear and capture your child’s amazing smile and personality.
  7. DO consider self-submitting your child for professional gigs – There are several legitimate websites, including actorsaccess.com and castingnetworks.com.  They offer different subscriptions and you do have to pay either a monthly fee or by submission.  This is the ONLY time you should ever pay up front in acting.
  8. DO prepare a resume – Look up templates on the web.You will need to include your child’s name, age, hair color, weight, eye color and height, as well as a contact phone – either a manager’s or agent’s number or your cell phone.  Then you need to list your child’s experiences.  Don’t worry if your child has no professional gigs.Put down school shows, local dance lessons, voice teachers, anything related to acting.
  9. DO your research – There are a variety of sites including Backstage.com and Professionals Actors Resource Forum that offer tons of info.Read posts to understand the realities of the business and research legitimate agencies and managers. Another important resources is the Screen Actors Guild website.Pay especially close attention to their young performer link (www.sagaftra.org/content/young-performers).  It will help you navigate contracts, trust funds, and other laws, as well as avoiding scams.
  10. DO understand the audition process – During the school year, auditions for school age children are legally only allowed after school hours.  Sounds good, but if you live even a half hour away and have been assigned a 3:00 PM audition, you will need to pick your child up from school early to make it on time.  And on time means 5-10 minutes early.And you also need to understand that bringing siblings to an audition is a big no-no.(Yet another expense - baby sitters for siblings).  Also, don’t expect much notice for auditions; it is very common to get audition notices only 24 hours in advance, so be ready to scramble.
  11. DO be prepared for rejection – One statistic states that for every 100 auditions a child actor goes on, he or she will only book one job. That’s a lot of rejection.  Remind your child it’s all about selection not rejection.You have no idea what the casting director is looking for and it is imperative to remind your child it had nothing to do with how she or he performed, but the “look” they are searching for.If they brought your child in, it’s a win – they wanted to meet him or her!
  12. DO trust your gut – If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.You need to be your child’s advocate.  You are better off saying no and walking away than gambling with your child’s safety or well being.  Don’t be too overly captivated by the bright lights and visions of fame.
  13. DON’T ignore your child – Take frequent stock of your child’s feelings, thoughts and actions. They need to want to drive into the city for auditions, want to learn their lines, want to spend long hours rehearsing and shooting a scene. If they voice any complaints about missing school, or sports practice, or a birthday party, it may be time to take a break.  Remember, even though they are expected to behave like adults, they are still kids and their interests change daily.  When they are done, you need to be done.
  14. DO have fun!Don’t count on instant fame and fortune – that’s rare. Instead, think of it as a great way to spend some extra time with your child, a great way to meet other kids and parents with similar interests, and a great way for your child to gain poise and confidence.