So you want your child to go into a professional career in Theatre, Film or Television? Well, before I answer some frequently asked questions, let me lay on some of the basic realities. First, let me say that any child can benefit from lessons in Voice, Dance or Music in general. It builds self-confidence, an appreciation for the arts and a positive self- image. It builds a sense of team work, structure and work ethic. It helps many kids come out of their shell and form a base of community with other like minded children. Any form of creative art will only help your child thrive in the real world, expand their minds and creativity, no matter what field they choose to go into after high school.
However, acting, singing or dancing professionally is an entirely different animal. Let’s begin with the odds. Even if your child is remarkably talented with the looks of a model, on average, one out of more than a thousand will find any kind of success. For every role available, hundreds will go up for it. For every agent who receives hundreds of submissions a week, maybe one or two will be considered for representation. The child must have a mass appeal. Good looks and a big personality, as well as absolute naturalism in their presentation of character, are the prime things casting directors and agents look for.
Next, the parents need to be prepared for the life of the professional stage Mom or Dad. If your child is lucky enough to start being brought in for jobs, the parent must be willing to drive into NYC at a moment’s notice, at all hours 5-6 days a week just for auditions. If your child is even luckier to get a job, the parent must be able to drop everything and accompany their child to each callback, fitting and work call and stay the full time, as state law requires a parent or guardian present at all times. The parent must establish a special bank account to adhere to “Coogan” laws and obtain the appropriate state work permits. They must be willing to have their child join the various unions covering professional work. This could cost upward of $2,000 per union.
Now to address several oft asked questions:
In the acting world, what is the best training for children around the age of 8-13?
Professional Acting classes for children of this age are questionable. 90% of casting directors are looking for kids who can be real and natural. A child really can’t understand the true detailed craft of acting until well into their teen years.
I see lots of kids on TV on kid's shows: Nickelodeon, Disney, etc....do I get an agent to get my kid on those shows? How?
Yes, you would need an agent to submit you child for shows like these. The way to get an agent is to obtain a list of union franchised agents from The Breakdown Services or Actors Access, then send a picture, resume and cover letter to that agent requesting an audition/interview.
My 10 yr. old has been studying voice and dance since she was 5 but I want her to study acting as well. Where should I send her for classes?
For “Real” classes of this kind, you would have to go into NYC. Act Teen is one of the best.
My child's school doesn't have a choir or theatre dept. What can he do?
This is where private voice lessons, dance classes are your best bet. They can get involved in local community theatre as well.
How do I know if an agent or manager is legitimate and not a scam artist?
This is a very good and important question. There are hundreds of scam artists and hucksters out there just waiting to take advantage of some star struck kid and their parents. All legit agents must be franchised by the performing unions, SAG/AFTRA and Actors Equity Association. You can check with them to see if an agent is for real.
My child has been involved in singing/acting/dance all her life, but we won't let her major in the arts in college because there's no job security. Can you please tell her the arts are just a hobby and not a real job?
You’re right in the fact that this is a very difficult and competitive profession that takes total commitment and lots of time and training. However, if your child can’t think of anything else they might be happy doing, then let them go to a serious college conservatory program and let them decide if it is right for them.
My daughter usually gets the leads in her shows and I'm afraid she's thinking too highly of herself. Where can I send her so that she's surrounded by other talented students and gets more competition.
If she is serious, enroll her in a professional class in NYC and see how she fairs. Or, take her to an open call for a Broadway show and let her see her competition.
What do you think about open calls? Does anyone ever get in?
Absolutely, people get cast from open calls, especially children. But be prepared for the “cattle call”. If your child is not a member of the union, they will have to attend the true open call where anyone can audition. You should arrive at least 2-3 hours early to sign up and be prepared with 16 bars (only) of music (if for a musical) to sing and to wait quite a while to be seen.
Should I subscribe to Backstage?
YES! This is your best resource for the non-union and union actor who does not have an agent.
Bruce Winant is a working professional Actor, Voice Casting Director, Director and Teacher. He has appeared in 8 Broadway shows, countless Off-Broadway and regional theatre productions, dozens of episodic television shows and several motion pictures. He is also a casting director of voice actors for some of the top feature films and TV shows of the last several years. For more detailed information on Bruce, check out his website: www.brucewinant.com
Do you have questions for Bruce? Ask them here!