So, you think your child has what it takes to become a star: she lights up the room with her energy, commands attention from her audience, and soaks up the applause like water to a dry sponge. She’s the lead in every school play and around the house she mimics every Disney character ever created. It’s time to head off to Hollywood…right? Maybe, maybe not…or maybe just not yet!
There are definite advantages to starting your child in show business at an early age; however it’s important to keep in mind the same rules that apply for adults aspiring for a career in this very competitive industry still apply no matter what the age of the aspiring star. Honing the acting skills, learning proper audition technique, understanding the technical aspects of working on camera, learning how the business works, being able to work well with others, and having an ample dose of patience to go along with the excitement are all necessary ingredients for all actors.
The problem that most often occurs with child actors is that the parents who are guiding them don’t have the requisite knowledge of the industry to provide the proper perspective, guiding expectations according to the realities of the business. Often times a parent thinks ‘my kid just has what it takes’ and that they just need to get an agent and get to work. Surely, once their child’s talent is seen by a top tier agent they will want to represent her and pitch to all the top Casting Directors in Hollywood…right? This is both incredibly unrealistic and even cruel to do to a child; considering how extremely competitive the business is. Yes mom, there are thousands of talented kids out there just itching for a shot on the next big blockbuster!
Truth is, even in the best case where a child shows a tremendous amount of talent and ability, it still takes at least 1-2 years before that child even ready to think about auditioning. That means before consideration is given to looking for an agent or casting opportunities, parents should have their child in acting class to learn the skills necessary to book the job (and keep it). Specifically, the skills should be learned that are directly transferrable to auditioning and working the L.A. film and television industry. The child should learn acting that is specifically geared to camera work (which is a world apart from stage acting), and cold reading and auditioning skills which will give her a legitimate shot at booking the work. This takes time and lots of practice, but there are some real advantages to starting at a young age.
There is a smaller pool of child actors in Hollywood who are both talented and skilled. The reasons for this are numerous, but in general it’s a supply and demand issue. Mature, dedicated, and polished child performers are a small percentage of the children who are out there auditioning. Have you ever wondered why Casting Directors sometimes go through thousands of child actors on a nationwide search that can take months to cast just one role? That said, if a child is the right type and is a good fit for a role, more latitude is given for a less than perfect audition. That is not to say they can be horrible, but if the talent and skill is evident a few sins can be forgiven and the Director may be willing to work with the child who is perfect in every other aspect. This is great news for children who have that spark but are not yet masters of the craft. The other great thing about children is that they are like sponges, eagerly absorbing what they see and learn in class and through experience. It’s not unusual for a child to grow as an actor more quickly than an adult because they are used to learning, and don’t carry around years and years of established patterns, bad habits/attitudes, and acting techniques that do more harm than good. They also have that magical thing called enthusiasm, which combined with focused energy can, and often does make good things happen!
Remember, acting is a profession like any other. One that requires practice, dedication, and patience along with talent. If your child shows aptitude for this profession, she absolutely can make a career of it. The parent’s job is to first learn how the business works while getting the child working on the developing her skills so that she is ready when the opportunities arrive. Then maybe, just maybe, the spark in your child’s eye will ignite into another rising Hollywood star!
Remember…you are enough!