26 November, 2010

So Your Kid's Got Talent, Huh? (or Kidz in the Biz!) Part II

Welcome to Part II of my Kidz in the Biz series! Last week, I talked a bit about Stage Parent Syndrome, a couple of books with TONS of advice, and then I posted part of a Q&A session with Sharon Chazin Lieblein, VP of Talent & Casting for Nickelodeon.

Today, I'm going to finish that session, as well as post some of my own thoughts & advice. Plus, I found a blog by parents whose kids are working actors out in LA.  For Part III I'll talk about scams and touch a bit on headshots...and possibly also a list of sites with invaluable information!

Here's the rest of the Q&A:

Do you ever encounter parents who seem to want a career for their child more than the child does? If so, how do you handle this situation?
That’s a very hard situation. There isn’t much that I can do since it isn’t my job to interfere with the family. If a child comes in for an audition and I can tell that they really don’t want to be there, I just tell them that they don’t have to do their audition and they should go back out to the waiting room and tell their parents that I said they did a great job. Later on I’ll probably call the agent and let them know about the experience and that they should probably look into whether or not this business is right for that particular child.

For children and teens “between the coasts”, it may seem that opportunities for professional work are limited. What advice do you have for children and teens who really want careers in showbiz, but don’t live in one of the “major markets” like LA or NY?
Take classes, perform in school plays, try to get a local agent and work locally wherever they live. Before making a big move that will affect the entire family, you should see if you are successful in your local market and if you are comfortable with the audition process. It is possible to come out to LA for “pilot season” and get work, but the chances of getting work are obviously greater if you are out in LA full time. But that is a commitment that the entire family has to weigh in on. Sometimes families have to split up, where one parent stays with one child while the other goes to LA with their other child. It is also a major monetary commitment. A family has to be stable financially in order for one parent to not have to work because they need to be available to take their young actor to and from auditions, acting classes and hopefully sets for work. If you’re an actor at any age you can’t be in this business for the money. That is especially true for children. By the time your child’s paycheck gets to you, taxes have been removed (about 50% of the salary), your agent’s 10%, manager’s 10-15%, Coogan account’s 15%. If you are lucky you are left with 5-10% of the salary. And then you have to pay for gas, acting classes, pictures and resumes, etc. Definitely not a money-making business for an average child actor.

What do you wish more children (and/or actors in general) understood about the casting process?
The most important thing to realize is that this is a business full of people with many different opinions. You can read for me one day and I’ll think you’re great. The next day you can read for someone else and they can think that there is no reason for you to even be in this business. As long as you are passionate about it and are really giving it your best shot, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Just keep plugging away and the right role will come. Even if you are fully prepared for your auditions and give 110%, the majority of roles that you end up not booking have nothing to do with how well you did in the room. It could be that you are not the right height, you look like the girl that we cast for the other role yesterday, we really want a blonde, the role was just cut but the casting director didn’t have time to cancel the auditions so she sees you anyway, and the list goes on. Each one of these things is completely out of your control. So you shouldn’t even worry about it. Once you walk out of the audition room, you have to leave that audition behind you and move on. If you get a callback, great. If not, on to the next.

At ActorsLife.com, the majority of children who write seeking advice wish to become stars immediately with little or no regard for the craft of acting. In your opinion, which is more important for success and fulfillment: A passion for stardom, or the desire to be a great actor?
As I said earlier, the desire to be a great actor is key. A passion for stardom might be enough to propel someone into initial success, but it won’t help to sustain someone for a career full of successes.

Being cast in a Nickelodeon show will often result in stardom at an early age. What, if anything, does the network or the production team do to prepare children and their families for the changes that will occur if a show becomes a hit?
We support and train all of our series regular talent. All of our talent goes through a presentation we call our “Talent 101.” This basically teaches them about our network, what they can expect to happen when their show hits the air and they start getting more well known, how to answer common fan and press questions and in general how to conduct themselves on and off the set. Unique to our network, my team also serves as in-house managers for the kids. They are free to call us with any questions that they have and working with their representatives we try to help them navigate their careers while they are with us. We work hand in hand with the press representative for the show and make sure that the talent is prepared for interviews and appearances, and someone is usually with them during those events. They eventually grow up and move on either as actors or into other careers, either way, after their time on our network they usually have a great foundation for a very successful future. And because of how closely we work with them while they are on the network, we continue to have great relationships with them as they move into adulthood.


To kind of piggy-back on some of that, I'd like to add these:

1) You cannot go into this business for the money. It's incredibly expensive, to begin with. Headshots, classes, clothes, skin care, hair cuts, gas...the list is seemingly endless. Not to mention the time...commutes, rehearsals, practicing, memorizing, researching, networking, reading, classes, etc.

2) You have to be able to take “no” for an answer. Because you will hear it. A LOT. And you have to be able to take criticism constantly, as well.

3) If there is something you love just as much as acting/singing/dancing...do that instead. This is a HARD business. I know you know that, and I know you hear that all the time... but until you've actually been doing it, you don't know just how hard it really is. It's not for everyone. You have to be incredibly strong, and you have to have a great support system. And you have to be patient!!! But if this is your passion, your love, the thing you were born for—then GO FOR IT! And if you don't have a built-in support system, don't worry about it. Just don't tell the naysayers what you're doing. They'll only bring you down.

I found this blog, created by a dad whose 2 kids are in show business. They packed their bags and moved to LA. The blog follows the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of their life. http://childreninfilm.blogspot.com/

That's it for today! Stay tuned for Part III: Scams, advice, and tools you can use that don't cost a thing! (Except time.) Also, a handy checklist I found of things to consider before you and your child begin a career in the entertainment field.
Till then, I bid you adieu.


Read Parts I and III!


  1. I just thought I'd chime in since I have a little bit of experience with this. When Braden (Christa's brother, for those of you who are curious!) was interested in acting in his junior high and high school years, we found an agent locally. Then we found a good acting coach for children. We lived in San Antonio, and the coach was in Austin, so on Saturdays, we'd drive to Austin for the class. While he was in there, his Dad and I explored Austin and had a good time. Braden really liked the class and it led to many auditions. Most of the auditions were in Austin, so we did a bit of driving back and forth, but there are other markets for movies besides LA and NY. We learned as we went along, and as long as he was interested, we hung in there. We didn't interfere with the director, casting director, or anyone else. There were some occasions when the people we worked with weren't very professional and treated the talent poorly - something you may experience at one time or another. Braden was smart enough to realize that those times wouldn't be fun, so we would leave. It happens (though not often), and you have to be ready to speak up if you feel the kids are being mistreated. After going back 3 times for a call backs on a TV movie, then not getting the part, Braden decided he'd had enough and we stopped. The kids really have to want to do it - it can't be your decision, it has to be their's. One other thing - headshots. We had them done and got the proof's and the picture they selected for his headshot wasn't as good as another one in the group, so I did speak up and showed it to the photographer, and he agreed with me! It wasn't any skin off his nose - he still took both shots, but they do so many of them that they may not spend a lot of time looking at the proofs before making a decision, and the photos are very small. So do take a part in what you can control - there are many things you can't in this business! As for Christa - we got her involved in as many things as possible to learn her craft. She concentrated more on singing than acting when she was growing up, so she was in school choirs, church choirs, and bravely auditioned for the Orlando Opera's Children's Group, where she learned so much! But it was HER idea to do it, and she's stuck with it!