I'm going to talk a bit about scams in this one, and it's very important that you pay attention to that! But first, I'll open up with this link from a book called Kids Acting for Brain Surgeons: Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Kid Into Show Business.
I only read part of the excerpt...to read the whole book, you'll need to find it at your local library or Amazon or the like.
Basically, it reminds you that acting is WORK, first and foremost. It's a BUSINESS. It's not glamour and glitz. It's at times gut-wrenching and disappointing... It also has several good questions to ask yourself, as well as your child.
Something really important that I need to discuss is SCAMS. They're everywhere in our daily life, but for aspiring actors, they seem to abound, no matter where you turn. They're a major trap that many people fall into. When you see or hear anything—an email, a website, a radio commercial, an audition ad—question it! Read up on it! DO YOUR RESEARCH!!! These people rake in thousands and thousands of dollars every month from innocent, unsuspecting people.
Promises to get you that audition for the Disney channel, to get you seen by the Nickelodeon VP, to get in the next Adam Sandler movie...they'll use anything to get you in the door. And once you're in the door, they'll tell you that you or your child has great potential—they've really got something. They could be the next Miley Cyrus! But first, they need to take classes. And not just any classes...they have to take their classes. So you fork over a few grand for classes, only to realize that these people can't get your kid auditions, after all.
And it's not just classes... Just keep your eyes open and your wallet closed until you're sure of what's going on. These people prey upon your dreams and count on your naivete. Don't let them get away with it!
It's so hard to know what's legitimate and what's not. Luckily, there's so much information available, so you can research a lot of stuff before signing that check! Ask fellow parents in your area. And there are a ton of forums where you can ask questions, if you don't find the answer to what you're looking for.
Here are some articles by casting director Lana Veenker (Twilight) regarding scams:
You will never have to pay your agent upfront. They only make money when YOU make money. 10% union work, no more than that. Non-union work differs between agents and markets, but I think it's generally about 15%. If an agent asks you to pay to get signed up with them, RUN! Also, no agency is allowed to have classes associated with them. Same with photographers. They can recommend certain teachers, studios, and photographers, but THAT'S IT.
Speaking of photographers...even kids need headshots! But to tell you the truth, I'm really not sure about the details on this. Kids' looks change so quickly, so you obviously won't want to spend a lot of money on new headshots every 6 months. But at the same time, it's very important that they look like their headshot. I use Reproductions for my copies. I get the kind that allows you to print your resume on the back...I love that—I can just print it off before my audition, that way my resume is always current. You can also get postcards and business cards from them. I have my business cards from them, but the next time I plan on using another company. These can be pretty cheaply made at a place like VistaPrint.
You can ask your agent or find out from some of the books what's best to do for child headshots.
A few great (free) resources that I find invaluable are:
The Actor's Voice
Tools 4 Actors
Casting Networks' Newsletter (I signed up through here: http://home.castingnetworks.com/ It should be free. I don't use it to submit myself to projects, but I love their newsletters. For submissions, I use Actors Access and NowCasting.)
Cathy Reinking (She's also just started a newsletter, so subscribe to that)
Answers for Actors
Brains of Minerva
IMDb Pro.(That will give you everyone's updated contact info. EVERYONE. Among other things!)
I also subscribe to several sources like Variety, Hollywood Reporter, etc., so I know what's going on. Who's directing what, what scripts are being written, what production company just hired who...everything.
For those of you in Colorado, get on CASA— It's the CO film community. Or one of them, at any rate.It's free to join and hooks you up with fellow actors (of all ages), crewmembers, directors, producers, casting directors, and everything in between. Every state has their own community like this--search it out and ask around if you don't know what it's called. :)
Read them. Subscribe to them. Follow their advice. There are so many more, but that's a pretty decent start. :) Because I subscribe to these, I have them in my online reader (Google Reader), and can get all of this in one place. Saves a heckuva lot of time, lemme tell ya! I check my reader almost daily.
Like I said before, it's a business. And a lot of it takes a LOT of time. Like reading all of the above! That's several hours, right there. And then there's marketing, self-promotion, social networks, studying, working on lines, etc. And we do all of this without getting paid. All of this is done to get us the next gig that WILL pay.
On Facebook and Twitter, you can follow a lot of CDs (casting directors), actors, directors, producers, etc. that also give out a lot of info and helpful advice. There's one MAJOR commercial agency in LA who has a Twitter account anonymously. http://twitter.com/#!/TalentAgentLA
You can look at the people I follow on Twitter to get an idea. :) www.twitter.com/ChristaCannon
I haven't even gone into union vs. non-union...SAG/AFTRA/AGVA/AEA, etc. Mainly because if you're just starting out, you've got enough to worry about. Get some experience under the belt and then start thinking about whether or not your child should be (or can be) in a union.
I think that's it for now! I'll leave you with this little checklist I found somewhere:
9 Things to consider before breaking into the ‘biz
1. Emphasize academics. Your child should be doing well in school and make academics his priority.
2. Points to ponder. How will your child deal with success should that happen? Does he have a good self esteem so his view of himself doesn’t rise or fall with every audition?
3. Consider the cost. Training, classes, auditions, rehearsals and performances are a huge time commitment, as is time you may need to help your child learn lines or prepare in other ways.
4. Do not pursue getting your child into show business until he expresses a genuine interest, and you both explore the commitment.
5. Be committed to helping your child in the process while still separating your emotions from the business.
6. Find your focus. If your child doesn’t know if he wants to do stage, film, commercials or print work, remain open to all of these experiences until he finds his niche.
7. Practice professionalism. When a child is paid to do professional work, he needs to develop a professional mentality and handle it with poise and patience.
8. Help your child deal with audition rejections. Encourage him to see what he can learn from the experience and be willing to audition again.
9. Remember every class, audition, performance and/or show is an opportunity for growth and networking possibilities. Be open to all experiences.
I hope some of this was useful to you and provided some insight into seeking a career in this industry! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask! In the meantime...
Break a Leg!
Missed the first 2 parts in this series? Never fear! Parts I and II are here!!!