Many newcomers ask the same questions about starting Kids in the Biz... So a CAO parent compiled a quick tip sheet that Kids in Biz moderator, Theresa Tova, edited and added to:
This business is such a gamble of time and ego. There is a great deal to consider. It can be a life altering path for your child and family. Children must in the end be allowed to live a child's life. Don't be star struck, don't forget to be a parent and protect your child and this industry can be a magical and very rewarding place for both children and parents.
As a parent are you up to this?? It is a lot of hard work and takes up a lot of your time. You need a very flexible schedule. Parents do 99% of the work.
Audition calls can come in the morning for an afternoon audition. If you are not available and you turn them down, the agent will move on to someone else. This business is not for everyone, it is not all fun and games and you as a parent must be organized and flexible. You must always be ready at a moments notice and as a parent you must always be on set with your child. Remember this can mean up to 12 hours a day for a child over 12 years old and up to10 hours a day for school age children. Babies hours of work are restricted to so many minutes before lights every hour, but you can still be on a set with a baby for a full day.
Your child and YOU must be able to deal with the fact you don't get every job you go for. The agent may call five times a week or once in awhile. It all depends on the age of your child and what the market is looking for. A child actor must be ready to meet new faces. If you have a toddler that cries whenever they see a new face, forget it for now. Your child has to be outgoing and comfortable with all new faces. A child should really be old enough to understand this is not playtime or a game but a job. Age 4-6 is an ideal starting age, depending on the child's personality, availability, talent, and of course, luck.
The modeling and acting industries have taken quite a beating lately with the prevalence of disreputable agencies. These agencies claim to be part of the legitimate industry but are really in business to defraud thousands of people every year out of millions of dollars. "There is a sucker born every minute" Their methods include bogus guarantees of work, high upfront registration fees, contracts requiring clients to purchase their services such as photos, internet pages and acting classes all at inflated prices. Individual agents are not allowed to advertise.
Legit agents follow a code of ethics, either with TAMAC (Talent Agents and Managers Association of Canada) and or the EIC (Entertainment Industry Coalition). It is very important for parents to investigate agencies before signing on the dotted line.
How do I find a reputable agent for my child???
RESEARCH, research and then more research
Parents starting out need to understand there are policing bodies in the industry to help. Scam artists will always prey on the dreams of the uninformed. So get informed by doing your research.
Ask questions of the unions: ACTRA (the Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists), UBCP (BC Branch of the ACTRA Performers Guild) and A.M.I.S., a modeling site for people in Ontario.
Ask questions of other parents and even casting directors. Interview the agents, use your common sense. If you don't ask questions and you pay upfront and enroll your kids in an agency's classes you will get burnt. You can contact your local ACTRA office for a list of reputable agents in your area.
Seasoned film and television professionals, moms and agents are here at CanadianActor Online (CAO) to help you with any questions you have. Especially useful on to "newbies" is the CAO Kids in the Biz discussion board. You can read all the questions and answer, but to pose a question on the board you have to register--a simple process that will take only a couple of minutes. For the Vancouver people out there another great site is www.vancouveractorsguide.com.
SUBMITTING TO A LEGIT AGENT
Once you have your list of reputable agents you can submit to the child agencies. When submitting you need:
- A letter requesting representation (cover letter)
- Photographs of your child (do not get professional head shots to submit to agents... a family snap shot of a natural, happy, smiling child will do)
- A self-addressed return envelope.
The letter should be business like and to the point. Include your name, address, phone number, your child's name, height, weight, age, hobbies, sports, interests and of course anything related to the entertainment business like dance, music, plays or theater.
The photos you submit should be free from costume pieces such as bows or hats and should be a full face view with the face taking up 80% of the frame. Smiles are a plus... agents want to know if the child has good teeth. A full body shot is a nice idea too and colour is a plus if the child has beautiful red hair or green eyes, etc....
Agents are very busy people and it may take awhile before they get back to you. You could follow up in a week or so to see if they received your child's package and ask f you could set up and interview time for them to meet your child.
Please remember that legit agents do not charge an up front fee to be on their roster. You may, however, pay a small yearly administration fee.
HURRY UP AND WAIT
Once you and an agent have decided to work together you will then wait for the call to come for your first audition. When the call comes from your agent, make sure you have a pen nearby and mark down all the details they may give you... which include all or part of:
- project name
- shooting dates
- casting agent
- time of audition
- any details the agent gives you on how to dress....
These details will become very important to you as you get to know the BIZ. Make sure you at least have a fax machine. It's an important tool of the Biz. The script or "sides" will be faxed to you as your child needs to learn them.
Get to any audition location at least 15 minutes early. That will give your child enough time to acclimatize and be settled before being rushed into a room to meet strangers...
I hope parents realize that children are taken into an audition room without you... that is the one and ONLY TIME children are allowed to be without parents on a set.... The producers and directors want to know how the child acts when he/she is on their own... For a toddler, this can be the scariest part and can quickly help you determine if a child is too young yet to try the BIZ.
BOOKING A JOB
Congratulations, your child's agent has called with a booking for a job. Get that pen and ask lots of questions... shoot dates can be changed from the ones you were given at the audition.... there can be considerations of outside shoots (rain days booked)..., night time shoots, etc...Your agent will tell you details about the contract they have negotiated for your child, rates, transportation arrangements, etc., etc... Does your child have a SIN number yet?
You will get a call from production (usually wardrobe department first). Make sure you have an up to date idea of your child's sizes, allergies, etc. The second Assistant Director will call with your call time. Do the best you can to bring a well rested child to set. A bag packed with toys, favourite books, homework, etc. is a must.
Remember to stay with your child at all times, even in the hair and make-up trailer. You don't want a hair cut or dye job you didn't agree to through your agent. Also, on set, stay near by but out of eye line when the actual scene starts to shoot. Don't be a distraction for your child but be there in case he/she needs you. Only a mom can tell if a child needs to go to the bathroom or is getting dehydrated under hot lights... and most importantly:
DON'T FORGET TO BE A PARENT.
GETTING BABY STARTED.........
To be a success in this business is to be educated about it so that you may avoid any pitfalls that may arise on the way.
These are some questions that parents frequently ask.
Q. Do I need a professional portfolio for my baby?
A. No you don't. Babies change so frequently that you will need new pictures approximately every three to four months. Therefore you should be able to use regular snapshots.
Q. Does my baby need to have any special training?
A. No. Babies are at their best when they do what comes natural to them. Smiling, laughing and looking cute in a diaper. That is usually all that a casting director will want to see your baby do anyway. No class is necessary for that.
Q. What makes a baby marketable?
A. Of course cute and happy babies get the jobs, however, casting directors want to hire a baby that is easy to work with. You may have an adorable baby but if she does not respond well to new people, she/he will not do well at an audition and probably won't get the job.
Q. How often will my baby go on auditions and are there any guarantees?
A. Nobody can forecast when your baby will be selected to be seen by a casting director. However, you may hear from your babies agent a few times in one month, then not hear from them for two months! That is the way this business is. Your baby will be called to go for an audition / go-see when a casting director is casting a project that has a need for your babies type (age, hair color, skin color, etc.)
No one can honestly guarantee that your baby will work Only the casting director has the authority to hire a baby for a project. Your agent can only get your baby's foot in the door for an audition. After that it's out of their hands.
Q. What if my baby gets called in for an audition during their nap time?
A. This could very well happen. It is something we as moms all must manage from time to time. Casting directors can not possibly cater to every babies nap time! You do the best you can at making your baby happy at the time of the audition and that's all you can do. Remember, all the other babies who were selected to be seen have the same problem. Also remember all the babies who were NOT selected to be seen who would LOVE the chance to be called in by the casting director.
Q. What is the earning potential for my baby?
A. Babies have earned as little as $200 and as much as $50,000. Commercials are big business and the union jobs with accompanying residuals are where the money really adds up.
This is a competitive business. There are a lot of cute babies out there. This is not a business you can take too seriously. Just have fun with it and hope that your baby is having a good day when you go for an audition!
Join the "Kids in the Biz" Discussion Board