By MIKAYLA CARTER
Becoming a “successful” child actor or actress is not as easy as people may think. Getting an agent to represent you, taking head shots, creating resumes and profiles, finding a manager, and meeting paperwork/bank account requirements is necessary before you will even receive auditions. Not to mention, having the right attitude, talent and ambition to cope with the long days on set after accomplishing all the rest.
Agents: Making yourself stand out is one of the hardest parts. The glamorized way in which the industry display, where one “gets discovered”, almost never happens. Getting an agent is the most crucial step in pursuing an acting career. Agents are the ones who find the auditions that match you. Their job is to see what casting directors are looking for and to submit your online profile to determine whether you will receive an audition opportunity. They have connections to directors, producers and casting networks that you personally will never be able to obtain if you are looking for quality auditions. You should NEVER have to pay out of pocket for an agent. If you’re ever approached, or you find an agent and they ask for a co-pay or down payment, it is a scam. Agents get paid on a commission basis. When you get payed for a role they get a percent of your paycheck (typically 15-20%). This motivates them to send you quality auditions that pay well.
Getting an Agent:
1. Get professional headshots!
2. Search online for talent agencies that may interest you. If you’re interested in commercial, theatre, print, or modeling it’s important to read about the various agencies to see what the focus on.
3. Send your headshots and a resume to multiple agencies (don’t put all your eggs in one basket).
4. Wait for a response. This is arguably the most stressful part, this could take days or weeks. Its estimated you only have a 30% chance of getting an agent to even respond, and then 10% of those contacted will actually work out. If you don’t hear back from any agencies, send your headshots and resume again, or find more agencies that interest you. After getting a response, the agent will ask to meet with you in person. This is simply for you to get to know each other and an opportunity to see if you are compatible working together. Don’t be intimidated in meeting a potential agent. Remember that they work for you just as much as you work for them. It’s a partnership in your acting career and an opportunity to see if you want them to represent you.
Once you have an agent, be prepared for a long list of things to do before getting to the exciting stuff. Part of this is creating an online resume and profile that lists a variety of skills and talents that you have. It will include your headshots, height, weight, clothing sizes, and any acting that you have done in the past. It will show if you are beginner, intermediate, or advanced in any of the skills you have checked off as “things you know how to do.” The more advanced your ability, the more likely you will be recommended by your agent for a part that needs that skill.
Actors Under 18: Before your agent can submit you for any role, you need to have your paperwork and bank accounts squared away. A Coogan Trustee Account is extremely important if you are a child. To the state and to the casting directors, it is the law that 20% of a child’s earnings are essentially “reserved” and will go into the trust account that will remain untouched until age 18. A young actor also has to have an Entertainment Work Permit. That is what allows you to do the acting job in the first place. Without the work permit, you are not meeting the requirements of the law and so you won’t be able to work in the industry as a minor. Having a checking account is very helpful for managing the funds that are left over, but it isn’t required.
Auditioning Process: Once your agent has submitted you for a role and you have an audition, you’ll most likely get an email with the audition details (time, place, pay, description of role, and lines). Auditions are typically sent with no more than 2 days notice, most likely they come across the day before your audition time. Most people (including me) imagine auditions to be this grand production in a major studio with the directors, producers and maybe even some celebrities, and after you recite your lines you nervously wait for someone to scream “NEXT!” But in reality, it’s a small room with 4 walls, a camera, a piece of tape on the ground telling you where to stand, and a couple of judges sitting on a couch. Every audition will begin with a slate. A slate is simply looking directly at the camera and saying your name, age, who your represented by, followed by your profile. In example, “Hello, my name is Mikayla Carter, I am 16 years old and I am represented by Belinda Irons at SF Top Talent” *turn to the left pause, turn to the right pause, face forward*. Keep in mind that the people in the audition room are not the decision makers, so it’s important to let your personality show through the camera.
You should know if you received the part within 10 days. If there is no phone call from your agent in that time, then you didn’t get it. If you do get a call for a “fitting”, then you received the role. Fittings are where you try on a variety of potential outfits for whatever role you got and you also have your pictures taken. Shoot dates are also given at this time.
If you are passionate about acting and you allow that to show, you will succeed. Don’t feel down if you don’t get every part. Remember, casting agents are extremely picky. Some actors will go through months of consistently auditioning before they get a role. Positivity is key.