So your child wants to be an actor: Here's what you need to knowNov 04, 2023
From guest blogger Lisa Zeltzer
Just shy of age seven, my son, Charlie, delivered the musical performance of a lifetime as a scrawny Maui in his community theatre production of Moana. He stood grinning in his oversized costume, holding his final pose with such conviction and confidence that my husband and I teared up.
Born to perform
We knew this kid was meant for the stage. By the age of four, he was strumming his uke and delivering impassioned renditions of heartbreaking songs like Pearl Jam’s Last Kiss for the neighbours. As an athlete, he finished last in every race and preferred distracting his soccer opponents with clever wordplay and super cool dance moves rather than making contact with the ball. But as a performer, you couldn’t help but notice him.
At the end of his Moana performance, Charlie's teachers suggested we get him a talent agent. We were flattered but brushed off the idea. What did an occupational therapist and a software entrepreneur know about showbiz?
We would have put this behind us, except Charlie had thoughts: What's a talent agent? How do I get a talent agent? Can I have a talent agent?
As a Jewish mom, guilt is my specialty. How could I disregard my seven-year-old’s campaign to fulfill his destiny as a performer? I made inquiries. To keep a long story short, I cold-called some of the talent agents in our city. Charlie auditioned for two of them and ultimately signed with one.
He’s now a tween and has gained experience acting alongside pros like Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Lori Loughlin and Nick Robinson. This year, he performed eight shows a week in the Toronto Mirvish Production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He did this while balancing middle school, a social life and his regular voiceover gig as Percy in Thomas & Friends.
Parents often ask me how to get their budding stars into the business. Here’s what I tell them:
It’s hard work
Does your child just want to see themselves on TV, or do they love acting? Make sure they’re up for it. Sign them up for acting classes or community theatre, and see how they shine. Is it a battle to get them to learn their lines, or are they motivated? Do they incorporate direction well?
Where to start
A great way to explore professional acting is to submit your kid to open casting calls. These are jobs where you don’t need experience or an agent to audition. Follow some casting directors in your area on social media, as they often post opportunities. You can also sign up for their mailing lists and receive emails for open calls. If your kid takes memorizing lines, recording the self-tape and handling any rejections in their stride, they are ready for a talent agent. In our house, we always say the audition is the job and the time on set is the reward.
When one kid’s in the business, the whole family’s in the business
Our eight-year-old memorizes her brother’s lines and has gone weeks seeing only one parent while the other is accompanying Charlie on set. “Quiet on set” is yelled more than I care to admit at our house when we’re helping Charlie hammer out another self-tape in our too-small basement. And yes, you become an actor, too, because every audition will require someone to read the other character’s lines. Your kid must always be accompanied by a parent or chaperone on set, which means having help or a flexible work arrangement is essential. You cannot bring your other kids on set, so it’s often a divide-and-conquer situation.
If successful, your child will miss out on lots of stuff
Recently, we had to pull Charlie from overnight camp and push our family vacation for a job he booked at the last minute. Charlie has missed months of school, best friend's birthday parties, sleepovers and vacations. Depending on how much school is missed, your child may have an on-set tutor for a couple of hours a day until the project wraps.
Some extra considerations:
It shouldn’t cost you anything
I’ve heard of parents being told they must pay for costly workshops, including extravagant expenses like a trip to LA, before signing with an agent. In our experience, working with an agent should cost you nothing beyond incidentals like headshots and memberships to auditioning platforms like Casting Workbook and Actors Access.
The life skills child actors develop are invaluable
Child actors can work a room. They are confident, they are polite, and they know how to talk to adults. There is no better preparation for future job interviews.
Resilience-building. It’s a saturated market, and industry kids face a lot of rejection. Charlie has learned to "audition and forget" because, generally, there’s no feedback on auditions unless he books the gig.
Strong work ethic. These kids are balancing a lot, and the demands are often last minute. Charlie has had pages of lines to learn for an audition due the next day. Child actors know how to work hard and prioritize.
I asked Charlie his advice for any child who wants to become an actor. Here’s what he said.
“Make sure you really love acting because it is a lot of work.”
So there you have it.
Lisa Zeltzer is a Toronto-based freelance health and lifestyle writer with a complementary background in healthcare. She is passionate about telling stories that are relatable and easily digestible. When she’s not working, she can be found embarrassing her tween son by just existing or driving to and from hockey with her eight-year-old daughter. If you’d like to read more of her work or just say hello, find her at: www.lisazeltzer.com
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