About four years ago, my two boys got involved in the modeling/acting business. Going in, we had no idea what to expect and, primarily, decided to let them do it out of curiosity and for fun. I do, however, admit that in the back of my mind, I had visions of them starring in a movie with Jennifer Anniston or Johnny Depp. Selfishly, I viewed this as my only opportunity to be in the presence of the Hollywood elite, without being separated by a velvet rope. Unfortunately, after a short time being in “the business,” I had to come to terms with the fact that any chance of walking among my favorite movie stars was extremely remote. It doesn’t take long for you learn that it is extremely unlikely that your child will get selected for a major acting or modeling job. However, if you are okay with that and if you keep in mind some of the tips below, it can turn out to be a very positive experience for the parent and the child.
Here are some of the things we learned along the way:
Be prepared for rejection:
This is one of most important lessons that every parent or child model/actor must learn. You need to understand that there are typically few auditions (or “go sees” for print ad work) during any given month and there may be hundreds of kids competing against each other for each job. Additionally, no matter how cute, attractive, funny, smart, or talented your child may be, sometimes the people doing the casting or hiring have a very narrow idea of what they are looking for. For example, in ads or roles involving a family, the chances of being hired may depend solely upon whether your child happens to be a good match with the selected parents. That was the case with two of the jobs that my son was selected for. The people in charge of those jobs had already chosen a Caucasian father and an Asian-American mother to be in their ad. My son, who is a mix of Japanese, Canadian and Mexican, was one of the few that looked like a nice blend between both of the chosen parents. As a result, he got the job.
The bottom line is that the odds of your child getting picked for a job are slim. I’d estimate that my boys have been selected for about 1 out of every 10 opportunities. That makes for a bad batting average for a baseball player but, for a child model/actor, that’s probably pretty good.
Don’t expect to make a lot of money:
Most of the jobs that my boys have done were for clothing companies. They’ve been seen in newspapers, magazines, catalogs, in store,s and on the Internet. The typical pay was between $100 and $300 for a few hours of work. If you’re lucky enough to land one of the bigger ad campaigns, the amount of pay goes up considerably since it involves much more work.
What you need to keep in mind, however, is the fact that there are also costs associated with having your child in the business. The agent must be paid (typically a percentage of the amount your child receives for the job) and, for the parent, there’s the expense of gas and parking when traveling to the many different auditions. In addition, every couple of years, your child needs to get professional photographs taken for their “headshots” and/or resumes. Also, if your kids are like mine, whenever we are away from our home for more than two hours, they need to be fed and/or hydrated. That always ends up adding several dollars to the cost of each audition.
Know your child’s limitations:
If your child has a short attention span, is uncomfortable posing or acting in front of a camera or has a hard time following instructions, this is probably not the type of thing you should be getting him or her into. This business involves a lot of “down time.” At the audition, they often have to sit around for a long period of time before they finally get asked to go in and “do their thing.” Often, there’s a call back which, thankfully, will usually take a shorter amount of time. If you are lucky enough to get the job, your child may have to go to a fitting (which involves a bit of waiting and a lot of patience as they are asked to try on several different outfits). On the day of the shoot, there’s even more sitting around as they wait for everything to be set up and to be ready for their “big moment.” As one would expect, it takes a lot of work to get the perfect shot and, unfortunately, that requires both time and patience on the part of all involved.
Of course, once your child gets his or her time in front of the camera, they need to be able to listen to the photographer or director and do what is asked, again and again and again. Standing in one spot isn’t easy for any child but, to be successful, they need to be able to do so and, hopefully, they will do it without showing their frustration or boredom.
Remember, this is work and, although they make every effort to make it easy on them, to do it right, to get the results they are looking for, the people in charge need a certain amount of patience and professionalism from your child.
As noted above, chances are your child is not going to become a celebrity or become wealthy from this line of work. However, if they have a passion for it or if they enjoy the process involved with this business, then go for it. With the right attitude and a good understanding of what you are getting yourselves into, I think you’ll find that this can be a fun experience.