Most anyone who had the opportunity to learn something about acting when they were a kid would agree: there is no experience in the world that can match it.
For helping a youngster gain confidence, meet new friends, learn valuable skills he or she can use throughout life—and just plain have fun—there is no joy in the world like the joy of a child actor.
There’s also never been a better time than right now for a child actor with a bit of experience to pursue professional-level roles. There are more television channels, more films, and more commercials looking for child actors right now than at any point in history.
So hey, why not your kid, right?
Well, one big caveat to keep in mind is that, even with so many opportunities out there for kids and adults alike to find acting work, there is nonetheless tons of competition. Just because you think your kid is cute is no reason to assume he or she is going to succeed immediately when it comes to professional-level auditions.
But that’s not meant to discourage the dream—instead let’s find some ways to make it a reality. Since the first step to getting cast is the audition, here are some ways you can help your budding thespian go out to read with the utmost chance of success!
1. Practice Makes Perfect
As mentioned above, we all agree with you 100% that your kid is the cutest, awesomest, bestest little actor in the whole wide world, hands down. Did I say 100%? Nay, 1000%, obviously! However, having acknowledged the stunning glory that is the fruit of your loins, let’s keep in mind that every other parent at the audition feels the same way. And here’s the thing: the casting director is only going to pick one kid for each role on offer. So make sure your adorable child has the best tools available to stand out from the adorable crowd. In other words, that one acting class little Madison took at summer camp a couple years ago ain’t gonna cut it in this uber-competitive age. You should make sure your child is continually in classes, having fun and doing things he or she enjoys, while learning a variety of skills: dance of various kinds, singing, improv work and just fun, playful acting classes with exercises of various kinds. One type of class you always hear CDs mention when it comes to child performers is on-camera audition classes. In the audition your child will just have a tiny moment to show the casting team something, and their comfort level in front of the camera can make or break their chances. Performing begets more comfort with performance, and that includes not only the type of performance kids do for each other and for their acting coach in class, but also their comfort level in front of the camera under the pressure of an audition.
2. Go Community, Go Indie
And while we’re on the subject of gaining experience in performing, just because we’re working on helping your child ramp up to nailing some professional auditions is no reason to turn up your nose at amateur or non-paying roles. As any parent knows, children are sponges for information and experience, and every experience in acting helps them get better. Even if you can’t measure the improvement in acting in your child after, say, playing a single small role in a community theater production or in a low/no-pay indie or student film, one thing that’s certain is that they become more comfortable performing with each performance they give. And as mentioned above, comfort level is a huge part of the equation when it comes to making your kid an audition pro.
3. Help Them, But Help Them Help Themselves
One big plus for the auditioning child actor that CDs and directors love to see is a kid who can change it up. While every parent wants to ensure that their little actor is as ready as possible for his or her close-up, and will thus coach and rehearse with them as much as necessary, it’s important that in your parental enthusiasm for getting your kid ready for the read you don’t rehearse them into a box. If the CD asks your child to try something different but gets the exact same read every time, that’s going to work against him or her. Forced, awkward line readings that have been drilled into a young actor to the point where they are unchangeable don’t do him or her any favors. Same goes for over-enthusiastic parents who coach their kids in planned gestures and facial expressions, especially if the actor can’t adjust them. In fact, a great way to get your kid a head start on the necessary skills to becoming a flexible actor capable of making adjustments is to get them started on improv early on. A good improv teacher/coach will give kids sufficient free rein to play and ensure they’re having fun—as kids are wont to do—while still helping them learn how to focus in on the necessary mindset for learning how to improvise.
4. Sometimes the Clothes Do Not Make the…Kid
I want you to take a journey with me now: remember when you were a kid and your parents dressed you up for some big occasion, say church or a wedding? Do you remember how you felt in those clothes, those awful, awful clothes that you would never in a million years pick out for yourself, but which every adult you encountered told you made you look “just like a little gentleman” or “a little lady?” Now imagine being forced to wear that horrible clip-on tie or sweater vest or that hideous dress you hated with every ounce of your soul and then being asked to step in front of a camera in front of strangers and “act naturally.” Not a great recipe for success, is it? So to put it simply, as in every other note above, excellent training is paramount, but getting your child comfortable in front of the casting director is a close second for ensuring a professional, successful read. With the exception of Batman costumes, pajamas, or mud-covered play clothes, get your kid in clothing they choose, clothes that give them confidence and allow them feel like themselves when they walk into that room.
5. Keep It Light, Keep It in Perspective
It’s a difficult thing for any actor, no matter their age, but this is a business in which the answer “No” is going to outnumber “Yes” by a lot, when it comes to getting cast. You can help your child (and yourself) develop a healthy attitude toward this aspect of the business by remembering that oftentimes it takes dozens of reads before a new actor will get cast. Emphasize the fun of auditioning and getting to play new roles. Nurture that sense that this is indeed PLAY as part of their auditions. Talk about the fun people you are both meeting at the auditions, the other actors, as well as the CDs and production assistants, because you will run in to the same people over and over (thus building your child’s network in the business!) It also helps to get your child to think of each audition as a little performance, and thus a chance to get better—because that’s exactly what is happening! Finally, as with adult actors, there is always, always, always another audition right around the corner: focus on moving forward and nailing the next audition while teaching them not to dwell on the one that got away, and you will help to make your child not only a strong, healthy, grounded actor, but a well-adjusted human as well!