Kids in Acting: How to Keep Your Child Actor Happy, Healthy, and Successful!
For those of us who have spent any time in the theater and film, there is nothing more heartening than seeing kids and teens who have been bitten by the acting bug. There is a joy and delight they bring to the work that is infectious, reminding older actors why we got into this business in the first place.
That said, there are of course pitfalls and challenges in the actor’s life, and that applies to child actors as much or even more so than to adults. But as long as you approach the work with yours and your child’s eyes wide open, and take a realistic view of what’s involved, there’s no reason that your kid’s acting can’t be a joy, or even turn into a long-term career. Here are a few ways to ensure that your child actor gets the most out of acting and stays healthy and happy in the process!
1. Getting started
First of all, it’s important for anyone breaking into acting to fully understand what they’re getting into, and this applies doubly to child actors. While a child-like openness is vital to any performance, both for grown-ups and kids, being childISH is not a recipe for success. Acting is fun and full of joy when done right, but there is hard work involved and it takes more than a little discipline. Having said that, the rewards for child actors who devote themselves to the craft are immeasurable, not only in terms of finding a successful niche that can turn in to a career, but also by developing the skills and discipline to achieve that success at an early age. The first step for your young thespian is of course learning the craft. There are tremendous opportunities for fun and learning the ropes for kid actors, but definitely make sure you know what to look for in a class. With the right teacher your budding player will not only learn the skills needed to be a successful actor. He or she will also have fun, make friends and develop confidence. It’s a good idea too to get a feel for what child actors themselves think about what they do, especially if your budding kid actor is younger. The vast majority of kids in acting lead lives that are virtually indistinguishable from those of their peers, but it takes some work to ensure their success, both in acting and life. And as a result you can often hear a refreshing maturity and sensible outlook when you talk to successful child actors.
2. The audition
The next step is of course the audition. And preparation is key to making sure your kid’s acting will be the focus in the audition, and that he or she will have the best shot possible at booking the role. And if you don’t know much about the audition process yourself, be sure to familiarize yourself with the nuts and bolts of what your child actor will be facing when he or she walks into that room. Regardless of how much personal experience you have in acting, you will still play a vital role as a teacher and keystone of your kid’s support network. As such you should do your best to educate yourself on the process as well as the craft, both the things your child actor should be doing and common traps for your kid actor to avoid. One big misunderstanding many parents of child actors have is also one many adult actors have: they think acting is acting, no matter the venue or medium. Nothing could be further from the truth. If your child actor is auditioning for a musical, he or she needs to approach the audition performance in a manner that is very different from that of a film audition. Very likely, given the demand for commercial talent these days, some of your child actor’s first work will be in auditioning for commercials. And while every parent thinks their child is the most adorable in the room and thus deserving of every reward, there are certain ways your kid actor can put him or herself at the front of the line when it comes to commercial auditions. Voiceovers are another burgeoning industry right now, and talented, disciplined child voice actors are always in demand.
3. The Real Work Begins
So your child has begun taking classes and developing the skill set needed to get cast successfully. He or she has started making the audition rounds and is getting used to the process, perhaps he or she has even booked a small role or two. First of all congrats, mom or dad or both! You must be doing something right for your child actor! But this stage of the game is critical to ensuring that your little thespian develops the right habits to secure for him or herself a lifelong love affair with acting. For one thing, no matter how successful your child actor is or has been, it’s important to drive home the truth that while acting is fun, it’s also a tough business that invariably involves rejection. Making sure your kid actor has the tools to understand that aspect of the business can help him or her to maintain a healthy love for acting. Of course, success breeds success. But the way we achieve success is by learning from our mistakes and working to improve on our weak spots. Ask even the most successful actor and they will invariably tell you that they never stop learning. Make sure your child actor understands what he or she did wrong or right and how improvements can be made. And then work on them! Practicing auditions–including entering the room, performing, and exiting after–with your child can be a fun bonding time as well as a valuable learning tool. Driving away after the audition is over doesn’t mean the work is over, not if your kid actor wants to be successful. In fact, being there and going over the audition with your child immediately afterward can be tremendously helpful–most adult actors don’t have the luxury of having someone we can bounce our audition experience off of while it’s still fresh! Take advantage of that–make debriefing after the audition a habit and a ritual and your kid’s audition game will improve dramatically. Keep in mind too that while sacrifices are a part of every actor’s life–and that includes child actors–it’s also a lot of FUN! Making sure it stays fun is a vital part of your job as the parent of a child actor.
Acting is not only a privilege and a discipline, it’s also a source of tremendous joy and fulfillment. Making sure your child actor understands this and maintains a healthy balance between the work aspect of acting and the fun of it will not only produce a healthy, happy little actor, it will also make him or her a better person in the long run.
Break lots of little legs!