Your child wants to be a performer. You go to the mall and pay big bucks for glamour shots, perhaps even hair and make-up for the photos. Then you hear ads on the radio how your child can be Disney’s next big star so you call the 800#, make an appointment, hand over your credit card and… nothing.
Screeeeech! Hold on, back up. Unfortunately, the above scenario is all too true. But this is not how it really works.
If you’re looking for representation for your aspiring child actor, please read this article in its entirety so you have an understanding of what legitimate talent agencies are looking for, the top seven agencies in New York and how they operate regarding SAG-AFTRA jurisdictions.
What Talent Agencies Are Looking For in a Child Actor
Robin Dornbaum has been a commercial agent and owner of Jordan, Gill & Dornbaum for the last 30 years.
She has booked thousands of kids and teens on commercials for Coke, Apple, Microsoft, McDonalds, Nike — pretty much every product out there. Her agency currently reps: Sofia Hublitz (Netflix “Ozark”), Aubrey Joseph (Freeform’s “Cloak and Dagger”), Max Simkins (Disney “Bizaardvark”, Kim Hushable), Ruby Jerins (HBO “Divorce”, “Almost Family”), Katie Beth Hall (The reboot at Disney+ of “Home Alone”), Caleb Z. Smith (ABC’s For Life”), and many others in Film and Television.
Robin gives it to us straight about what she’s looking for in youth performers:
“I have been a youth agent for well over 30 years which means I have met thousands of children and young adults who want to be on stage, screen, or television. Most are driven by the desire to perform — which when you are a minor is pretty much all you need!
“However, as a parent of a driven child, you need to understand that this is first and foremost a business. And if you want your child to succeed, it is your job as a parent to get educated. When I meet a young performer that I am interested in representing, my meeting with the parent is equally as important. I need to know that the parent is committed to having their child prepared for auditions, and readily available to rearrange schedules to accommodate auditions. I work very hard to get my clients seen by casting directors, and I expect the talent to show up and be on time. It is important to remember that there are many talented kids out there who would do anything just for the privilege of getting an audition.
“What is so interesting about this business is that there is no one way to become successful. You can have the most talented child in the world, yet if they don’t get in the rooms where it all happens, it is harder to succeed. Everyone has heard stories of children being discovered and overnight they become a ‘star’, but in reality, the majority of my clients have worked years in the business before they land the role that makes them known. I have had clients who have been requested for television shows after they were seen on a commercial, or film auditions from being seen on a print ad. Everything you do can be a stepping stone to success. My best parents are the ones who educate themselves about the business, who know what it takes to get started, and who can oversee the many opportunities that come their way, while balancing out the rest of their family’s needs.
“For Teenagers who want to start in the business, building their resumes by performing as much as they can is the first step. We also are looking for well rounded teens; ones who pursue a variety of activities. For me, confidence equals bookings.”
The Top 7 New York Talent Agencies for Youth / Child Actors
PLEASE NOTE: The list is in alphabetical order.
Some of the agencies below have strict instructions on their website on how to submit, so please go to their site first to view submission details.
ABRAMS ARTISTS AGENCY
50 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10118
CARSON ADLER AGENCY INC.
250 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10107
333 Seventh Ave.
New York, NY 10001 USAm
DON BUCHWALD AND ASSOCIATES
10 East 44th Street
New York, NY, 10017
JORDAN, GILL & DORNBAUM TALENT AGENCY INC. (JGD)
New York, NY 10018
UNITED TALENT AGENCY (UTA)
888 7th Ave.
New York, NY 10106
WILLIAM MORRIS ENDEAVOR
11 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10010
Information About SAG-AFTRA Agencies
NYCastings interviewed a SAG-AFTRA Spokesperson to help get a better understanding of agencies that work with SAG-AFTRA, the union for performers.
SAG-AFTRA represents approximately 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcasters journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals. SAG-AFTRA members are the faces and voices that entertain and inform America and the world. With national offices in Los Angeles and New York, and local offices nationwide, SAG-AFTRA members work together to secure the strongest protections for media artists into the 21st century and beyond.
The SAG-AFTRA Spokesperson answered our questions:
What is the definition of a SAG-AFTRA franchised Agent?
Agencies that have agreed to be bound under either the SAG Agency Regulations or the AFTRA Agency Regulations. Our members are required to choose from either of those two lists if they want to hire an agent to represent them in any area where SAG-AFTRA has exercised jurisdiction.
Why are some agents SAG franchised and others AFTRA franchised?
These are legacy lists that existed prior to the SAG-AFTRA merger and we have continued to administer both lists post-merger.
If the answer to #2 has something to do with when SAG and AFTRA joined together, then how come the agencies are still separated?
SAG-AFTRA continues to administer both sets of agency lists until such time when a new, unified agency agreement is negotiated to cover all agencies – that has not happened yet, therefore, we continue to maintain and administer both lists.
Is there a difference between a “SAG/AFTRA franchised agency” shown on your website and a “talent agency?”
Yes. Talent agencies are usually required to only be licensed by the State in which they operate. In order to call themselves franchised, however, they must also agree to sign on to the SAG or AFTRA agency regulations so that our members can be represented by them. When they do this, they are not only licensed talent agents but they become SAG-AFTRA franchised talent agents, too. This serves as an additional layer of protection for our members.
Is there a fee for an agency to be SAG/AFTRA franchised? How much?
No, although all of our franchised talent agents have to secure a bond – the amount of which may vary from one jurisdiction to another. Again, another layer of protection for our members.
For new agencies that want to be SAG/AFTRA franchised, how do they know if they should pick SAG or AFTRA?
In order to be fully protected for all areas in which our members work, we encourage new applicants to complete both sets of applications, SAG and AFTRA, which the overwhelming majority of them usually do.