Have you always thought that your child has what it takes to be one of those cute, talented kids that you see in commercials? Well, they absolutely can! But the truth is, many parents don’t know how to make that happen. But you’re in luck because in this article, we will talk about how you can make that happen for them sooner than later.
My name is Diana Ivelis, author of “Raising A Child Star”, a guide to navigating the entertainment industry for parents of aspiring child actors. Being a momager of three and having experience in working as a talent agent in a youth department at an agency in Los Angeles has taught me some of the key tools a child needs to successfully work in the commercial industry, and I coach parents of young performers on how to acquire those tools, use them and take the necessary steps to help their child become successful in this industry.
Let’s briefly go over some of the things your child needs to begin.
Personality. First, your child needs to have an upbeat, outgoing personality. They should welcome challenges and be open to meeting and working with people that they do not know closely. When your child is auditioning, they should be able to engage with casting without having a parent present. Depending on their age, you may be allowed to chaperone them into the audition room but for the most part they will be auditioning by themselves. Don't worry; you will be right outside the door, and it usually only takes a few minutes. Plus, these rooms almost always have multiple casting directors/casting assistants, so you should feel comfortable letting your child audition.
Work permits. Work permits are required for minors to work on set legally and are needed in all of the major filming states in the country. Unless you need one right away for a booking, applications are free and only require paperwork to be filled out along with identification. Below you will find the links to the applications for New York, Georgia and California. Some states have permits that need to be applied for before a booking and will cover the child for work over a length of time whereas others require production to apply for a permit for each child per production, in this case production will supply you with the paperwork that you and the school will have to sign.
Training. It’s a good idea to get your child into on-camera and commercial acting classes. The names of these classes are self-explanatory, but there is another super important class that a lot of actors take and see success from and those are improvisation classes. Improv classes are where you learn how to improvise and think on your feet. Casting directors love to see this on an actor's resume. Now keep in mind that if your child is about five or under there probably won't be any classes that take kids that young, but it's totally okay because at this age they are often booked on cuteness, personality, and their ability to follow directions.
Headshots. In order for you or your child’s representation to submit them for opportunities, they will need headshots. Commercial headshots are usually used to submit for auditions where there is a promotion involved like commercials. These pictures are usually taken while smiling—we suggest them showing teeth because the shape of the actor's teeth can be significant to the character. They should be natural, but energetic. Their eyes should show lots of personality. A commercial shot should have charisma and be relatable and engaging. Commercial shots should never be flat but look like they are capturing moments.
Coogan Accounts. These accounts are required for the protection of the child. Every time a child works on a professional set, when they get paid, 15% of their pay is deducted and deposited into this account. Now, this amount is deducted by the production's payroll company before the check reaches their agent and before the check is released to you. This 15% is kept in this account until the child turns 18 years old to ensure that they have savings for the time that they work in the industry. Some states accept the UGMA or UTMA account instead. Keep in mind that in California, you must have a California based Coogan account, meaning it must have been opened in California.
These are the most important aspects of getting started and if you follow these tips, they’ll be well on their way. Even if they are already getting auditions and booking smaller gigs here and there, these are still things you need to know. Getting started is great, but getting started right is even greater!
So now that you know what to do to get started, I’ll give you one greater gem by answering one of the top questions parents ask when trying to get their kids started in the industry…
“How do I find these commercial jobs?”
The answer is likely simpler than you think it is… Register for a profile on Casting Networks. Casting Networks is one of the many online platforms where performers, their parents and their representation can see what jobs are available. You can then submit your child's headshot for consideration. If they have experience, you can also attach samples of their work to the submission.
And lastly, I couldn’t resist… just one more valuable piece of information (for now)... If your child books something big or if you are looking to take things to the next level, then your child will need a talent agent. Most agencies have different departments, commercial being one of them, and some are just commercial agencies. If you have no intention of your child ever getting into TV and film then a commercial agent is the way to go, but I suggest that you submit your child to agencies that cover all bases in case your child surprises you and wants to expand.
If you would love a Free copy of my book “Raising A Child Star”, visit www.raisingachildstar.com for more details!