Does your son or daughter have stars in their eyes and big Hollywood dreams? Find out how to tell if your child is ready for their acting debut–and the right things to work on–in this guest post by Glendale, CA teacher Nicole E...
Your child is the most special and precious thing in the world to you, but how do know if they are ready for the real world of a working actor? Lets face it, there are hundreds of kids arriving in LA everyday with the same hopes and dreams, and a lot of them have more experience or better connections. Living in LA is expensive, driving to and managing auditions can be extremely stressful, and facing constant rejection is hard for any adult, much less a young child.
So how do you know if it’s all worth it? In my time teaching classes at a “find you at the mall” kind of place, I learned how to distinguish between the kids who actually had talent, and the kids who were being scammed. There were parents who were struggling to pay their bills yet were dishing out thousands of dollars on acting classes for kids, fueled by the idea that their child would become a gold mine. In reality, that’s almost never the case.
The most important question you can ask yourself is “Why are we really doing this?”. If it’s for money–you will fail. Fame–you will fail. Pretty much any reason other than your child having a burning passion for what they do–you will fail. This may seem harsh, but in this industry you have to be able to separate yourself from the parent role and look at things from an outside perspective. You can be the best actor mom in the world, but booking the job is up to them. In order for a child actor to work they have to master three very important qualities:
1. Articulation – You would be amazed at how many children struggle to say their own name when put under pressure. You have to work with your child on delivering a clean, clear slate (name, age representation). When a casting director is seeing 100 kids for one line in a commercial, any mumbling or a lack of projection can be reason enough not to forward you on to the director.
2. Memorization – If your child starts booking acting jobs, they will be expected to perform at the level of adult working actors. They will have a call time, and they will have lines. Whether your child is at reading age or not, you must always be 100% off-book when you arrive on set. The best thing you can do to prepare them is to practice memorization in all aspects of life. Have them relay the plot of a movie you just watched, sing songs without looking at the lyrics, remember the grocery list, or recite the alphabet; anything you can do to stretch their memory will benefit you when it comes time to work.
3. Stage Presence – There is simply no room for shyness in an audition room. Your child will have to walk into a room full of strangers and look them in the eyes. Your child has to be okay with being seen. Notice how your child responds to attention, ask their teachers how they respond when being called on in class, and ask them to preform for family members to see if they clam up or shine under the pressure. If your child is constantly putting on shows for you in the living room, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will do the same when commanded to. Work with your child to achieve a level of professionalism that will stand out. They will start to understand that when audition time comes, they need to shift into working mode and deliver. Have your child introduce themselves when meeting new people or have them perform for people whom they may not be as comfortable around. It’s all about stretching that comfort zone.
All of these points can be practiced at home, however your child can benefit greatly from professional coaching and acting classes for kids. You can lay the groundwork, but there will always be a clear separation between the children who are trained and the ones who are not. You want to give your child as many tools as possible so that they feel ready and capable of delivering a solid performance.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars a month, but you do need to find an acting coach that your child is comfortable with. This may take time, but it will be worth it when you see them start to hone their craft and become little professionals. The journey for child actors can be a long and difficult one, and it’s your job to make sure their egos and self-esteem stay intact. Focus on delivering a good performance every time, as opposed to booking the job, and be sure to let your child know that you are proud of them no matter what. The tools mentioned above are important, but the biggest thing you can give your child is support.
Nicole E. teaches acting in Glendale, CA. She attended New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, and taught classes for International Preforming Arts Academy for two years. Learn more about Nicole here!
Photo by Javcon117*