7 Steps to Getting Your Child into Acting
Sometimes parents take their child to drama classes or weekend stage school to let off some steam. Sometimes it’s just for some peace and quiet. Occasionally that child will come back and tell their parent that they want to be an actor.
Here are some tips and ways to navigate you through the process of getting your child into acting.
1. Foster and Inspire
The first thing to consider is whether your child really wants to get into acting and performing or whether it’s Mum or Dads secret dream. Assuming your child is really interested, do take them to the theatre, films and shows. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune go see amateur and school productions and watch a variety of films and shows on TV. Encourage them to join a school club if there is one, local theatres often have youth groups or run summer workshops. There are also a wide range of schools of performing arts that offer evening or weekend clubs and classes, national ones such as Stagecoach or more local ones. All will offer your child a range of experiences where they can learn some of the basics and take part in shows and performances. There is a cost to all this but whatever your child wants to do outside school will inevitably cost.
2. Actor Training
Once your child gets the performing bug, they won’t need encouragement! For kids who are really serious, there are a few schools of performing arts such as Italia Conte or Sylvia Young who take children from secondary age who are talented and dedicated, with the sole purpose of developing young performers alongside the normal school curriculum. National Youth theatre is another great avenue for older teens’ but places are very competitive. Qualifications in performing arts are not essential to become an actor or performer however they give a good grounding and the more prestigious drama schools and conservatoires will give a rigorous training and provide showcases and industry contacts on graduation. We are getting into very competitive arenas here though e.g. top drama schools such as RADA, Guildhall, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire or Royal Scottish Conservatoire will audition up to 100 applicants for every place they offer! Auditions for Drama schools will involve at least one audition, and students will be asked to come with at least one piece, such as a monologue, ready to perform. Many drama schools will invite a large group in for one day, and give various exercises and interviews, possibly culling the group at stages during the day. The vast majority of applicants don’t get into the top drama schools first time, if that’s the case for your child it is worth thinking about taking a year or so out to get more life experience and then trying again. Another way is to take a different qualification, especially if its leads to a skill (very useful for actors to be able to earn a living while they are waiting for their big break), and then apply to drama school for a post-graduate diploma or MA
Even with great training and drama school credentials behind you, there is no guarantee of a job or a successful career! For a parent it is a fine line to tread, encouraging and supporting while keeping their feet and your feet on the ground.
3. Get Professional Headshots
Whichever area of performing arts your child wishes to enter professionally, it is very competitive and the first thing a casting agent, will look at is their headshot. Good actor headshots are essential, Mum or Dads best efforts with a camera just won’t wash. There is an industry standard and even your local professional photographer is unlikely to be able to deliver the sort of shots required. Look at websites such as Headshot Hunter to see examples of great headshots and find photographers near you, that will understand what is required. It is an investment but worth it, if your child is really serious about getting into the business. Headshots will be a requirement if lucky enough to get into a good drama school.
4. Get an Agent
Agents are the main way to get to audition for jobs. They search all the opportunities and are often contacted directly by casting directors for film, TV theatre etc. So, getting on an agent’s books is very important if you are serious about getting into the industry. You should not pay to get an agent. They make their money from commission taken as a percentage of anything you earn professionally. Local drama schools for kids aged up to 16 often double up as theatrical agents and alongside running their own clubs, workshops, and productions. They get notified of opportunities for children and will send suitable children for audition. As a parent you need to remember that often casting requirements are very specific and it is no reflection on a child’s talent if they are not selected. You can also apply to professional agents to get on their books. Again, it is competitive, they only want people who they are confident will get work! A few agents will take on children but not many. Students graduating from drama schools at 21+ years old, will be trying to get an agent, it is very competitive. Headshots are the first thing they look at. Most agents want a variety of different sorts of actors or performers so although your child may be a fantastic actor, if an agent already has a few people with a similar profile they will say their books are closed. Other agents want a track record or want to see a performance before they will consider someone for their books. There are directories of theatrical agents so its worth looking at those to see which agents may consider taking your child on.
5. Get on Casting Websites
Another way to showcase your child’s talent is getting on casting websites such as Spotlight and Mandy, formerly Casting Call Pro. Although some are free to join, most will charge a fee to access the better opportunities. There is no guarantee of success, and generally speaking the vast majority of TV, feature film or theatre opportunities go direct to theatrical agents because they will only send people they believe are good for the role, so doing a lot of the preselection for the casting director. However, casting websites can be a good source of information about low budget productions and more local opportunities, so good for getting experience and filling up the CV. Good headshots are essential for standing out in this crowded market.
It is great to get an opportunity to audition so the best approach is to try to enjoy the experience and then forget about it. The vast majority of auditionees will not hear anything after their audition, (it is a very hardnosed industry, not for the faint hearted). As a parent it is important not to seem over eager, disappointed, pushy or get too involved as this can create anxiety and increase pressure on kids. Keep it light, be supportive, and be ready to step back if your kid decides they want to do it their own way or change their mind about performing. Most auditions and casting for kids under 16 will not involve any preparation and mostly casting directors try to make it fun and light hearted.
The performing arts are exciting, rewarding, addictive and all consuming. For a child or adult, it can be their life. As a parent it is important to be supportive but also to offer perspective. It is not the end of the world if they don’t get a part or an audition, or something doesn’t go right in a performance. Understand their devastation but don’t fuel it be being overanxious or pushy. Help them to have confidence in their abilities, not just in performing but in all the other skills they will learn along the way such as teamwork, listening skills, independence, being able to follow direction, take criticism, learn from failure, resilience etc. These will stand them in good stead in life whatever it throws at them.