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HomeFamilyParenting AdviceA Model Child: How to Help Your Kids Turn Pro

A Model Child: How to Help Your Kids Turn Pro

Have you ever watched a television commercial and thought, “my kid could do that?” Or has your child come to you saying she wants to be a model or movie star? Contrary to what most people think, you don’t need to move your family to New York or L.A. for a child to find professional work in show business.

Just ask Tiera Price, 13, of Bowie, who just shot a national television commercial for Coca-Cola in Washington, D.C. Tiera, who attends Howard University Middle School for Math and Science, also worked as background performer in the Nicole Kidman film Invasion and had a principal role in a training video for Sylvan Learning Centers.

The Baltimore/Washington market has lots of opportunities for talented children to work professionally. “In this market there is work in feature films, theatre, industrials films, print, commercials, runway, live shows and demonstrations,” says child talent manager Suzanne Young, who owns Camera Ready Kids Talent Management in Silver Spring.

But where do you turn first to get started? And how do you break into the business without being scammed?
While some professional work may be found through craigslist.org or the Washington Post’s Weekend section Guide to the Lively Arts, most professional work in this area is cast through casting agencies. Generally those agencies will not see or audition children who are not represented by an agent or manager.

“Having a manager is key to getting your foot in the door,” says Young. There are three managers in the area who deal specifically with children: Camera Ready Kids, Linda Townsend Talent Management and Kids International.

Begin by sending these managers a head-and-shoulders photo (called a headshot) with your child’s contact information, age, height, weight and sizes printed on the back. If your child is just starting out, this does not need to be a professional photo.

If a manager thinks she can get work for your child she may call you for an audition. After that meeting, the manager will ask you to sign a contract for representation on your child’s behalf and call you when there’s an audition for your child’s type. A manager makes her money by finding work for the actor; the actor typically pays her 15-20% of his gross earnings. Be cautious of any manager who wants fees or payment up front, although small administrative fees of less than $50 are not unreasonable.

Young, who started representing talent more than 20 years ago when her own children began working in the industry, holds a parent meeting every March to explain the business and this market. In the weekends following the meeting, she has group auditions for new talent.

Besides a manager, the other key to getting in the door is having a great headshot that really shows a child’s personality. New York agent Nancy Carson, who wrote Raising a Star, says “a winning look is very important and the picture you send to agents must convey that quality. The ideal photograph to send to an agent is a straightforward, facing-the-camera shot that really looks like your son or daughter; in other words, a good representative picture.”

Young recommends snapshots for children under 4: “For a child over 4, only one GREAT headshot is needed. Some parents can shoot their own. If a photographer is used, they range from about $75 to $350. Then the copies are about $100 for 100 copies,” Young says.

The Federal Trade Commission warns on its website: “Bogus talents scouts will gladly set up a professional photo shoot to allegedly help you get modeling and acting jobs for your tyke … Legitimate agents, advertising agencies, casting directors and producers generally ask for casual snapshots of infants that have been taken by family members or friends.”

Parents should also be wary of high-priced acting lessons. While sometimes a child might benefit from lessons on improvisation or auditioning techniques, Young says, “Do not bother spending a lot of money from companies claiming that they will get movie deals in L.A. after you spent $800 on some classes. I’ve yet to hear of any successful results from those companies.”

So now, your child has his headshot (with contact information on the back), and the manager calls to send you on an audition. What can a parent and child expect?

“Everything in this business is at the last minute, most of the time,” Young says and parents should be ready to “jump and run.” Most auditions and jobs happen Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“When we get the call for an audition, everything else stops,” says Tiera’s mom Ruby Price.

Casting agent Carlyn Davis, who has offices in Falls Church, Va. and Baltimore, advises, “Always bring at least two current headshots and resumes to any audition. Often times we schedule auditions with multiple people reading a scene together — this means other actors are also depending on you to be on time in order for their auditions to go smoothly. Please always be professional and arrive at least 15 minutes early to any audition.”

At the audition, both parent and child should bring something quiet to do while waiting. Keep cell phone conversations to a minimum. The child will audition with the casting person alone or with other children. The parent almost always waits in the reception area.
Once the child is in the audition room, things will go quickly. “When a casting director is after a specific type and there are 20 or more children waiting to be seen, he is simply not going to spend much time with a child,” Carson writes in her book. You will be called if the child books the job. If the child is not hired, you won’t hear anything. Unfortunately, that’s just the nature of the business.

Managers

The Washington/Baltimore has three managers best known for representing children.

Camera Ready Kids
camerareadykids.com, 301-270-1640, Silver Spring

Kids International
kidsinternationaltalentagency.com, 301-292-6094, Ft. Washington

Linda Townsend
(also represents adults), lindatownsendmgmt.com
301-297-7400, 301- 567-0531, Oxon Hill

Other Resources:

Actor Brian Dragonuk publishes a free online newsletter that posts auditions and other announcements for actors and people in the business. To become a member of Dragonuk Connects Acting NewsLetter send a blank e-mail from the address you want the e-mail to be sent to BDragonuk-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Actor’s Center in Arlington, Va., has an online hotline with audition postings available to members. It also holds classes and hosts networking events. 703-413-3270, actorscenter.org

The Screen Actors Guild has an online audition hotline. While these auditions are for union members only, it does provide insight into professional opportunity in the area. 301-657-2560, aftrasagdcbalt.com

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