A year ago, my younger daughter wanted to be “on TV.” I’d say it’s always been her desire since she was about four years old. I didn’t give much attention to it, “Who doesn’t want to be on TV?” I thought until a local online news magazine posted about kids needed for a TV show filmed in the Hudson Valley.
I took a couple of pictures of her and submitted them following their instructions. I didn’t think much about it until they called back and wanted her to participate. I thought it would be a fun summertime adventure. Little did I know this experience opened my little one’s eyes to the wonders of this magical world. And after this “one-time thing,” she said that this is what she wants to do with her life.
I didn’t know where to start. How do I navigate this wonderful and scary world of show biz?
It took me months of research until I found a Facebook group of parents in show biz. It was and still is an incredible resource. I’ve learned quite a bit since getting started.
1. Your little one needs a work permit in New York.
It’s called a Employment Permit for a Child Performer. You can get it through the Department of Labor website. It’s needed (even if your child is days old) as long as they book work, even if it’s unpaid. You will need to submit papers like a health form signed by your doctor, a school form for school-age children, a bank form that proves your child has a Coogan account, plus other forms you fill out for yourself. Once you submit all the necessary forms, you get the permit within days. Then it was time to look for work.
2. Invest in professional headshots.
These are not the ones you get for Christmas cards either. Professional headshots are done specifically for children performing, whether for modeling or acting. We found a photographer in the city and did a 4-hour shoot with her. It was fantastic.
3. Find an agency.
The Facebook group had an extensive list of legitimate agencies in every state. We submitted applications to as many as we could. We just recently signed with an agency.
4. Never pay to play.
Many parents seeking opportunities for their kids fall victim to scams when they are asked to pay large sums of money for their children to be represented or appear in certain magazines or runway shows. They are scams and won’t get your child anywhere. We never paid to be in a TV show, film, or represented by an agency, and we got a few interests. We did, however, do some free work for student films, which is legit.
5. Join certain platforms, especially if you don’t have an agent yet.
Those platforms post opportunities like commercials, print jobs, TV, film, and theater. Some of these platforms are Casting Network, Actors Access, and Backstage. We found some decent opportunities on all three platforms.
Now, I didn’t realize that being a parent of a child performer is a full-time job! You do all of the above, plus constantly look for opportunities for your child. You prep them for auditions and callbacks and must be on set with them. You learn how to edit videos and the ins and outs of the industry.
You buy equipment for video taking for online auditions or self-taping. You dedicate a space in your house for the use of self-tape auditions. You create and maintain a resume for your child. How do you have a resume with no experience? Just list all your child’s hobbies and what they are good at, like biking, swimming, skating, dancing, etc.
You keep updating your child’s information and headshots. You maintain a social media page for your child; this is unnecessary, but we’ve been asked twice for an Instagram page, especially for modeling jobs. If your child is interested in acting like mine, I recommend investing in acting or improv classes.
Being a part of this world is rewarding if you are on your highest alert, as this industry is, unfortunately, full of predators. You need to be with your child every step of the way and not leave their side for a second. Also, it would be best to be supportive and encouraging, as it is full of rejections and disappointments. They may not get that callback or the role they wanted. Their scene might not make it in the final cut, and their schedule might not align with a “dream job.”