When Your Kids are in Showbiz

The author's son, Ryan, front and center in a clothing ad for GAP.

On her very first print go-see, my daughter, Jasmina, booked a modeling job for Omnicef, an antibiotic medication. Within months, she managed to secure a television commercial, with Rosie O’Donnell, for K-Mart. It was her first television audition.

Since then, Jasmina has produced an extensive resume of television, film, theater, print, music CDs, and radio work. She’s been on Sesame Street, Blues Clues, Third Watch, David Letterman, Last Call with Carson Daly, and was part of a national tour of South Pacific starring Robert Goulet.

Ryan, Jasmina’s younger brother, often accompanied her to many of her New York City auditions and go-sees. Eventually, he began to rack up an impressive resume of his own. Ryan was frequently in ad campaigns for GAP and Target. He appeared on Sesame Street, PBS’ Jack’s Big Music Show, Miss Saigon, and a Turner Broadcasting System show called, “Are We There Yet?”

Jasmina with actor Robert Goulet on the cast of South Pacific.

Jasmina with actor Robert Goulet on the cast of South Pacific.

Jasmina and Ryan are members of SAG-AFTRA and AEA unions. Often, I get asked by other parents how their children can break into the business. Here are some tips from my experience as a stage parent:

Personality: If your child has a great personality, is friendly, outgoing and enjoys performing in front of an audience and a camera, then he, or she, will make a good candidate. Most advertising and entertainment industries uses all types of children.

Parental Support: Mom or Dad must be available daily to accompany the children to auditions and go-sees. It’s a lifestyle that requires a lot of work and sacrifice. But when your child does book a job, it is exciting and rewarding.

Agents: A traditional approach is to find reputable talent managers and agents to represent your child. Get referrals and advice from people already in the business. A list of these managers and agents are available on web sites but make certain that agents are licensed and SAG-AFTRA Union franchised. Managers get 15 percent, and agents, 10 percent, of your child’s gross income. Managers cost a bit more but once you’re contracted with them, they can expose your child to many agents they know. If your child is represented by an agent, he will, most likely, be signed exclusively and cannot freelance with other agents.

Headshots: Once you have your list of managers and agents, get headshots taken of your child. When starting out in the business, save your money. Photos need not be professionally shot. Just make sure the photo shows your child looking directly into the camera and smiling (showing teeth).

Cover Letter: Attach a cover letter to the photo with the parent’s name, child’s name, phone number, address, date of birth, height, weight, clothes and shoe size. List any special skills that your child may have, such as singing, sports, and playing musical instruments. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope in the packet and mail it out your target list of managers and agents. If they are interested, they will contact you for an interview and, hopefully, represent your child.

Follow Up: Although tempting, avoid calling or visiting the agents and managers immediately. However, you haven’t heard from them in three to four weeks, then it would be okay to give them a call to follow up.

A few notes to keep in mind:
-If the child is old enough, taking a few acting classes can be helpful, especially when classes invite agents and casting directors during their showcases.
-Child performers, by state law, are required to have work permits prior to working on the set. Two important requirements to securing a work permit are: 1) an established trust fund for the child; and, 2) satisfactory academic standing.
-Stay away from agencies that want money up front. Managers and agents get paid only if they helped you get the bookings.
-Once your child is earning their own money, any income should be invested wisely. Some good investments include CDs, mutual funds, and college savings plans.
-Pursue acting and modeling only if your child is interested in it. Forcing your child to go to auditions and go-sees, learn their lines, and smile for the camera can be a traumatic experience if it’s not what they want to do. Forced effort is taxing for everyone.

Remember, the entire process should be fun and a learning experience for both you and your child. However, there are times when he or she won’t get selected for a role. Teach them to accept the rejections that, inevitably, are part of the road to success, and, of life. ♥