“Kids, you could be a big star and work on popular TV shows! Call this number now!”
I hear that radio commercial pretty much every time I’m in my car. Chances are, if your kids have heard it, they’ve probably begged you to call so they can be on TV. But…are ‘talent showcases’ like that the right way to get your child into acting or modeling? (Spoiler: nope, it’s a total scam. Definitely don’t call that number!)
I started shooting for Cameo Kids several years ago (photographers, if you’re wondering how I approached the agency to work with them, that will be a Tips Tuesday in a few weeks!). Since then, the kids and teens I’ve photographed have gone on to book jobs in movies, TV, voiceover, print, and fashion. They even booked me in a commercial for Hasbro, which you can see at the end of this post. 😉
So, you want to know the right way to get into the industry? Here are the six steps to get your kiddos modeling and acting!
1. Make sure modeling or acting is right for your kids.
Kids that are successful in modeling and acting:
- Can take direction well
- Are respectful toward adults and other kids
- Are outgoing in new situations, and with new people (a few minutes to warm up is okay)
- Enjoy attention
- Can handle rejection or disappointment
Babies that are successful:
- Have a very unique or a very classic look
- Enjoy attention
- Are reactive and have a variety of facial expressions
- Have a long(er) attention span
- Are comfy with strangers and new settings
If you can picture your child being excited to walk onto a brightly-lit TV commercial set surrounded by strangers, they’re good to go for acting. If your child is more shy, but has unique features (like red hair or dark skin and blue eyes), they might be better suited to just model. Either way, it’s key that your child wants to get involved and is a part of the decision process. If it’s right for them, it can be a great way for your child to view the behind-the-scenes world of media. Knowing how a movie or advertisement is produced is valuable for a generation that is marketed to constantly.
2. Find a (local) agency that has a good reputation and fits you.
There are many different types of modeling and talent agencies. Some only handle stage actors. Some only handle models, and some only talent. Cameo happens to be a full-service agency, so they book every type of job. They’re also described as “All-American”, signing models that have a down-to-earth look. Some other agencies focus more on a high-fashion or glamour look. The agency’s type and services should be available on their website.
For each agency, FIND OUT: When did it open? Do they have a facebook page? Do they have a list of clients their models and talent have booked with? Do they have a physical address? Do they have good reviews and are they listed on BBB? Would I want to drive there repeatedly for meetings and workshops? Do they answer the phone?
BEWARE THESE SCENARIOS:
- “Agencies” that don’t have a physical address that want photos of your child to put online.
- Any ‘agency’ or workshop or ‘open call’ that requires an up-front investment.
- Anything advertised on TV or the radio that promises a big star will look at your child (yep, those radio commecials!). These are super expensive scams that require up-front investments before your child is ‘considered’ by anyone, and they usually don’t have the connections to actually get you a job.
- Anything that guarantees jobs. If it sounds too good to be true, IT IS.
3. Submit your kids to that agency for consideration.
Each agency has certain requirements for submission. Some agencies require you to go to an open call where they can see you in person. Some agencies offer private interviews and open calls. Some just require snapshots. For example, this is how you submit to Cameo, which is pretty standard:
“Send two photographs: one headshot and one full body. Do not send more than two photos. Home snapshots are fine as long as they are clear and close enough for a good view. Include a resume. For children and babies, include a short paragraph of vital statistics and why you feel your child would be a good model.”
Important to note is that you don’t need to submit professional photos to be considered by Cameo. When Cameo receives a submission that they like, they’ll call you in for a group audition. Professional photos come later.
4. Know the process, and adjust your expectations.
After you’re accepted, here’s how it goes:
- You’ll sign paperwork with the agency. Make sure you read everything carefully- some require ‘exclusivity’, meaning you can’t work for any other agency. That’s fine, but make sure you’re cool with it.
- You’ll get a professional photoshoot done with a photographer that the agency recommends. This photoshoot will consist of 4-5 ‘looks’. (This is where we come in!)
- A ‘comp card’ or ‘zed card’ will be created by your agency that has 5 of the best images from your shoot on it. Often, babies under 3 years old only need one photo, and not a full comp card. (See comp card examples in our Commercial gallery.)
- You’ll be put on file with the agency, and they may require extra fees for your photos to be put on their website.
Here’s a sample scenario where your agency gets you a job:
- Hasbro submits a request to Cameo for “7-8 year old girls with red hair, blue eyes, and freckles”. It’s for a TV commercial with a 2-day commitment that will shoot the first week of March.
- Cameo sends all of the comp cards that fit that description to Hasbro.
- Hasbro chooses the kids they want to see in an audition.
- If your child is chosen, you’ll go to the audition (at the company or a casting agency). Your agency will give you any info about what to expect.
- Sometimes a ‘callback’ is needed, and you’ll go back in for another audition that narrows the candidates down.
- If you get the job, Cameo will negotiate fees for you, and officially book you.
It’s easy to see that there are lots of opportunities for disappointment in the process of booking a job. Make sure you keep it fun, no-pressure, and an opportunity for learning and building on new skills.
5. Consider the amount of money and time you’ll invest.
Time: The scenario above requires you to be available at a moment’s notice for two auditions, the shooting day of the commercial, and a wardrobe fitting the day before shooting. Of course the time invested depends on the type of job- you might expect to work for a couple hours to do a photoshoot, or a couple months to shoot a movie.
Investment: You should also expect to pay for the professional photoshoot (up to $500 per child), the printing of your comp cards (up to $200 per model), any additional listing fees, and then the expenses getting to and from auditions and jobs. Jobs do pay, but the rate you’re given depends on the job, the role, and the viewership of the end product. Understandably, nothing can be guaranteed.
Travel: Getting to jobs is also a factor. If you pick an agency in Boston, you’ll be driving to the Boston area for a lot of the auditions and jobs. If you pick an agency in or near NYC, be prepared to be driving into NYC a lot. Big jobs happen in big cities!
6. Commit to it!
Modeling and acting is a professional job that requires commitment (not a bad thing, but not for everyone!). If a commercial shoots on a weekday, your kids might have to miss school, and you might have to miss work. For the commercial I was in, I invested 4 days’ worth of time with driving into Boston twice and to Rhode Island. Was the commitment worth it? Definitely!
My commercial experience:
Here’s the end-product of 2 auditions in Boston, a 4-hour wardrobe fitting, a hotel stay, and an 8-hour filming day (I play the photographer, and yes, you only see the back of me, haha):
Sparkle Pets! I really sold those for you, right? 😉
If you have a question I didn’t answer, definitely leave a comment! Good luck, and keep it fun! 🙂