A question I have consistently been asked since I started working in this business 15 years ago is "I want to get my child on TV. How do I do that??"
One of my favorite parts of my many years in casting has been working on projects where I have had to seek out talented child actors. I've always liked working with children and even considered being a teacher before entering the entertainment industry. There is something so positive, endearing, and full of life about children. They go through the world with no heavy baggage or fears on their shoulders and have an enthusiastic approach to acting which most adult actors tend to lose over time. That being said, as much as I encourage children that love to perform to pursue acting, there are a few things, as a parent, that need to be considered when your kid says to you "I want to be on TV". Here are some of the important things to consider:
1. Is this something THEY really want to do? I pose this as the MOST important question because I cannot describe to you how often I meet kids in casting rooms that I immediately know DO NOT want to be there. This is more than if your kid is "cute" or "pretty". If you are considering really making the leap to pursue acting seriously, your kid needs to be interested and invested. This, like any other extracurricular activity, needs to be given time and energy and if you start out without your child really wanting it, it will never work out.
2. Do they get joy out of performing? As a mother myself, I immediately know and can see what truly gives both my kids joy. Even though they are both boys and only 2 years apart, what makes each of them happy differs. For the younger one, give him a ball, stacking toys and a snack and he will be happy for hours. The older one was never this way - he craved music, movies, performing, legos and building from a super early age. Of course their interests will constantly shift and evolve as they grow, but as a parent, we need to really look at our kids and see if they ENJOY acting classes, music/dance classes or musical theater classes. This goes for ANY hobby or extracurricular activity - for example, when my son told me every week he didn't want to go to gymnastics, I had to listen. Some kids just don't like certain activities and it's up to us parents to listen to them.
3. Are YOU willing to invest the energy/time/finances as the parent of an actor? This is a big one. Many parents make the mistake of thinking that if their kid wants to pursue acting/modeling/performing, it will be easy. Yes, once in a while you will hear a story about a kid that got discovered in a mall, went on one audition and booked the lead in a Spielberg movie. It does happen, but it's incredibly rare no matter how talented your child is. Even the most talented actors out there have to put in an incredible amount of time towards auditions until they book the role. Are you, the parent, willing to take those hours to drive across town, get headshots, and send your kids to classes and coaches (they ALL benefit from this)? This is something you need to ask yourself because it will come up. The second your child gets good representation and gets called in, YOU will be responsible for getting them there :)
4. Does your child have the emotional strength to handle rejection? DO YOU?? I'm not going to lie, as a mother myself, I feel for my kids. When one comes home from school telling me that someone was mean to them, it takes everything for me not to want to talk to that kid myself. Can I remind you that my child is FOUR and I have a lifetime ahead of me of seeing my kids disappointed over things that don't go their way? I'll say this right now: Acting is not for the thin-skinned. This can be tough considering most children that are actors are also very in touch with their emotions. They will hear the word NO much more than they will hear YES, and that goes for actors at every level. Can they handle the idea that they need to go into an audition as prepared as possible, do their best, and then leave it at the door? Can you handle it if you see your child constantly upset over not getting the role they wanted so badly? This is a huge aspect of why I started my career consulting business, majorly aimed towards child actors and their parents. I offer a holistic approach to this business where I not only coach on the skill set and crafts of an actor, but also the entire process and how not to let it get to you on a personal level. It's a passion of mine to teach this aspect to those invested in this business.
5. This is NOT an overnight process. Acting takes energy, time, practice, and work. No actor starts their journey the best they can be. An actor, just like any other profession, needs to be trained and taught, needs to constantly practice their skills, and needs to connect with professionals who can teach them more. Do not go into this thinking you know it all, or else you will be limited. You can always learn more - whether it is audition technique, comedy timing, the technical side, the behind the scenes business side, and the branding and social media sides. Be patient, support your child's dreams and be realistic about it.
Dana Bowling is a audition coach and actor career consultant with 15 years of Casting and Representation background. She has taught hundreds of classes and continues to work one on one with actors, helping them take control of their acting careers and give their best auditions. Find out more at www.danabowling.com