Special thanks to Luke Roessler (@thatlukeroessler) pictured in the article.
Has anybody ever told you, “You should get your child on TV!”? In my experience, kids who do well in commercials are the ones that have a memorable face and a memorable personality. These same kids are keen to get involved, perhaps because they have a friend that goes to auditions, and have heard about how much they enjoy it.
What We Look For
Advertising works from a place of inspiration and storytelling. We are often recreating small life moments in family or school scenarios. Some kids are naturally drawn to the structure of these stories, they may be voracious readers, ‘wise beyond their years’ and curious observers of people and situations. They can embody the hero-kid spirit that is proud and fearless, a spirit that we find ourselves rooting for, perhaps because they seem like adults in their smallest forms! Or, the child is more of a ‘one of a kind’ quirky character like the kids in “Stranger Things”; they are self-possessed, curious, and completely original.
In addition, I also look for kids who are already on a creative path through training in the arts, musical theatre, on-camera scene study classes, dance, or sports. They have developed discipline and are able to follow instructions and form ideas. They know what makes themselves unique and enjoy the challenge of performing on demand. They are not hard on themselves and are open to the random element of improv and comfortable being the centre of attention on camera. They might also be involved in school plays or be creating their own social media content for YouTube and want to share their creativity further through auditioning for commercials and film/tv. Working with an agent, going to auditions and working on set is a natural progression for them as performers, and for their families.
Lastly, kids need to be themselves with total confidence, even in stressful moments. They can’t fluster easily, must have a good sense of humour and a spark that can make everyone around them smile! Often, these kids are natural leaders, or have boundless creative ideas and imagination.
When a child has all the properly aligned elements of character, talent, drive, interest, confidence, and experience, I can do my job and set up auditions. I see auditioning as a very important part of the artist’s journey. However, it’s important that the parents also understand their role in this endeavour – namely getting their child to the audition! The parents are a huge part of the child’s success as a professional actor, as the parents must be able to pick up their kids in the middle of the day, take them to auditions and make it fun. After the audition, the parents must help their child to ‘let things go’ after the audition, to return to their regular life, knowing that they did their best and the rest is ‘out of their hands’.
Auditions are generally run by warm, friendly industry professionals who want the kids to do well. There are no Simon Cowell’s in the room! The success, happiness and professionalism of the kids reflects well on the casting directors as real and inspired options to present to the production team. A successful audition may lead to being shortlisted for a callback. With the producer/director and creative team in the audition room directing the session, the situation needs a kid who can handle themselves on demand with adults. A successful child also must be able to handle rejection, without letting it affect their self esteem or enthusiasm. This is where acting training is important for them to see the process as a creative exercise and a fun outing with Mom or Dad. The goal is to feel good about the audition or to be able to constructively analyze how they can approach an audition differently the next time!
On the Set
Once the child actor is on the set, they will shoot with a team of professionals whose job it is to complete their look for the role they are playing with makeup, hair, and wardrobe. There is a lot of technical set up with lights, cameras, sets and then the child must be prepared for some serious focus as the director will ask them to reproduce a scene over and over until they get the perfect moment that brings the story together. There is, of course, lots of waiting for the actors until they are ready to roll again! The adage of ‘hurry up and wait’, means that everyone needs to be patient between scenes and then ready to put all their energy and focus back into the scene when they are finally ready to shoot again.
Is this for my Child?
It can be hard to know if your child is suited towards all of these variables, but some good signs are there if they: are typically the first one with their hand up to perform in school, if they love entertaining at home, have wild imaginations or like telling funny stories. These are some of the “Tells” that suggest a child would be suited to the business of acting. The fearlessness in trying new things is illuminating when you see a kid walk into an audition room (without their parent) and be their natural, wonderful selves, without pause. If your child doesn’t take rejection personally or feel stress if they aren’t booking, this could mean you have a performer in the family. Parental support is key to making it fun; moreover to help your child review the audition constructively, and to let it go if they didn’t get the part!
As a parent, I understand the real commitment it takes to support your child. As a veteran agent to some of the top children working in film/tv, I can say this is a labour of absolute belief and commitment supporting them on this journey. This business requires parents to take their child out of school for scheduled auditions. The main casting studios are located around Main and Broadway.
Auditions should be a fun experience without stress. However, please be aware that these auditions are in the daytime, and we are given the notice for auditions the day (or even the night) before. If your child is shortlisted, there will be a callback, and if your child is booked, the shoot dates average 1-2 days on set. It is critical that the child has parent(s), family members, or a guardian, who can drive and support them without adding to the stress of missed school or work and to make it a positive experience. The goal is to be available, excited, and to get to an audition and attend with ease!
It takes a special schedule to accommodate these requests as commercials are on a tight production deadline with often last minute, or even same day requests or changes. If casting has selected your child for an audition, these must be attended and given absolute priority. You will be given a specific time to attend the audition. Please remember that casting has often reviewed hundreds of submissions to hand pick a selection of talent that they believe suit the role they need to cast. Audition sessions are set up as per a specific schedule based on when casting tapes must be received by the creative ad team.
On average, an audition will take an hour at the casting studio and you will need to factor in your travel expense and time to get to there from your home. Performers are not paid to audition; the performer will only receive payment if they book. Please remember, that while some kids can be lucky enough to book right away (maybe because the perfect part came along at the right time), for most beginners it could take dozens of auditions/callbacks to book a job. That, of course, is the ultimate goal for a working performer as well as for encouraging parents! As a manager, the immediate goals for me is to get you and your child familiar with the process so they can walk into the room prepared, and walk out of the room, with a skip in their step, ready to return to their regular life!
How it Works
When upcoming projects are posted, my job is to match the talent to the role and give my suggestions to Casting. Casting will then select who they would like to see for daytime auditions the next day. I will email the basic information with a quick introduction (a slate: the child’s full name, age and agency). At the audition, the talent is often asked a simple question to show their personality and/or they may be asked to act out a little scenario with other actors (kids or adults). This process needs a child who can improvise and just be themselves, on demand, in any group setting. Auditions are taped to show an actor’s: camera awareness, emoting, and other acting skills like; saying lines naturally, and showing a basic knowledge of jargon such as ’slate’, ’action’ and ‘cut’.
Safeguards for Child Actors
There are safeguards in place for kids working in the film/tv and a summary of these regulations and best practices is on the Provincial BC Government site, under “What Parents Need to Know About the Film Industry”.
My job as a talent agent is to carefully review the terms of each project and to both advocate for, and educate my actors. Most commercials come with pre-set terms that I will communicate to you with your audition request. I supply talent only to the top casting teams and trusted production companies that have been in the business for decades, working on campaigns destined for traditional broadcast TV and new media.
Submitting Our Talent
There are a number of services that agents & casting communicate on for projects. The most common one used locally has beenhttp://www.castingworkbook.com/ which is a successful, user-paid service.
I’m pleased to be among the first to announce a newly launched casting database in Canada: https://corp.castingnetworks.com/ca/ We are excited to have this powerful database, used by every major Hollywood studio & network in our wheelhouse. With my agent code, we can register our talent with a basic profile for free, and submit to commercials and beyond!
If you believe your child will do well in this environment and you are ready to support your child throughout the process, please see the submissions page for the next step!
About The Author
Pamela Wise is a Vancouver-based talent agent who sees with her heart & follows her intuition. She is passionate about matching fabulous humans to creative concepts. She believes that we all carry a story within us that can spark an on-screen character to life; inspiring heart-based story telling & fresh authenticity.