I've been meaning to do this post for a super long time, so I sincerely apologize for it taking me so long to finally sit down and type it up!
Many friends and friends of friends have asked questions about getting one's child into acting/modeling, and I try to email or call etc back, but let's face it I am not the best at getting back to people lately. My days are joyfully distracted. So... I thought it best to type up a few thoughts and hopefully answer some general questions.
First off, all these thoughts (like all my posts), are simply my opinions and jabber.
Where to start....
Georgiana had an easy ish start because I have an agent in Seattle (TCM), and so it was a very natural pairing to have her meet my agent, land a little print job, and then meet and officially sign with the children's department of the agency. That being said, you don't have to have an "in" to meet with an agent. Sometimes I will post emails that my agency sends me, requests for certain body types etc, I do not receive any type of kick back from the agency for sending them people. And, I am most definitely not a recruiter for the agency. I have had the opportunity of recommending children in response to emails from my agent, and some of my friends' children have worked, and others (equally as cute!) have not. So, you just never know.
Anyway, back to how to get an agent, does my child need an agent, etc.
I am writing this from a NW point of view. The Seattle/Portland/sometimes Vancouver, BC is a very very different market than LA or NYC. I can speak a little to the LA industry (maybe another post), but I have zero experience in NYC representation. For a quick example of the difference, in Los Angeles there are over 300 casting directors (for film/tv/video), in Seattle there are 3 main players. All 3 offer workshops, and all 3 are happy to get to know and help out local talent. In the NW we may not have the workload that comes with LA, but we definitely have a market that is easier to navigate.
For film/tv/video, it typically works as such...
A company (example Microsoft) has a project that they need actors/talent/model for. They contact a Casting Director (example Jodi Rothfield csa) who then in turn contacts local Agents (example TCM), side note: casting directors are also able to pull from their own files of headshots of actors without representation (aka an agent) who have submitted their info directly to the casting director, anyway the Agents then look in their database. Typically they submit pictures/resumes if applicable to the Casting Director who then says yes & no to who they want to come in for an audition. This all happens without involving the actor/talent/model.
If the Casting Director wants to see you (or your child), your Agent contacts you with your audition time. You go to the audition (or 'go see' for modeling), if it is print your picture is taken, if it is film/tv/video you are recorded. Then the casting director (casting director if it is film/tv/video, if it is print the casting director is usually cut out and that role is filled by a producer of some kind, either directly employed by the company the shoot is for, or a third party hired by the company, needless to say, your agent submits your picture and contacts you).
For print, your picture is reviewed and then if you book the job your Agent contacts you. There is also a fast track booking sometimes where you are booked off of your headshot/pictures alone. It is super fun to have your Agent call and say, "hey, I have a BOOKING for you," instead of an AUDITION. Very different. Anyway, if it is print then you usually have a fitting followed closely by the shoot. If it is film/tv/video, then there are a couple more steps. Usually after the first audition, the casting director reviews the 'tape' aka dvd recording of your audition, and chooses their top contenders. If you are chosen as a top contender, you will get a call from your Agent stating you have a Call Back. You go to the Call Back, which is an audition, but typically in front of A LOT more people than an audition with one or so friendly casting director. I remember my first call back for a SAG (Screen Actors Guild, union) commercial, I was quite surprised to walk into a packed room of execs and producers, threw me a little, but I digress...
Anyway, if you book the job after your Call Back, your Agent will let you know, then you will be given all the info you need.
I explain all that because I think it is important to understand what you would be signing up for. If you live in Washington, most of your auditions and work are going to be in Seattle. But of course there are exceptions. Georgiana's first modeling job was over 3 hours away at a mountain lodge in Oregon! We were paid for mileage, but still...
I love every step of the process. It often doesn't make sense why I do, but I do. I always have. And, so far Georgiana really seems to enjoy it too. That being said, Kelly and I have a rule, we will keep taking Georgiana as long as she wants to go, when she says (or displays) that she is done, we are done. Period.
I met the grandma of a super adorable boy at an audition earlier this past summer. She said her grandson had been going to auditions for over a year and not booked one job. I write that because, that happens, a lot. And, it is NOT because the child isn't cute enough, or isn't this or isn't that. I write this because although I am very much a rookie at taking Georgiana to go sees and shoots, I think the parent (or grandparent) has to enjoy the crazy process as much as the child does. You have to be willing to drive at inconvenient times to inconvenient places, to arrive at your call time and end up waiting, to arrive earlier than your call time and be rushed. You also have to be an advocate for your child. You cannot be passive. You have to stand up for them and protect them if they are tired or you are not comfortable with something.
I've been on a set where a child who made it all the way to the shoot was asked to leave simply because even after the fitting/alterations/etc, the company decided to go a different direction. It's like flying standby. If you ever have, you know that it isn't until the plane is literally off the ground that you are actually guaranteed your seat. Same thing, it isn't until you actually see the finished product that you know if you made the cut or not, your work or your child's' may all be on the cutting room floor and you have to be okay with that. So, that's why I think anyone involved has to be crazy enough to enjoy the process. At the end of the day, the process and not product is often what you get.
Okay, enough of my jabber. I still haven't answered the burning question, well how do I even throw my child's hat in the ring and get an agent?
If you are in the NW, you are spoiled because it is a very simple answer. You submit your child's photo and measurements (per the instructions that are often listed directly on the agency's website) to reputable agencies. If the agency is interested they will contact you. I have no advice on how aggressive you should be. Some would 'preach' that you should follow the rules laid out on the website because they are seeing how parents/the talent follow the rules, others would argue that you should send a note or something that will make you stand out. Send follow up notes etc. That is your call.
Anyway, do NOT run out and spend a bazillion dollars on a headshot. Submit candids or professional pictures that you already had taken (not ones specifically for this). Depending on your child's age, you will not be required to have professional pictures. I update Georgiana's agent with snapshots, she still does not have a headshot. The agents are humans and they know that toddlers look different every month!
Do NOT pay for classes for your baby/toddler/young child, do NOT be wooed (sp?) by people who are trying to sell you anything or say that you must use their photographer. It is a scam. They are good and they will wave headshots of famous people in front of you and lie to you and tell you that that is how so and so Disney star got their start. Avoid Kim Brooke, John Casablanca and a lot of the 'schools.'
I am going to list a few agency names I see/hear all the time. This is NOT comprehensive of reputable agencies, but it is a start (I didn't link them, sorry, just google the name):
TCM Models & Talent
Heffner Management (modeling adult)
SMG (Seattle Models Guild, modeling over age 2)
When I think of more I will add them.
Also, if your child is older, or you yourself are interested, then I recommend looking up the following casting directors and taking their workshop(s). They are legit and helpful and will often guide you in the direction of an agent that may be a good match for you, linked:
If you are thinking about theatre...
that's another post and then some.
If you have questions, please feel free to ask. Just please do not be offended if it takes me a little bit to get back to you.
I hope this is helpful :)
One last thing. Especially with your children, I wouldn't recommend doing any craigslist or random auditions. Those things can be sketchy and without a good background of knowledge the weirdos can be hard to sniff out. The NW is great for kiddos to have an agent because we have some great companies such as REI, Nordstrom, Amazon, random game companies (Portland: Nike, San Francisco: Gap) and a bunch of others that my tired brain cannot think of...
Basically, play it safe with the kiddos.
Last note, Remember, an agent does not ever need to be paid unless you the actor or your child is getting paid. That is how a legitimate agent makes their money, they make a pre-determined perecentage of your pay! Also, do not be discouraged if you submit your child or yourself to agencies and do not hear back. They may currently already have 3 children signed on that have the same hair/eye/skin tone as yours. They may be cleaning up shop, they may have a zillion reasons. Be prepared to be told no and be prepared to get back up and try try try try try and then try again. It's all about what you do after the 'no.'