Being the parent of a young actor in the entertainment industry is not for the faint of heart, especially during the current pandemic.
I’ve been a young actors’ coach for more than 20 years and during that time I’ve fielded hundreds of phone calls from concerned parents about how to best help their young actor. Here are my top five tips for parents.
Tip 1: Be a parent first.
You probably started on this journey because your child loves performing. You always will be your child’s biggest fan, and making sure you have the right outlook on auditioning will help them feel empowered, and allow you to enjoy the process as well. How to do that? Well, if your child is already getting help with auditions from their acting coach, agent or manager, trust that they have done their jobs and that the actor is prepared. When my daughter was younger and auditioning, I realized quickly that I couldn’t be both her parent and her coach, so I relied on a colleague I trusted to help her prepare. I will admit it may have bruised my ego a bit, however by not trying to wear too many hats, I was able to be her parent, help her stay focused and have fun.
Tip 2: Audition plan.
Every actor is different, and every family is different. You have to find out what works best for your actor and your family. Once you have found a plan that works best. Stick to it. That way everyone knows what their role is in the audition process and knows what expectations are.
Here is one possible audition plan:
Your actor should run through the audition one time to have it in her head. Ten-15 minutes before a self-tape, or in the waiting room at an in-person audition, that is focus time where the actor’s undivided attention should be on the audition at hand (for actors five and under, focus time can be different based on their individual needs). Focus time activities might mean reading the script (as opposed to being on their phone). If the child is younger or there’s not a lot of dialogue, it might mean drawing a picture in a small notebook. I recommend against using screens during focus time, because as parents we’ve all had that moment where we ask a child to hand over their phone so they can actually audition, but they don’t want to because they’re in the middle of a game. If screen time works for focusing your young actor, make sure there is a clear expectation for when it’s time to put the phone or tablet away.
After the audition is finished, ask them if they had fun, and congratulate them on their work. Avoid the question “how did it go?” or “What did they say?” By asking them for every single detail of the audition, you can easily put the actor into their head. They may start doubting what they did in the room, and lose confidence in what they can do. Hundreds to thousands(!) of kids are submitted for every audition. Just getting in the room is a success.
Tip 3: Let your child’s personality shine.
The things that make us special, unique and different as individuals, are exactly what casting is looking for. Your child does not need to be over-polished to walk into a room. It is important that they are able to focus, listen, take redirection, and to also let their personality shine. Remember: this should be fun. Any time I’m working with a client, I want to make sure that they are bringing their authentic self to every audition instead of what they think casting wants. Casting knows what they want until the actor shows them what they need.
Tip 4: Make sure you’re up to date on current audition practices.
Most auditions right now are self-tape, and due to the global pandemic, it doesn’t look like this situation is going to change any time soon. Make sure you are reading the breakdown for each individual audition, as different casting offices are asking for different things for self-tape submissions*.
Tip 5: You are your child’s advocate (not to be confused with being your child’s agent).
When your child is working, you are ultimately the one who decides what is best for your child’s safety. If you don’t feel comfortable with how an audition or filming experience is going, call your agent or talk with someone (example, if you don’t feel your child is safe going to an in-person audition due to Covid, you need to say something to your agent. If your child currently doesn’t have an agent and you are submitting them, it’s okay to turn auditions down if they don’t feel safe. If your child were allergic to peanuts, you wouldn’t take him or her to a peanut butter commercial audition! Your agent wants to know if they shouldn’t submit your child for horror films, auditions with large animals, or anything else that would make your child feel unsafe. That is especially important right now due to the current pandemic.
No matter what, always try to go back to why your child wanted to do this. As I said, the entertainment industry is not for the faint of heart. But when you’re equipped with the right tools to help your young actor, it can make things go much more smoothly.
*Look for my next article, which will include tips for a great self tape!
Stephanie Lesh-Farrell has been a professional acting instructor for working actors in L.A. for the past 15+ years. Her clients can be seen in numerous TV/film, commercial and theatre productions, including “The Avengers,” “Man of Steel,” “Benjamin Button,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and TV shows: “The Magicians,” “Arrow,” “PEN 15,” “Teen Wolf,” “Everything Sucks,” “Bella and the Bulldogs” and “Criminal Minds,” to name a few.
Much of her coaching success comes from her on set knowledge as an actress. Stephanie can be seen in several shows, including: “Dirty John,” “Greys Anatomy,” “Veep,” “Lucifer,” “Scandal” and “The Office.”
For more information on coaching and classes please go to her website at https://tigle3.wixsite.com/stephanieleshfarrell/reel or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.