Over the past couple months I’ve received a number of e-mails from clients asking if I had any tips for getting their child into modeling or acting. Since we’re just now introducing several photography packages geared towards building your little one’s portfolio, I’ve decided to go ahead and tackle a lot of these questions through a more public forum. The most common question I’m getting from all you parents as of late has been: If my kid has expressed an interest in modeling (or alternatively: My baby/toddler is a totally awesome cutie pie that always has a smile on his face), where do I even start?
Do you reaaaalllly want this?
Before you do anything there are a few things parents need to consider. First, think to yourself: Do I really want to do this? Yes, your baby or child is technically the one working and performing – but who do you think is the one going to all the auditions? Making all the phone calls? Getting all the headshots printed? Finding an agent? Networking to find new gigs? Paying for classes? Certainly not your 6 month old! All of this stuff is a serious time commitment so be sure you’re willing to put in the hours.
If you want to really take your child far, you essentially have to treat it as a second job. If your child is a bit older and expresses an interest, parents should be disciplined in making sure their kids view their endeavors in a way that reflects most school-sponsored extracurricular activities (ie, baseball, cheerleading, gymnastics, etc). But unlike those programs where schools and park districts dictate the schedule and practice regiment, in the instance of having your child be a model or actress, you’re in charge of all of that. Rehearsals, gigs, finding classes – you’re the coach that makes it all happen.
Evaluate the demographic and skillset that your child can bring to the table
Listen, every parent wants their kid to be the next Gerber baby or undiscovered Miley Cyrus. The reality of the situation is that when you’re first starting out, it’s more about what demographic and niche roles your child can fill. Most commercial projects have a predefined idea as to what they’re looking for before they start casting. If your kid happens to be similar to what they were looking for, boom your kid has the job. Does that mean your kid is cuter or more talented than the other kids who he/she beat out? No. Not necessarily. Often times, it means your child represents the producers/photographer’s vision more accurately.
Things like this go beyond details such as gender, race, or haircolor, and extend into concepts such as characters (devilish kids, innocent looking kids, smart looking kids, goofy kids), emotions (grumpy kids, smiling kids, scared, crying) , or demeanor(more rock and roll or preppy/refined?). Once you figure out which niche comes naturally to your child, develop a portfolio that supports it. While the end-goal is to have your child represent as much of a variety in their look as possible, you must start small and expand. To put it bluntly: A kid being used in a Gibson guitar ad is going to be different from a child in McDonald’s ad. Why? Because Gibson represents American freedom and rebelliousness while McDonald’s attempt to represent clean (albeit unhealthy) family values and wholesomeness. While your kid may have the talent to represent both equally well, chances are he or she naturally does one better than the other. As I said before, figure out which markets/demographics your kid can represent and DEVELOP A PORTFOLIO THAT SUPPORTS IT! (This will definitely be a topic of discussion down the road).
Don’t be crazy.
As I suggested before, the difference between your child landing and not landing an audition could often be contributed to factors outside of your control. Sometimes the director or producers already have a look in mind and sometimes your kid just does not fit into that role. Don’t get mad about the things you can’t control. Move on. Find a better audition next time.
Don’t be afraid to invest in the tools your child needs to progress in this industry.
While it’s certainly not required for parents to continuously be paying for new headshots or professional photos of any kind, take a moment to consider this point of view. If you’re essentially pushing your child to take modeling as far as he/she can go (which you should be! Because what’s the point of doing anything if you’re not going to try your hardest!?), paying for a photography session for your child equates to investing in marketing material for a business. If you’re the owner of a business, is spending anywhere between $500-$1000 per year on marketing reasonable? Of course it is! Even if you’d prefer to take a less-serious view towards
As a child model, their headshots and portfolio are almost always the ONLY marketing material they’ll ever have. Investing a little to get some super special photos will a) show producers you and your child are serious and b) your child has atleast more experience than the child who only submitted normal pictures, and if the photos are REALLY awesome: c) could make the producers come back for a second look. Also considering the costs of sporting equipment or instrument lessons (other extracurricular that come with sometimes high costs), making sure your child has a polished, up to date portfolio (even if we’re only talking 3-4 photos here) is akin to paying for violin lessons or sports camp.
Find your child an agent
Most agencies have forms to fill out on their website. Find them via Google and fill out the forms/keep an eye out for open casting calls.
Honestly, the whole idea of approaching an agency may seem a bit intimidating to parents new to this, but for the most part they’re pretty accessible. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and be sure to follow up (even if they say not to – rules were meant to be broken! Go for it. Just please, don’t be crazy.) Here’s a list of some local agencies in the Chicago area:
Lily’s Talent Agency