I know I am not alone in feeling like the “Business” has changed. That the stakes are higher. That one thoughtless move, and I may have a child that feels objectified by this business. My children began when they were under one year old. I remember times when my oldest would work the majority of a month, on print and commercial campaigns. When catalogues would fly her out of the country to shoot. When work was rainbows and sunshine. Well, fast forward some years, and POW! Reality is staring back at us. As many parents of actors, the balance is more delicate. Keeping up with a high school, middle school AND elementary school schedule is mandatory for our family. Also, each one of my children has found “passions” outside of acting. Basketball, Karate, piano, Debate, speech, ping pong, writing, traveling….The list is endless.
SO WHERE DOES ACTING FIT IN? Great question! Let me start backwards, as a mom sitting in a meeting with a director. My husband and I have been told by directors that it is OBVIOUS when a child is allowed to LIVE AND PLAY, outside of acting. Their passions, hobbies and activities shine thru in their auditions. A child that is allowed to take time to build a crazy mega Lego structure, will inevitably manifest an opportunity to express their ability to focus, concentrate and BUILD on set.
My belief is that by constantly and consistently checking in with our young actors, we can be sensitive to the balance that gives our children the most joy, and vice versa, we will know when something is out of whack. Yes, it is true that sometimes we have to eat in the car or young actors have to finish homework while waiting in the casting lobby. And yes, acting makes the entire family sacrifice in other areas of life, but for any parent of a young actor who enjoys acting, IT IS OBVIOUS:
WHEN WE SEE THEM BREATHE IN THE AIR ON SET
AND KNOW JUST HOW HAPPY THEY ARE!!
To the parents of all of the young actors out there…….KUDOS on helping your young one create experiences of a life time <3
How many times have I heard this question! In fact, how many times have I personally ASKED this question!! After years of consistent hits, near hits and misses, I have decided to put my old school research skills to work.
I spoke to casting directors, agency producers, agents and directors and OVERWHELMINGLY their answer was:
IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S US
Wait…..It’s not me? I don’t understand!
Well, here is the bottom line, as it was communicated to me:
Once you make it into callbacks, you know one thing:
You were chosen
You were “director’s choice”, “agency choice” or “director & agency choice”
What does that mean? That means that when the director was sitting in his office (or at home) reviewing the audition tapes, there was something about your performance, your look and/or your aura that made the director choose to see you at the callbacks.
That also means that the agency folks sat down and watched as well.
Next, those two sides compare notes and see which actors land on both lists. Also, actors that landed on just one list are also called in most times.
Fast forward to the callback: There will be a mixture of the three choices present. Inside info: If casting hands you a casting sheet with your pic on it for review, look for the code that will let you know if you are D (director), A(agency) or D/A (both)choice! Sometimes they use symbols…and many times we actors never find out! Don’t fret!
When you enter the room remember: You don’t know what is really going on behind that door! That is, they team may be in a heated discussion over the direction of the spot and the necessary look for the talent. It is an assumption that the Director knows EXACTLY what he or she is looking for. In fact, in most cases, the decision is made by the entire team!
TRANSLATION: There are lots of cooks in the kitchen!!
The next step is the most important step. After all, you are now armed with a little more insider’s information!
What is the most important step?
BE PRESENT. BE IN THE MOMENT. HAVE A BALL. LET THOSE EYES SPARKLE WITH AMUSEMENT. BE YOU!
The truth is, there is no secret weapon, magic bullet, inside information or buddy of a casting director that can single handedly determine whether an actor books a spot!
AND THE LAST STEP
Congratulate child for getting up and walking into that audition room!
As mom of three actors…Well, two actors and one loud toddler who happens to audition and book, managing expectations is a part of my repertoire! I have found a very simple way to keep the HIGH highs and the LOW lows away from the kids. I CLOSE MY BEDROOM DOOR AND POUND ON MY BED!!! YES, this business can be unfair, objectifying and hurtful. BUT, it can also be gratifying, exciting and fulfilling. How fun it is to fly out of state, film for an extended period of time, return to school with stories and treats for your classmates and friends! But how horrifying it can be to attend the premiere, watch the movie in the midst of a large audience, only to see that your child’s role has been truncated to a non-verbal role, what is referred to at times as “furniture” in a scene. WHAT DO YOU DO? Well, this situation has actually happened in our family!
My ground rules are:
1. Revel in the experience of traveling, touring a new city, meeting new people, and experiencing a new environment.
2. I don’t discuss the “what ifs” with my children. “What if they fly you around the world for all the premiers?!?!?”, “What if this is THE ROLE that catapults you into super stardom?!?!?!” lalalalala.. “What if the cut you completely out of the movie/tv show/commercial?!?!?!?”
3. Once the project is done, I don’t chat about it with the kids. We move on. Now, I can assure you that my hubby and I are processing whe what if’s together, away from the kids!
4. Last but not least, I TiVo the project and watch without the children. In fact THEY NEVER KNOW when a new project is set to air. I just don’t put it on their mental calendar!
5. Remember that this business is a parallel universe! In my mind, it’s not REALITY. Being a Disney star or the next indie ingenue will not change the essence of your child. What DOES make a well rounded, interesting actor, in my opinion, is a child with passions, interests and desires.
Instead of focusing on the next project, let’s focus on the next passion!!
Another school year has started and the planets are aligning perfectly! Besides being the mommy of an 8th grader, 5th grader and preschooler, I have also been busy taking notes on set to pass on to you all! I just wanted to take a moment to thank you again for joining www.commercialmommy.com! . I am eager to continue sharing tips and inside information about the commercial, modeling and film biz!
Each month I will be giving away different items and/or services. For the September 2012 giveaway, join me on Twitter.com/commercialmommy, because I am giving away 5 FREE consultations to 5 lucky folks, once I reach 2000 followers! So spread the word and join Twitter!
Also, for those that join me on Facebook, www.facebook.com/commercialmommy, I am giving away a FREE headshot session with my prestigious photographer/husband, Afshin Shahidi!
Join me ~ Join the conversation!
Commercial Mommy AKA Keri!!
Child Actors and Unspoken Stress: The Perils of Focusing on One Family Member’s Career
Every day I wake up, knowing that I will be juggling mommy hood, woman hood, wife hood and business affairs. Like most families, we find a way to make it work. Adding the layer of being an actor and a mommy to working actors makes life…interesting, to say the least! What happens when our children exhibit signs of stress or exhaustion? How do we recognize these signs and what should we do about it?
I have always been a fan of having my children have casual conversations with trusted relatives. Auntie can ask, “How’s it going, balancing school and auditions?” and get a truthful answer. A child therapist can also assist. It never hurts to “check in” with your child, to see that they are driven by passion and not obligation.
As parents, we may not be aware of all of the pressures that child actors feel.
YES. They have scripts to memorize, often on short notice.
YES. They have to juggle school and acting.
YES. They may not be able to play on their school’s athletic teams.
But have you thought about the rest?
Are their earnings responsible for the family rent?
Do their career ambitions split up the family for months at a time?
Would they feel like a disappointment if they decided to stop acting?
Do they have to audition for parts that they are not comfortable with, just hoping for a paycheck?
Do they feel guilty about the attention they receive?
These situations are very real for many families, and right or wrong, they need to be addressed.
How have I addressed potential issues with my family?
- We are all based in Los Angeles and live together. Both my husband and I are self employed.
- We do not mix finances. The children know where their money is and when it is necessary to use it (PR, agent’s fees, etc.)
- They are not responsible for any family expenses, but ARE responsible for items that they desire that are outside of the family budget.
- We go out of the way to book out for vacations, to prove to them that we can have a NORMAL life.
- We discuss all auditions before they are confirmed. We have passed on MANY!
- We continuously involve them in new activities, not to increase acting opportunities, but to increase life experiences.
And finally, we are prepared for the day that they decide to change their desires…..as hard as it may be for us to accept, it is our obligation as a parents to LISTEN to our little actors…..our children.
What have you done to decrease stress for your child actor?