It has often been said that a casting director will size you up the minute you walk through the door. It turns out that research from Princeton University shows this to be wrong. It only takes about a tenth of a second! To me, there are two very interesting things about this. First, we make these judgments not just about appearance, but a whole host of traits. Second, these quick impressions last; additional evaluation time increases our confidence in these judgments.
Talk about pressure! This can make not only young actors nervous, but also their parents. And that often leads to trying to make everything perfect with pre-rehearsed answers to expected questions. Unfortunately, all that does is take the spontaneity and interest out of your child. Instead, follow these three tips to help your young actor make their first impression a good one.
1. Practice at home. Help your young actor get comfortable talking about subjects that are likely to come up in a casting call such as their hobbies, siblings, pets, school, and friends. The important part for a parent to remember is to focus less on specific answers and more on feeling comfortable with the subjects. Aside from guiding your child away from blatantly inappropriate or one word responses, let his unaffected honesty, clarity, and personality show. That is what casting directors want to see come through.
2. Make a game out of it. Get a group of friends and family to pretend they are meeting for the first time. Have each person speak with another for a few minutes and then write a one or two word positive "first impression" on a card taped to their partner's back. Pick a new partner and repeat until all the participants have written something on everyone's card. Have each person reveal what others said about them and discuss what we communicate when we first meet another person. This is a fun way to cover many basics of good communication such as eye contact, smiling, listening, posture, courtesy, and many others.
3. Head to the mall. Once your young actor feels comfortable talking about himself while role playing with family and friends, it's time to practice with strangers. If your child participates in baseball, for example, head to a sporting goods store and have them talk to the salesperson about the equipment he uses, what they like and don’t like about it, and what the salesperson recommends. Your goal is to help your child practice and feel comfortable creating a rapport with adults they do not know.
Despite the fact that these are important life skills, for most children and many adults, they do not come naturally. Follow these tips to give your child the communication skills and confidence to make the casting interview a positive experience. Combined with talent and good acting training, you will put your young actor in the best possible position to land many wonderful new roles. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you prepare your young performer for interviews and auditions.
Master your craft, empower yourself and enjoy the journey.
Denise Simon is a New York-based acting coach and career consultant who has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 25 years as an actor, teacher, director, and personal talent manager. For 10 years, she was an associate with Fox Albert Management, one of the leading talent management companies in New York, where she managed such clients as Scarlett Johansson, Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino, Lacey Chabert (“Party of Five”), and Judy Reyes (NBC’s “Scrubs”). Denise has coached hundreds of children and young adults appearing regularly on Broadway, and in television and film, as well as educating parents on the business of show business.