Casting directors want real kids. The problem is that many young actors are over-coached. Parents, read on for some tips to help you help your child get the casting director’s attention and win the audition!
1. Be Truthful. Too often, kids rehearse with their parents or coaches over and over again learning to emphasize words and emote. They are taught to show, not do. Going over dialogue until they are blue in the face will get them nowhere. It isn’t about the words; it is about being themselves and listening. A child’s biggest asset is simply to be who they are and not try to imitate someone else. When I see youngsters who practice in front of the mirror, it makes me crazy! Do you practice in front of the mirror when you are going to have a conversation with someone? Even in the interview or slate (when an actor says their name for the camera before an audition), over-coaching can be obvious. I once auditioned a young actor who came in the room and when I said “Hello,” she responded, “Hello, ladies and gentlemen,” as if she was a speaker addressing a full house. Parents, allow your children to be natural and real. It may be the most helpful thing you can do for them.
2. Listen. This basic concept may sound simple, but it is not always easy. Kids are often so concerned about memorizing lines that they spend their time thinking of the next words to say rather than actually listening to the reader or other actor. Memorization is certainly important, especially if the actor is going on tape, but not nearly as important as a truthful audition. If there is not enough time to learn the lines, encourage your child to use the script as a reference, glancing when necessary, but always listening attentively to the person they are reading with.
3. Take Direction. Good listening also plays a big part in being able to take direction. The over-coached child may have learned the scene well in one way but may be incapable of changing it. Listening to the director or casting director and being able to make adjustments is a sure-fire way to make a good impression. If something is not clear, it is perfectly acceptable to ask questions. In fact, this may be a way to score points. I can assure you that captivating, smart, and curious actors will most always get the callback!
So, how can you as a parent be the most helpful to your child without over-coaching? Explain what is going on in the scene and define any words your child may not understand. If you are a professionally trained actor or coach and your child will listen to you, great! If not, it is really best to leave the job to a skilled acting coach who knows how to get your child to be natural without looking coached. Master your craft, empower yourself, and enjoy the journey.
Denise Simon is an 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.