Calling all child actors and parents! If you’ve been managing to stay busy with auditions but haven’t been securing callbacks or bookings on Disney or Nickelodeon shows—or network sitcoms in general—you must be wondering what’s going on.
“Why isn’t my child landing that role he’s perfect for?” and “How come she isn’t getting callbacks or meetings with producers?” These are all perfectly fine reactions to not seeing progress or feeling stuck in place considering all the hard work that your child has been putting in. New headshots, the best classes, maybe even representation that’s getting your child more meetings than others in their category...so why aren’t they booking?
Well, there may be a few things that could help things around.
Energy, energy, energy!
I can’t express enough how important bringing life and energy to roles is when we talk about network sitcoms, particularly Disney and Nickelodeon. One of the biggest problems that casting encounters when working with kids is that they just can’t seem to draw the appropriate energy level out of them. They keep trying, over and over, and still the lines fall flat.
It’s better to start bigger (while always grounded in reality, of course) and be pulled back than to never reach the level they need at all. However, one of the most important clarifications is that energy is wasted without intent. Many times, the instinct is just “MORE ENERGY” because that’s what everybody tells your child to do. They can be as big and broad as they want, but unless they’re playing the truth of the character and the intent properly, then it’s all for nothing.
I’ve seen actors of all ages reading scenes that require specific character choices that have the right enthusiasm but lack direction. A lot of young actors play shy, anxious, angry, hilariously inept, cutesy, know-it-all and a million other characters the exact same way due to little understanding of what the jokes are and who the character is. Please make sure you and your child understand why something is funny so they can play the proper reactions before committing energy to it.
Remember that casting isn’t that scary.
Understandably, your child likely gets nervous for certain meetings. Maybe they’ve aced auditions with casting directors but can’t seem to hit it out of the park the same way when the number of people in the room grows. Which is why it’s important for you as a parent to not further intimidate your child regarding who’s in the room, or even just because you’re nervous.
Be careful what kind of energy you project; to kids, particularly those who have a flair for the theatrical, the number of people in the room isn’t so scary until they start hearing “Well, so-and-so directed this, so you have to impress her!” Obviously, they should know the importance of large meetings, but don’t freak them out! Just do the work with them, trust the process, and don’t get starstruck. Everyone in screen tests, producer’s, and director’s sessions, even one-on-one castings, is rooting for your child to be the one they love. There’s no reason to be scared!
Image is everything.
This isn’t as jaded and superficial as it may sound, I promise. I’m not talking about having the trendiest haircut or the newest shoes or being the coolest kid at brunch. I’m talking about how you professionally present yourself in audition rooms, on social media, and even to strangers in the elevator on the way up to the audition.
Your attitude and your child’s attitude are so important! If your child is sour going up to the office, bored in the waiting room, and brooding all the way through their slate, that needs to change immediately. You never know who’s in the building or riding the elevator next to you. Beyond just being courteous and friendly to everyone at the audition, how your child presents themselves online is huge too!
All networks—but particularly networks like Disney and Nickelodeon—are very careful of who they sign since they’re typically looking for young actors they can invest a lot of time and money into. Finding out that potential talent spends their time cursing and posting inappropriate pictures on their profiles is a great way for the network to lose faith in investing in you. This applies to you too, parents. Posting personal drama or pictures from set will red-flag you as a problem.
With this information, hopefully we can turn your pilot season around! Casting, agents, managers, and production all want you to succeed. Every room you go in, they want you to be the one they fall in love with so they can be the ones who found TV’s next star.
*This post was originally published on March 3, 2017. It has since been updated.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.