4 Tips to Determine If Your Child Is Ready for Pilot Season

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Just two months ’til Christmas—Santa, bring me just a little part on Nick, please? If this is your young actor, you may be starting to wonder if this is the year to venture out to L.A. for pilot season.

A pilot season article in October may seem premature, but it is most definitely not when you are talking about young actors. The decision to embark is immensely disruptive and should not be taken lightly. Parents pull their kids out of school, put their personal and marital lives on hold, interrupt their careers, and put an enormous strain on family finances.

It is in childhood where the cold reality of show business often stings the most. The fact is that young actors between the ages of 7 and 12 are at their peak of marketability. Teen actors often find their professional careers squeezed by 18 year olds who can play younger. With the clock ticking and a commitment to supporting their child’s dream, many parents embark before their young actor is ready.

Here are some tips to see if your child is ready for the bright lights of Hollywood.

1. Desire. A prerequisite to all other factors is the child’s desire and determination to pursue acting above attending school, birthday parties, other extracurricular activities, and the security of daily family life. Give strong consideration to any sign that this is not the case.

2. Experience. Adult actors often perform best when they are living a full life, have been training for years, and are financially stable. It is much different for young actors. Casting directors want unpretentious, real, down to earth kids that can also deal with the very adult demands of film and television production. National tours and years of experience are not necessary; however, some perspective on the business is. If your child has had few professional auditions or local acting opportunities, it is not the year to go.

3. Second opinion. There is often a fine line between encouraging your child to take risks and setting them up for failure. Pilot season is one of those times where this maxim is true. If this is the year you might take the leap, leap first in these autumn months to New York or LA and speak to an unbiased advisor for advice and guidance. Readiness is about more than talent. It is also about the child’s marketability, maturity, and disposition, as well as the parent’s readiness. An advisor who has experience with the business of show business for young actors as well as the experience to assess talent in young actors will provide you with an invaluable perspective.

4. Representation. Pilot season is about getting face time with casting directors for opportunities you might not get elsewhere. Representation is a must because unsigned actors rarely get enough opportunities alone or find an agent that will sign them during the busy months of pilot season. If your child is ready in all other respects, look for an agent or manager now who will promote you when you get to the West Coast—even if it means passing on pilot season for this year.

Here is the fine print: Many young actors make the pilgrimage, but for reasons that are often completely unrelated to talent, few get substantial roles. With that in mind, I recommend that you focus on your child’s readiness and not the tick-tock of the clock. Young actors who are truly ready can deal with the ups and downs of the business and still come out of pilot season with the same enthusiasm as when they entered it—regardless of the number of jobs booked. I would love to start a conversation and hear about your pilot season experiences so please leave a comment and share!

Master your craft, empower yourself, enjoy the journey.

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Denise Simon
Denise Simon is a New York-based acting coach and career consultant who has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 30 years as an actor, teacher, director, casting director and personal talent manager.
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