How to Get Your Child Actor an Agent in the UK

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Photo Source: Warner Bros. Pictured – the cast of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Most actors know you can’t go all the way in this business without an agent, so choosing who to go with is one of the most important decisions you’ll make, especially at the early stages of your career. Child actors are no different, and getting the right agent to help and guide your child’s career is crucial. So, how do you go about finding them? What do agents look for in a client? And what does your child need to do to make sure they’re repped by the very best in the biz?

Perhaps the first question to ask yourself and your darling offspring is if this is really for you. Getting – and subsequently paying for – an agent denotes a degree of seriousness and professionalism that you might not be ready for. Yes, little Johnny loves drama, but maybe acting at school or in your local area might be enough for now?

An agent will make demands on you and your child’s time and life. For them, acting is a money-making career, not a hobby. If you’re not ready to dedicate lots of time, energy and cash on little Jennifer’s acting then it might be time for a rethink. Although there is some casting done out of Cardiff and Manchester, most projects are done in and around London, so consider the amount of travel that might well be involved if you commit to an agency. Also, a degree of resilience is a must for actors of all ages, but especially for children. Think about whether your child is hardy enough to go through the ups and downs a career on screen and stage entails.

That said, if you’re reading this then your mind is probably already made up and your child is ready to take the next step in what you hope will be a glittering career. And so, it’s time to think seriously about getting representation.

What do talent agents look for in a new client?
“We look for confidence, the ability to take direction, and an eye-catching, unique look,” Sam Skinner tells Backstage. Skinner runs So Talented, an agency specialising in child actors. “We want confident children with a unique, global look – and supportive parents!” Skinner insists that the relationship between parents and the agency is both important and a two-way street: “The agent has the contacts and industry experience to put the child up for the right type of work. We give guidance on castings and self-tapes, and we want to take the stress away from the child and parent.”

Most agents agree that attitude is important in both the child actor and the parents. Sam Brown of Brown and Mills Entertainment (BAM), another top agency specialising in children, says she firstly looks for talent: “In an initial meeting, it’s just about being yourself, being honest and relaxed, then the rest will flow and fall into place.” However, some red flags make her wary when it comes to signing a new client. “Bombarding the office with calls, too many previous agents, being late for a meeting without calling ahead, not looking like your headshot. There are lots of little things that really can put us off.”

What’s the best way to approach an agent?
The first step to bagging an agent is contacting them, and most will want to see a headshot or a showreel. Skinner’s advice is simple: “Photos need to look like the child – they should be natural and look their age. With reels, we like to see confidence, personality, and an engagement with the text or song.” Agent Jo Wellings of PD Management warns not to over complicate things: “A good, clear photo is fine to go along with their application, but keep it simple, avoid props and accessories, and please make sure it is in focus.”

If they decide to take you on, your agent should be able to recommend a good photographer to take your child’s first headshot. It’s a skill that is much in demand, so check out Backstage’s guide to some of London’s top headshot photographers. Talk to your agency first, though, as they may have a “house style” they like to adhere to in their pictures.   

Although much of the emphasis is on what the agents want from you, never lose sight of the fact that you are hiring them. They work for you, so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask them questions. Skinner suggests asking a potential agent about the kind of work they specialise in, what type of work they see you getting, and what they think they can do to improve your chances of getting cast. If you don’t like their answers, maybe it’s time to look for representation elsewhere. Check what you’re being offered, and check everything before signing anything. Remember – a reputable agent shouldn’t be asking you for money upfront.   

Above all, you need to be able to trust your agent and feel they have your child’s best interests at heart. Much will come down to instinct and to asking the right questions: Do you like your agent on a personal level? Do they understand the career your child wants? Do you feel they get your child and will work to the best of their ability to promote their talents while also shielding them from the industry’s less attractive aspects?

Fundamentally, it’s all about researching the agents and finding the one that suits you best. Look at their past work. How well have their clients done? Do past clients talk highly of them? Remember to check out Backstage’s guide to acting agencies for children, then go for it.  

Resources:

Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s UK Child Audition Listings.