Behind every successful child actor or model is a loving parent that goes above and beyond the call of duty in their efforts to help their child succeed.
But what exactly does a parent have to do when their child breaks into the world of acting and modelling?
Is it enough to find a good agency and let them handle everything for you?
If only it were so simple.
While a reputable agency will certainly help you in many ways, there are still plenty of things that you, as a parent, will have to handle by yourself.
In fact, there’s no point in sugarcoating it—your job might just be tougher than your child’s.
So with this in mind, we decided that it was about time someone created a comprehensive guide for parents.
This guide covers all the basics of managing your child’s career along with a few pointers on helping them achieve their goals.
Working with agencies
The majority of parents who are new to both child acting and modelling are under the impression that once they sign with an agency, they’re on Easy Street. They can sit back, relax, and let their agent handle the business side of things.
Unfortunately, this is not the case at all.
However, before we get into what an agency actually does and how you work with them, let’s first tackle finding the good ones.
Finding a good agency
It’s essential that you spend some time on this task as it’s possibly one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your child’s fledgling career.
What you’re looking for is a well-established agency with a solid reputation for taking care of the kids on their books. They should also have a client list that includes companies, brands, and productions that you recognise.
A client list shows you that the agency not only has a good relationship with casting directors and photographers, but they’re also an agency that brands trust and keep coming back to when searching for talent.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it should be an agency that both you and your child feel comfortable working with.
Finding an agency that checks all the boxes can be tough, so this is where the help of your friends and family can come in handy.
Recommendations from friends combined with research can point you in the right direction as there’s no substitute for genuine first-hand experience.
However, not everyone has a friend who has worked with an agency, so what should you do then?
We suggest checking some industry-related forums and perhaps even social media groups. Look for reviews online and read as many as you can find.
Just keep in mind that social media posts and online reviews may not always be a true reflection of the agency. There will always be one or two disgruntled parents who feel that an agency didn’t do enough for their child, but when there are more negative than positive reviews, it could be a genuine red flag.
If you do find an agency that you think is worth a shot, then bear this in mind before signing up:
- An agency should be a registered business
- They should have a bricks and mortar address
- Always arrange a meeting before signing
- Both you and your child should attend in person
- Trust your instincts (if it doesn’t feel right, walk away)
- Never pay to attend an interview (or auditions for that matter)
- How you are treated at an interview speaks volumes
- No agency will sign a child over the phone
While each of these points are important, the last one is something you should pay close attention to.
As the industry has grown, so has the number of fly-by-night agencies looking to make a quick buck.
These less-than-reputable agencies are often in it for the registration fees, and will often try anything to get you to sign up and pay over the phone or through email.
A genuine agency will always want to meet you in person so they can determine whether or not your child is a good fit for the industry.
In fact, the best agencies turn kids down quite often for this very reason,but this isn’t them telling a parent that their child isn’t cute enough. It’s a decision based on their experience and many other factors that are often totally unrelated to appearance.
Applying to join an agency
Usually, an agency will ask that you apply through an application form on their website. This allows them to see your child full details and a photo or video before they take the application process any further.
This initial screening is important for an agency as they need to maintain the right balance of children on their books. If they are satisfied with all the details provided, they will then call you in for an interview.
The interview is a key step in the talent recruitment process and one that you shouldn’t take lightly. As we mentioned, a genuine agency will insist on meeting you both so take some time to prepare yourself for the meeting.
Let your child know that the meeting is not an audition and that it’s simply a chance for you to learn a little more about the agency. That said, you should still remind your child that the agency will pay close attention to how they behave. Be polite and friendly and all should go well.
So after all of that, you’ve found an agency. What happens next?
What does an agency do?
An agency will keep your child’s portfolio on a secure and private database that casting directors and photographers will have limited access to. They also search out roles within the industry that they feel your child may be suited for.
When your child is offered an opportunity to audition, your agent will be the one ensuring that you know where to go, what to bring, and what is required of you and your child at the audition or on the job.
The agency will also bill the client, and once they receive payment, they will take out their commission and then pay directly into your child’s bank account (more on that later.)
These are the main responsibilities of an agency. However, a good agency will also help you out with your portfolio shoots, host acting and modelling workshops, and offer coaching to help your child increase their chances of success.
It’s extremely important that you fully understand what your chosen agency offers and what you are expected to do yourself.
You should also understand that while the agency represents your child, the agents do not work for you. It’s a team effort with both parent and agent taking responsibility for their respective duties.
In other words, you drive the car, make sure your kid is in a good mood, and gets to the job on time, while your agent finds opportunities and makes sure that your child gets paid.
If both you and agency feel that your child is a good fit, it’s time to talk about signing contracts.
While the contract is there to protect both your child and the agency, you should always pay close attention to the finer details.
Most contracts will include a requirement that your child cannot be represented by another agency. This is perfectly normal as two agencies representing the same child can lead to confusion.
It will also include details of any fees or commissions paid throughout the duration of the contract. Pay close attention here as you want to make sure that there are no hidden and unnecessary fees that you must pay at a later stage.
A reputable agency will be completely upfront about their fees and let you know any costs involved at the interview stage. They will also let you know the process for cancelling the contract should either party wish to end the relationship.
What you’re really looking for at this point is transparency and honesty. Once everything is clearly explained in the contract, you should have no worries. However, if anything is missing, ask the agency about it.
Remember, this is a legally binding document that concerns your child so if you’re not completely satisfied with the contract, don’t sign it.
Managing your child’s finances
Before we go any further, let’s talk money.
There are going rates in every profession and these change from time to time. Your agency should be able to provide you with details of the current hourly rates for specific types of work.
If you’re unsure if the agency is paying the correct rates, then do some research to find out what the current going rates are.
Unless you’re representing your child yourself (we’ll get to that in the next section,) you generally don’t need to worry too much about this.
Acting and modelling is a job, so you need to make yourself familiar with any obligations relating to earned income. This will vary depending on your location so it’s best to contact your local tax office for advice on rates applicable to your child’s earnings.
Generally speaking, the rate in Australia is 20% and many clients will deduct this P.A.Y.G. tax from your child’s payment.
If they do not, it is your responsibility to ensure that any due tax is paid in full.
Remember that your agency is not required to deduct any tax— this is your responsibility.
G.S.T. is payable on agency commissions.
If your child does not have a bank account, then it’s time to get one for them. It’s highly unlikely that you will ever be paid in cash, and your child’s payment must go to an account in their name.
It’s always encouraged to start saving from an early age, but at the same time, you want your child to understand the value of the work they are doing.
With this in mind, it might be a good idea to allow your child a small percentage of their pay to spend as pocket money. Rather than rewarding them with a toy or gift each time they finish a job, allow them to manage their own pocket money and choose how they spend it.
Of course, this is just a suggestion. As a parent, it’s up to you to make a decision on pocket money and savings that best suits your child.
If you sign up with an agency, you won’t have to worry about finding work. The agency will put your child forward for suitable roles, or casting directors and photographers will choose your child from the agency database.
However, should you decide to represent your own child, you will need to make yourself familiar with the various casting portals in the industry.
You’ll also need to pay very close attention to social media and industry-related forums, and keep an eye out for announcements and casting calls.
In all honesty– and we’re genuinely not being biased here–we don’t recommend taking this on by yourself for two reasons:
First, it’s time-consuming. This can make it extremely tiring. You’ll spend every waking hour searching online for opportunities, and even then, you could miss out on quite a few as not all opportunities are released to the public.
Secondly, and most importantly, if you don’t sign with an agency, you miss out on the benefits of being a part of their network. Agents know casting directors and photographers, and often, a client will come directly to an agency before they consider placing a casting callout online.
In other words, while you may feel that you’re saving money by not paying agency fees and commissions, you’re limiting your child’s opportunities and exposure to the right people.
Find yourself a reputable agency, and you won’t need to think about this at all.
There’s nothing quite like getting a call saying that your child has been selected for an audition. It’s the opportunity you’ve been waiting for, but this is only the beginning. In fact, the real hard work starts now.
Prepping your child
It’s important that your child goes into the audition knowing what to expect and what is expected of them. Your agent will let you know what you need to prepare and if there are any lines or actions that your child must learn in advance.
Once you have all the details, you must practice the audition with your child.
We’re not just talking about learning lines and repeating them in the back of the car on the way to school. We’re suggesting that you practice the audition with a table, chairs, and a casting director (that’s you!)
This is super helpful for kids who have never auditioned before. It helps them get used to the auditioning environment and overcome any stagefright they might feel.
On the day of the audition, unless instructed otherwise, make sure that your child is wearing comfortable, unbranded clothing. Their fingernails and face must be clean while there should be no styling products used in their hair.
What to bring
Bring any clothing that the casting director may have requested along with some snacks and water. You can also bring a book or a tablet as there may be some waiting time involved.
However, try not to bring anything that may get your child over-excited before the audition. That means healthy snacks only and no sugary drinks.
Make sure that you know where the audition is being held, and that any changes to the location are confirmed with your agent.
In some cases, you may be able to claim some travel expenses. Be sure to ask your agent about this before you agree to attend the audition.
At the audition
It’s a proud moment to be at the audition, and possibly one that your family members would like to share, but unfortunately, they can’t. Only one guardian can attend the audition with a child, and depending on their age and the casting director’s wishes, the guardian may not even be able to watch the audition.
This is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. In most cases, the casting director wants to see how your child can take instructions without a parent to guide them.
Remember that the casting director will take note of how helpful and easy it is to work with both you and your child. That being said, take care to stay positive and be happy.
However, if at any point you feel uncomfortable with instructions given to your child or requests made of them, don’t be afraid to speak up. This rarely happens, but it is something to be aware of on the day.
Rejection will happen, and it will happen a lot, so it’s best to learn how to deal with it.
Teach your child that auditions are not popularity contests. A casting director or photographer will have a very specific idea of the type of child they are looking for. They will take into account their skills, personality, appearance (in relation to the job requirements,) and several other factors before they make their final decision.
So when your child fails to land a role (and it will happen,) there’s no reason to feel downhearted. They just weren’t the right fit for that particular role. Teach them that other opportunities will come along and that it’s important to remain positive.
Most important of all, you need to follow this advice yourself.
Believe it or not, parents are usually the ones who are most affected by rejection. They can’t understand why their child wasn’t chosen and, in some cases, start to blame themselves.
Remind yourself that when you feel bad about something, your child picks up on that. So as we said, try to remain positive and upbeat about your child’s efforts in the audition.
When your child lands a role in a production or a modelling assignment, it’s important that they understand that they are about to go to work just like grown-ups do.
This means that once they are on set or in a studio, they must follow the instructions they are given. A child’s attitude and personality can have a huge effect on how smoothly a shoot goes, and this will stay with the casting director or the photographer.
Of course, everyone in the industry understands that children get tired or grumpy from time to time. This is why there are strict regulations with regards to how many hours a child can work. Check the labour laws for your area and make yourself aware of the guidelines regarding hours at work.
Take a back seat
When on set or at a shoot, it’s important that parents or guardians take a back seat unless asked to lend a hand.
The filming crew or the photographer will instruct your child what to do and will give them guidance throughout the shoot. At some point, they may ask for your help to explain something to your child or to encourage them to follow instructions.
Again, you should not get involved unless asked to do so.
It’s considered bad form to record or take your own photos when the shoot is under way. Similarly, it’s not acceptable to take photos of the shoot and then share these images online. The client will not want the images in the public eye before their ad campaign or production is released.
A parent who is helpful and polite to the people they meet at a shoot or on set, will be remembered as easy to work with. As incredible as it may seem, this can have a positive effect on your child’s career.
Interestingly, the opposite is also true. A parent who is difficult to deal with on set can actually harm their child’s future opportunities.
So as you can imagine, it really does pay to be nice.
Improving your child’s skills
As with any job, a child actor or model’s chances of success improve greatly when they take the time to improve their skills.
Your agency should be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to lessons. Some will even partner up with acting schools and send the kids on their books along for regular lessons.
However, pay close attention to the costs involved. Acting and modelling classes don’t come cheap so you need to first decide two things:
Does your child really want to pursue this as a career?
If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘I’m not sure’, then you might want to keep your wallet closed for now.
Will your child benefit from the lessons?
To answer this, think about what your child really needs. Do they need to improve their basic skills or are they in need of something a little more advanced?
It’s also worth bearing in mind that acting and modelling lessons provide more than a chance to improve skills. They give children an opportunity to work with other kids and build up their self confidence.
Best of all, lessons are one of the simplest ways to instill a sense of professionalism in your child. When the start learning from the pros, you’ll often see a shift in a child’s attitude towards auditions and work. They’ll want to succeed and as a result, they’ll push themselves to try that little bit harder.
Where to find lessons?
Ideally, you’ll find an agency that hosts its own workshops for learning and improving both acting and modelling skills. This provides your agent with the perfect opportunity to gauge your child’s skills and pinpoint which areas they can improve upon.
Agency workshops and in-house lessons are also considerably cheaper than lessons from a school. Just be sure to check who is leading the lessons. It should be someone who has relevant experience in the industry either as a model, actor, or someone working behind the scenes.
Remember that child performers are always learning so encourage them to take any opportunity that improves their skills and help their chances of success.
When you’re a child, missing school is the stuff that dreams are made of. So when your child discovers that they may have to miss some school because of their work, this whole acting and modelling gig starts to look like a pretty sweet deal.
We hate to break it to the kids, but school is important and that’s why as a parent, you’ll need to inform the school of any upcoming absences due to auditions or work.
And there will certainly be a few of those. Both auditions and shoots are usually held during business hours, so you will need to arrange the time off before you agree to attend the audition or take the job.
One thing we will say is to remember that you’re the boss. If you feel that your child is taking too much time off or you don’t want them to miss an important school event, then there’s no trouble saying no. A casting director or photographer won’t hold it against you if you can’t attend an audition. However, do bear in mind that if it happens a lot, clients may stop choosing your child.
You can help your child a lot by reviewing missed lessons or making sure that they can complete any additional work their teacher may have assigned. They may not thank you for it, but hey, it’s a thankless job at times, right?
If your child is lucky enough to land a recurring role in a production, then it’s the production company’s responsibility to ensure that a tutor is provided.
We all love holidays and this is doubly true for kids, and so if you decide to take a family break, you should go right ahead.
However, it’s important that you let your agent know when you plan to be away. Even if it’s at short notice and only for a couple of days, you should still keep them in the loop.
The reason you should do this is because sometimes jobs will come up at short notice and in some cases, there’s no need for an audition. Your agent needs to know who is available at all times so they can put suitable kids forward for a role.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to let your agent know of any illnesses that might result in more than a day or two off from school.
A portfolio is essential for any child hoping to enjoy success in the industry. After all, how else will a casting director or photographer see your child’s winning smile?
But don’t think for one second that those great shots you take with your smartphone are going to be good enough. A casting director wants to see how your child looks in a professionally shot photographs.
That means the right lighting, different poses and angles, and perhaps even a change of outfit or background.
So where should you get yours?
Unfortunately, professionally shot portfolios can be quite costly. We’re talking hundreds of dollars for a very basic portfolio.
As with acting lessons, your agency should be able to point you in the right direction and introduce you to a local photographer.
However, if you can find an agency that will include your portfolio shots in your membership fees, you can save a lot of cash. To the best of our knowledge, Bubblegum Casting (that’s us!) is one of the only child talent agencies to offer such a service.
By having your shots included in your fees, you can rest assured that you are not overpaying for one of the essentials for you child’s career.