Auditions For Child Actors
Gabrielle Schary (Casting Director) gives expert video advice on: What should a child actor wear to an audition?; Do parents accompany their child to the audition?; How should a child actor behave during an audition? and more...
What are the steps of the audition process?
The different steps of the audition process are: You get a call from your agent or manager with an appointment time and a location to go to the interview. You'll get yourself ready. You'll dress the way they've asked you to dress. And then you'll go to the audition. That will be the first audition. You'll sign in. You'll maybe get your Polaroid taken. You'll give them your headshot. You'll go on camera. You'll do your initial interview based on what the criteria for that project is. And then you'll go away. The second step will be, if you get a call-back, if that material that you've already recorded is liked enough by the director and the advertisers to have you come to a call-back, you'll receive another call. Then what you do, is you go back to the same place typically. You wear the same thing typically. It's important to wear the same thing to a call-back that you wore to a first call. And then you'll meet the director or the advertisers, and they'll make sure you can do what you did the first time, or see if you have any range and can do it that way. And then you'll go away. Then you'll maybe get a call saying they like you. You're going to be put on what's called 'avail.' Typically if they want to hire one kid, they'll put three on 'avail,' because they need to get final approval for hiring in commercials. So then you'll stand by for your shoot dates. Which means if you have any personal plans or other commitments, you need to kind of clear the decks. If you get the job ultimately, you'll get the final call saying you've been booked. At that point, you'll be told what day you're going to shoot, and then you'll be contacted by production. And production will give you your location and your call time and probably schedule a wardrobe fitting with you prior to the actual shoot. And then you'll go to the commercial and you'll do your job.
Does a child actor get paid for being 'on avail'?
No. You are not paid until you are booked. Professional courtesy dictates that if you give your avail, you honor that with a right of first refusal. For example, if I put little Jimmy Jones on avail for Hershey's Chocolate next Wednesday, but I don't think that I will be able to book him until tomorrow, or maybe the next morning, and he goes out and does another interview with another casting director, and they want to book him for next Thursday, say on Burger King, and he just goes ahead and takes it without giving us the courtesy first. "Hey, I have a Burger King role. Do you want me for Hershey's? Or, I'm going to take this Burger King." If he and his representation, his agent, his parents, don't give the casting director the right of the first refusal that they gave as an avail with their word, they won't be trusted the next time to be professional. If they were to call and say "Look, I need to know. I don't want to lose this other job", then it's the casting director's responsibility to either book him or let him go. You can't keep somebody from getting another job, but you just have to keep them in order.
What should a child actor wear to an audition?
Usually a casting director will request a certain outfit for a child actor to wear to an audition. They will either say 'after school casual', or say 'Saturday play clothes'. If it's a scene for a wedding where they want a bunch of kids at a wedding, they might say 'Sunday best'. If it's a beach scene, they might say 'cut-offs and a tank top'. Pretty much whatever the casting director has requested, that's what the kid's role is. You just pretty much pay attention to the directions that you get.
Do parents accompany their child to the audition?
Yes, especially in Los Angeles. You need to be driven here, so the parents will bring them, keep an eye on them and wait in a lobby. They don't go into the audition room. They wait in a lobby or they wait outside the lobby, but they do typically accompany them because they are minors.
How are auditions for babies different from auditions for children?
With auditions, sometimes with a baby, when we're interviewing babies, we'll ask the mother or father, whoever brought them, to carry them in. We'll focus in on the baby itself, we'll ask about their nap schedule and what kind of baby they are, because they obviously can't talk for themselves yet. If it's a child that can walk and talk, we typically want to see them by themselves, because they behave differently than they do when their parent is in the room.
Can an adult other than a parent bring a child actor to an audition?
Absolutely. For the audition, it can be whoever is entrusted with the care of the child. If it's a nanny, if it's an uncle, an aunt, a friend, or even a neighbor then that's fine.
Can casting directors tell when its the parent who really wants the child to be an actor?
I think I can. I can pretty much spot them a mile away. It doesn't mean that they're a bad parent, it just might mean that they're parents who might love too much, which is a phrase we use around here. They just need to back up a little bit. It is really up to the kid. If the parent is pushing and the kid doesn't want it, they're just wasting their time because the people that approve the process, the producers and directors, they'll see it too. They're not going to want that parent on set unless that kid is a superstar already. They're not going to have the time or energy to put up with it. I've seen kids lose jobs because their parents have acted inappropriately.
Do agents or managers accompany a child actor to an audition?
Typically not an audition, but sometimes a manager will go to the set if they have been hired. Usually, they won't even spend the whole day, but might go there to say "Hi". It depends on how much that kid is working, and if it is just a kid starting out, not so much. But if the child is one of their top bookers , then they will start getting a little bit more star treatment. The manager will want to be there as they will want to double check the contract.
Should a child actor practice auditioning at home?
If they've been sent the sides and requested to do so, yes. But they need to be careful to practice it the way they would do it or the way the directions from the casting company were sent to them. They should be careful - parents should be careful, not to interpret the role and feed it to the child so that we get the adult's response to that role.
What terms should a child actor or their parent know for an audition?
The key terms that a child actor should know at the time of an audition are 'sign-in', which refers to a sheet were he/she should sign-in as it helps in regulating order. Another key term is 'mark', which represents some tap marks on the floor were the child should stand. Other terms include, 'slate' which means say your name, 'profiles' means turn to the side to see the side of the persons face and 'Action' represents doing some gestures.
What are 'sides'?
Sides are typically scripts or copy. It's a term for what the project is about and what you are going to need to do.