What Casting Directors Look For In Child Actors

What Casting Directors Look For In Child Actors

Gabrielle Schary (Casting Director) gives expert video advice on: Does the casting director meet every child actor who auditions?; How can a child actors parent help with casting? and more...

How does a child actor meet a casting director?

When they appear at an audition, when they get a time from their agent to be somewhere at 4:00 for maybe Sunkist or CranApple or Oscar Meyer or what have you - something that they're going to target for kids - the children will show up, they'll meet the casting director, they're going to be asked to do what's in the script, and then they see if they get a call-back.

Does the casting director meet every child actor who auditions?

Personally, I meet a lot of them, but I'm not always in the room. Most casting directors have session runners, casting people, and assistants that work with them. A lot of my job is spent on the phone, and looking at pictures, so I'm in and out of the room a lot. Often, too, I'm able to watch the auditions from my office, so I see the kids that are coming in, but I'm not always there. If I see a kid that I want to have them try it a different way, I'll run in and tell them. So, I don't meet every single kid. I meet every kid at call backs, but the first calls, a lot of times, the assistants and camera operators handle.

Do casting directors interview a child actor before the audition?

Other than saying hi, or how are you doing in the lobby, not so much. Not for commercials anyway. We don't have that much, we're on a quick turnaround, and a lot of times you'll get a job and need to start interviewing the next day. If not that day, the next day or certainly the day after. So we'll put the calls out and the kids will come in, and you'll go into the lobby, you'll talk to the kids, you'll get a look to see who's showing up, and then tell the kids generally what you're trying to do. Get them to relax, and get them to just have fun. That's the biggest part of the audition for kids is just for them to have fun.

How can a child actors parent help with casting?

Seeing parents over the years with their children, the best advice I can give a parent is that if your child really wants to interview and you really want to support them the best way, just be calm and cool about it. Make sure that they're rested, they feel good about themselves, and they have something to eat on the way. Just no tension and no stress. It doesn't matter if you're a little bit late. It doesn't matter if your clothes aren't on right. It doesn't matter if your socks match. Just keep your kid calm and cool - no pressure. And then when you get there, depending on the age of your child, if your child is old enough to write their name, let them sign in and let them take some ownership with it. And just chill. Just sit there, keep your eye on your child, make sure you're comfortable with what's going on, but don't mother hen them. Don't ask the casting professionals in the lobby or in the studio a million questions. It's the first call. Just be there. Make sure that you're happy with what's going on, but don't be too much in the way because it'll upset the casting people if you slow them down, and it'll make your child nervous because you're nervous.

Do casting directors look for child actors in local shows or school plays?

On occasions they probably do. I don't typically. In Los Angeles this happens less, because there are so many good actors and children that are at your door anyway, that you don't really have to go scouting unless there is something really specific, and something really unusual and your hear there is a play that has this unusual child. But I think that's more for them to have. I think plays and things are wonderful for them to just enjoy the art, and have fun with it without all the judgments involved with an audition.

Do casting directors look for child actors in acting classes?

Sometimes if the acting class is highly regarded and prestigious. However, I wouldn't spend a lot of money for acting classes with the promise that casting directors will show up. You can't always guarantee they will show up and you can't always guarantee the calibre of the casting director that will show up. Because as a casting director, we get requests weekly to go to these showcases. We can't. We don't have time between our jobs and our home lives. So you can't go to all the workshops. If you can get something from the workshop that you feel your child will benefit from, great, but I wouldn't do it to think you will get discovered there and then.

Do casting directors 'discover' child actors out in public?

I've heard it happen. I personally have never discovered a kid on the street that's become a star. We've done real people casting where we found a kid who's an incredible skateboarder and we happened to be out looking for skateboarders. That's a situation, yes. Sometimes print agents, or print casting directors, will find a specific looking child that has amazing features, and I've heard of that too, but I would be leery of anyone coming up to me, and my children personally, and saying "Here's my card, I want to... " As a parent, you just have to assess it out. Call and check their credentials.