So you’re looking to get your child represented by an agency. Theatrical or modelling, welcome to the minefield; not only are all agencies unregulated, but children who are the most vulnerable among us are not able to be represented by Equity- the actors union which is in place to protect it’s members while they’re working in the performance industry.
These tips should help you to avoid some of the common problems when seeking representation for your child and helping to gain the work for your child.
Finding an Agency:
There are literally hundreds of agencies out there- not all of them accept children onto their books, so the first thing to check is that they take children! The best resource to find an agency is a book called ‘Contacts’ published by Spotlight, it can be purchased from amazon.co.uk here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Contacts-2013-Stage-Television-Radio/dp/1907915052/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356803328&sr=1-1
However be warned, not all agencies listed will be completely legitimate. Many will ask for high joining fees or want you to pay for expensive photographs- use your gut here, are the photographs really worth £400, I don’t think so. Is it really necessary to hand over £150 for your child’s picture to go on the website? A good agency won’t charge you a penny (minus a small cost for photographs and spotlight fees- but more of that in the next blog). If they are good enough they will make their money from the commission they earn from your child actually working- that way it’s a win, win situation.
Back to “Contacts:” set aside some time to trawl through the book and make a shortlist of agencies you’d like to look into further and maybe approach, I’d say anything between 5 and 20 is a good number. Have a dig around their websites; most importantly check out their recent credits- is the most they can boast about the starring role of ‘third molar on the left’ in a tooth paste commercial two years ago? Or do they have a list as long as your arm of various different things their child actors have appeared in? We all know which is the best one to go for, after all there’s no point in having an agent if they aren’t going to get your child any work!
Is my child ready for an agent?
Probably the most important question you can ask yourself when looking at getting an agent. Before investing time and money in looking for an agent ask yourself whether your child is truly ready. They might be the most beautiful, photogenic child in the world but if they can’t or won’t smile on cue then modelling probably isn’t for them. Or your child might recite verses from Hamlet at home in the living room for an audience of Mum and Dad but if when it comes to chatting to adults outside of the home they become selectively mute and hide behind your legs then acting probably isn’t their thing at this moment in time.
Agents and indeed casting directors are not just looking for a great actor or a stunning child they are looking for someone that can take direction and respond to it, someone who can cope with being away from Mum and Dad (often children will have to work on film sets and in stag shows alone, being looked after by a registered chaperone) and finally someone that doesn’t make a fuss.
As the saying goes ‘never work with children and animals’ and many casting directors and indeed agents will be looking for an easy life, if an agency sends a badly behaved or shy child to a job, the production company will not be happy and probably won’t use that agency again. At the end of the day if the agency doesn’t get any bookings, they don’t get their commission!
Approaching an agent:
Long gone are the days when agents came out to watch school plays to ‘headhunt’ for the next batch of talent. Unless they’re casting a very particular, specific part then they simply don’t have the time to come and sit through endless nativity plays.
The best way to secure a meeting with an agent for you and your child is to send a letter or an email. However, it is important to make sure that your letter stands out. Top children’s agencies receive around 100 letters a week of people looking for representation and it’s important to set your letter apart from the others.
When I say ‘make it stand out’ I don’t by any means mean that you should send the letter on lime green paper or, as the legend of one agency goes, to send it in with a kitkat saying ‘take a break and look over my application.’ You might be thinking the last one’s a joke- it’s not, people get desperate and will try anything- chances are though the letter and the kitkat will end up filed in the bin.
There are other ways to make your letter stand out:
1. Keep it concise- as I said before a good agent is always short on time- they simply don’t have the time to read a 2 page essay on how wonderful little Jonah is.
2. State what you want from them- it’s basic but make sure you say that you are looking for representation for your child.
3. Outline important details- make sure that you tell them the things that stand out about your child and also any experience they already have, for example:
Jessie is a beautiful baby with huge brown eyes and white blonde hair- she never stops smiling, at 11 months old she is just starting to learn to walk and can say a few words. Her favourite things are strawberries, her brother Danny and her rabbit soft toy.
Jacob is and lively and energetic 7 year old. He has recently just played Oliver in his school play and has been desperate to get back on the stage ever since. He is small for his age at just 3 foot 9inches. He enjoys, gymnastics, singing, football and reading Harry Potter.
You don’t need to put in the letter anything more than a) what you’re looking for, b) something about your child (like a short fact file) and most importantly, c) how best to contact you; include an email, phone number and postal address.
It is essential that you include a recent photograph. Two will be more than enough, one head and shoulders shot and one full length- a few tips on selecting a photo:
• Make sure it’s clear
• Ensure it’s a true likeness to your child; for example if your child wears glasses every day, make sure at least one of the photos shows them wearing their glasses!
• Don’t spend lots of money on the photos, family snapshots are perfect, do spend money on having them printed so that they’re a good quality.
Stamped Addressed Envelope:
If you are sending a letter by post, make sure that you include a stamped addressed envelope (SAE) to ensure a) you get your photos returned and b) you actually get a reply. To keep track of who you are receiving replies from, jot down the name of the agency on the back on the envelope so you can cross of that you’ve heard from them- as some agencies will just send your photos back with no letter enclosed!
Good Luck! It’s not easy, but once you start to see your child working it will be so worth the hard work!