Acting School Monthly Newsletter - Issue #015 - April 14th, 2010
How to Find a Kids Talent Agent
Here's the news from Acting School Stop, your one stop on the road to an acting career!
In this issue... Part 2 of our series on child acting! Learn how to find an agent for your kids in our exclusive interview with Mae Ross, a Los Angeles showcase producer and acting coach. Actually, a lot of her tips can be useful for adult actors too, so read on. Then check out what's new on the website by clicking on our new guide on kids talent agencies and tips on kids modeling.
If you're wondering how to get your child started in the business, read this exclusive interview with Mae Ross from 3-2-1 Talent Showcase Acting Studios, a Los Angeles acting school that specializes in launching careers for children, teens and young adults. Students and alumni at her school have appeared in feature films ("Legacy", "Lake Placid 2"…), TV series ("Castle", "Bones", "CSI Miami", "The Secret Life of the American Teenager", "Chuck"…) and commercials (Burger King, Pizza Hut, JC Penney, KFC…)
1) Article of the Month - An Interview with Showcase Producer Mae Ross
Acting School Stop: 3-2-1 Talent Showcase really focuses on helping kids and teens find an agent. How important is it to get representation when you're starting out in the business as a young actor?
Ms. Ross: It's really important for child actors to be represented by a legitimate talent agency. It's easier for the parents. The agent will do it all: make sure that they have the correct pictures, submit their talent to the casting directors, etc. Nowadays, you can actually go on a few wonderful job sites. LA Casting, Actors Access and Now Casting are three legitimate casting sites where you can submit yourself for acting jobs without an agent, but they do not have the best castings and the best connections in town. The agents are the ones who get the breakdowns everyday from Hollywood.
Acting School Stop: What are the best ways for kids and teens to get an agent?
Ms. Ross: The most effective way for families of children and teens to secure a talent agent here in Hollywood is by referral, and what I mean by that is an industry professional that recommends their child. It could be a showcase producer or acting school owner like myself, an acting coach, a casting director or even another child actor. If you don't have anybody to recommend you, the first step would be to get really good pictures, then get one of two monthly publications: "The Right Agent" or "The Agencies" available from Samuel French bookstore here in Los Angeles. These books list which agencies accept children and teens and which agencies in Los Angeles are looking for children and teens this month.
Acting School Stop: So the next step is to do mailings to these agencies…
Ms. Ross: Yes, you would do mailings to those specific talent agencies. Post office mailings. Agencies get way too many submissions online. The best way to send your picture and resume is the old fashioned way, through snail mail. Get a manila envelope and put your picture and resume in there with a cover letter introducing yourself to the agent. If you have a referral, write it on the outside of the envelope.
Acting School Stop: With so many scams out there, how can parents pick and choose among kids' talent agencies?
Ms. Ross: You don't want to submit to anything that's in a local newspaper. You don't want to work with an agency that is trying to solicit you. Think about it. If they don't know you, why are they soliciting you? Stay away from casting calls at big hotels. They're usually just recruiting students for classes. Refer to the two books I mentioned to see if an agency is legitimate. Stick with the agencies listed on the Screen Actors' Guild site or agencies that are members of the Association of Talent Agents (ATA). The question to ask potential agents is, "Are you a SAG Franchised agent or are you an ATA agency?" Both are legitimate.
Acting School Stop: Do most good kid talent agencies also have an adult department, or do you find the best are the ones who work exclusively with young talent?
Ms. Ross: I have been a talent showcase producer for 18 years so I have developed very strong relationships with some of the most wonderful agencies in town, like KSR and CESD. Those two agencies, to name a few, also have an adult department, so you do not have to be a specific child agency. Agencies with a youth department and an adult department and can have very strong agents in both.
Acting School Stop: What questions should parents and kids ask when they meet with an agent or manager?
Ms. Ross: "How do you see my child?" "Are you going to be representing my child for TV commercials only or do you see my child also being a theatrical actor in television and films?" "Do you think my child could do modeling?" May I submit to all those departments within the agency?" "Do you see them doing sitcoms?" Those are good questions.
"What is it that you expect of me as a parent?" See if they have a little instruction sheet. Some of them do. It's important to know what they expect from your child and your family.
Another good question… "How many children are you representing?"
Acting School Stop: How many would you consider too many?
Ms. Ross: Some of the agencies I work with may have 200 clients on the roster but that's OK because they have them all in specific categories. They have their "blond blues" and their red heads, etc. Sometimes if you start with a very large "A plus" agency, you can get lost in the shuffle, so I do bring in some smaller boutique agencies for our showcases and I am always wonderfully surprised at how hard they work to get their clients' auditions.
If a child is with a large agency, I recommend that the parents once in a while drop by and bring some goodies. For example, for Saint Patty's day, put some green cookies in a basket with a little card that says, "Cookies from Adam", if Adam is your son's name. That basket of cookies will sit on the front desk and keep your son's name and face in the forefront of the agents' minds. Go ahead and don't be afraid to contact your agent every few weeks.
Acting School Stop: What's the difference between an acting agent for kids and a kids' acting manager? When does a child or teen need a manager?
Ms. Ross: Children need a manager when they start working a lot, let's say making over $50,000 a year. Talent agents usually have more performers on their roster. A talent manager may have only 10-20 actors they work with. They will work more on a one-on-one basis. They may go with the child to the auditions, tell them what to wear, etc. They will call and promote their clients a lot more. They really groom their talent in many ways. But you also have to think of the cost. Your agent takes 10%, your manager will take another 15%-20% and minors have 15% that gets put aside in the Jackie Coogan trust account. Plus talent managers are not mandated by law. They don't have to put up a bond like agents do, so you have to choose carefully. The best way to go is to get an agent first and then ask them, "Do you think my child should meet one of the managers you work with?"
Acting School Stop: You offer film, TV and commercial classes for children and teens. What do you feel kids need to learn to succeed at on-camera auditions?
Ms. Ross: The first thing that I love to instill in my students is that sense that they are special. They are so special, so unique, that they feel that they can do anything. My passion at my acting school is to develop winning personalities through acting techniques: listening, concentration, focus, self-awareness… and lots of praise! There's no reason to be critical with children when you're working with them. You can be very constructive with your critiques. I've had Carol Lynn Sher from CESD Talent Agency say, "These kids from Miss Mae's school just sparkle!" And that's because they feel so good about themselves.
However, they do need training. They need good voice and diction technique. They need to know how to stand on the mark in front of the camera or how to stand 6 feet from the camera if there's no mark. They need to stand on both feet, put their shoulders back and walk in with their heads high just like their mom told them to do. We teach very practical basic confidence technique. When they slate, I train them to look into the camera and see someone they really want to meet. That gives them a sparkle in the eye. For commercials, I teach them to pick a friend they are either helping or getting help from.
Acting School Stop: You also teach modeling. Is modeling a good place to start for young aspiring actors?
Ms. Ross: We do touch on modeling because I modeled and I love it and miss it and also because the kids love it. It's fun. Even the boys like it. It's just a wonderful way for them to gain confidence and learn how to present themselves. I tell my aspiring models to study acting. The best models also know how to act. For modeling, you need to conjure up an attitude on the runway, and that's acting!
Acting School Stop: What's the best way for kids and teens to get started in print and modeling?
Ms. Ross: The best way to get started is to get really good pictures. The casting sites I mentioned have listings of good photographers. You need to get really good pictures and submit to the agencies that are looking for children. If you want to do modeling, I would submit 3-4 pictures, even 4 x 6 's. You need different looks. For children, you could do a basic headshot, a school look and a rock and roll look, along with a more dressed up picture, for example.
Acting School Stop: At what age do children actors need monologues?
Ms. Ross: As soon as they can handle them. Monologues are great for children. I have children who at 6 and 7 are dynamite little readers. They can handle a good big old paragraph of a monologue. They like it. They'll do it. They're great.
Acting School Stop: Where can parents look for good monologues for their child actor?
Ms. Ross: I have to promote a wonderful colleague of mine, Chambers Stevens, who taught for me for many years. He's a wonderful writer who wrote monologue books for children and teens I use in my classes.
Acting School Stop: You help young actors find an agent through showcases. Can you tell us a little more about 3-2-1 Talent Showcase and how your showcases help kids' acting careers?
Ms. Ross: Our showcase intensive, 3-2-1 Liftoff, includes the talent showcase night, 8 weeks of a showcase class and an acting career intensive. I bring the top Hollywood talent agents to our studios here in Los Angeles to watch our students perform commercials and monologues. We also show them portfolios with beautiful pictures of each student. At my last showcase, 23 out of the 30 students showcasing got callbacks to the agencies and about 18 got agents. That's a huge percentage! Parents and teens attend an acting career seminar where they get the answers to so many of their questions on how to get started in showbiz: how to get a work permit, how to set up a Jackie Coogan trust account, how to find the good agents, etc. We also include private coaching in this intensive package. We are not a large school so we can really work one on one with the children. We make sure that they are really ready to book auditions and get on the set tomorrow. They know what a mark is. They know how special they are. They know how to audition. They have a wonderful written resume. They have great pictures. They know what a casting size sheet is and how to fill it out. They know what on avail means…They know so much about the business that they're ready to compete. That's why the agents keep coming back year after year!
Mae Ross is a singer-dancer-actress-model who has appeared in over 30 TV commercials, in musical Broadway productions and in films such as "Pennies from Heaven" where she tap-danced along side Steve Martin. You can find out more information about her acting school and showcase intensive on her website.
Kids Talent Agencies 101
2) What's new on Acting-School-Stop.com
- how to get kids talent agencies to notice your child
- how to prepare for interviews with kids talent agents
- how to avoid scams
- how to pick the right child talent agencies
Kids Modeling 101
A step by step kids modeling guide for parents of aspiring child models. Learn how to find legitimate child modeling agencies and how to prepare for children modeling jobs.
"Acting is simple, joyous, care-free fun! Acting is child's play." - Michael Shurtleff
3) A word of inspiration
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