Acting for Teenagers

If your dream is to become a teenage actor, read the information below on acting for teenagers. Just like other actors, there's a simple process teens can follow to pursue their dreams. If you want to attend Disney channel auditions tomorrow and become famous overnight, this won't help you, but if you're serious about having an acting career as a teen, the following steps will guide you and help you avoid scams.

1) The Steps to Become a Teenage Actor

Acting for teens is not very different from acting for anybody:

  1. The first step is to get training. Research acting classes for teenagers in your area and pick the one that offers the best training and opportunities. A good teen acting class should be taught by someone who has experience in the business and who has working actors among their students (or former students). If you can, pick a class that offers industry showcases (the opportunity of performing in front of agents and casting directors when you're ready) and support with the business of acting (advice on headshots, resume, cover letter, representation, etc.) While you take acting classes, audition for school plays and anything else that will help you get experience.
  2. The next step is usually to get a headshot and put an acting resume together (in some cases, you may get an agent first). Before getting your headshot, take a little time to think about your type (what roles you think you'll be perfect for) and most importantly, your age range. Some teen actors can play much younger, which is a big selling point for casting directors who prefer to hire older actors to play younger parts, as they are more flexible and don't change as quickly. If you appear younger than your age, use that in your headshot.
  3. The next step is to get representation (an agent or manager who will send you on auditions). Make sure you're ready before setting up meetings. Unless they have already seen you act, agents will ask for a monologue or read a scene with you.
  4. The last step is to go out on acting auditions and castings. You don't need an agent to get auditions, although a good agent will help you get more and better quality auditions.

For help with each of these four steps, follow the advice on this page. Most of the time, what goes for adult actors goes for teen actors too. The biggest difference is that your parents need to be on board and you have to find the financial means to build your teen acting career while going to school. Let's look at these two challenges of acting for teenagers.

2) The Challenge of Acting for Teenagers

The biggest challenge, it seems, based on all the e-mails we get on this website, is getting parents to understand your dreams and agree to help. Often, parents oppose the idea of their teen acting because they are either worried it will a) interfere with your studies b) lead to the life of a starving artist c) cost too much. These are all valid worries, but often parents don't know all the facts.

For example, in most cases, acting classes for teenagers will improve their language, analytical and memory skills. Companies who hire teen actors are mandated by the law to not disrupt their education, which means you'll be able to either attend school as usual or if you're working on a set, benefit from a 1:1 ratio with a private studio teacher paid for by the studio or network. Actually, many teenage actors have been accepted in very good colleges (for example, Natalie Portman, who started her film career at age 13, later went to Harvard).

It is true that acting is a very competitive field and if you just look at the odds, chances are that you won't make a decent living as an actor. Many parents worry that acting for teenagers may keep their child from pursuing a more steady career, but actually, your teen years are the perfect time to try different things you're passionate about. Once you reach 18, you'll have to make a decision about college. If you've already experienced the life of an actor, you can make an educated choice then. If you haven't, your expectations may be unrealistic.

Finally, acting for teenagers has a price tag, at least at first. Your parents may not be able to help, so budget and plan ahead. Depending on where you live, a weekly evening acting class will cost between $100 - $300 a month. That's the only recurring expense, unless you want to do casting director workshops, which cost about $30 a piece. You will have to save money for headshots and reproductions, though ($ 750 and up in Los Angeles). Commit to save a percentage of all the money you get (allowance, birthdays, babysitting, other teen jobs...) If you can't get enough, talk to the acting school you are interested in. They may offer scholarships or internship positions in exchange for a free class.

warning sign Don't waste your hard earned money on scams! Many sites out there claim they can get you Disney Channel auditions or make you famous, but do not provide any real opportunities for young actors. Stick to Backstage - The Actor's Resource and the few legitimate casting websites out there and concentrate on finding an agent when you are ready for bigger auditions.

3) Auditions for Teens

The most important thing to remember about acting for teens is that you need to train and be prepared for the day you get your break - that big audition that can really make a difference. In the video below, Judy Taylor talks about the casting process for High School Musical. Notice how she stresses that all the actors cast already had worked a lot before they got these roles.

She also insists how important acting training is. If you want to make it, it's important to understand that getting a gig on Nickolodeon or a Disney Channel Audition is a process, something that happens over time as you work on your acting and career, and rarely some lucky break out of nowhere.

The auditioning process for teens is the same as other actors, so read our audition series to learn where to find legitimate auditions, how to prepare for castings, along with tips to nail auditions. You can also view some suggestions of teen monologues here.

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"Tween" Acting

If your child is an aspiring actor between 12 and 16 years old, they may have a hard time finding film and TV acting work. That's because producers are reluctant to cast kids at an age where they can change so much so quickly. But dedicated kids can make the most of this situation. By taking acting classes and gaining experience in theater during those years, they'll soon be ready to audition as a teen actor.

Hope you find all this information on acting for teens helpful. If you are determined to "make it in the biz", it's important to know that there is fierce competition among teen actors. That being said, you'll have the advantage of starting early, so if you work hard at it, you have a better chance of getting a real break than an adult actor with no experience. Whether you decide to pursue acting beyond your teen years or not, acting for teenagers can be fun and rewarding. It can also help you in other areas, like public speaking and social skills. Good luck!



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