The Best Way to Help Your Child Actor
By Judy Kain
Inevitably you will get a commercial audition at the most inconvenient time, in the farthest location from where you live, during heavy Los Angeles traffic. But because over 2500 actors are submitted for each role, and you were lucky enough to get your children picked, you should happily make the audition, even if that means changing your child’s dentist appointment, rescheduling your own hair appointment, or even skipping the karate class they are enrolled in.
Give yourself a leg up and always have an extra set of clothes in the car. Shoes, tights, shirts, sweatshirts.. whatever is a good standard outfit for your child. Also hair ties, brushes, anything you need to make the necessary quick adjustments and not drive home. Also have snacks in the car… ALWAYS! Bars, Nuts, Juice boxes, fruit snacks.. so your child isn’t hungry when they arrive.
It is important to help your child understand the spot, and their function in it. Help them with any words they do not know how to pronounce or understand. But that is where your assistance should end.
IT IS CRITICAL YOU NEVER TELL OR SHOW THEM HOW TO SAY THE WORDS, OR GIVE THEM ANY GESTURES TO DO WHILE SAYING IT! DO NOT COACH YOUR KIDS! Let them sound natural like a kid.. DO NOT TELL THEM TO SMILE ON CERTAIN WORDS.
You are hurting them more than you will know. Casting directors can tell instantly that a kid has been coached poorly and then it is very difficult to direct them to read naturally.
Your job is to get them to the audition on time, keep them in a good mood, feed them, support them and drive them home safely. That is very, very helpful and appreciated.
If your kids are over a certain age, that’s where techniques can help them without locking them into a rigid recital for the casting director. Here are a few technique suggestions for your kids over 8 years old.
Paraphrase: Put the scene in your own words. Make it your own and know exactly what it is you’re doing in this place. This is an excellent way to memorize the lines as they will make much more sense to you if you make this a regular practice. In addition you will refrain from being selly. The tone of commercials nowadays is very filmic and often times the product is not even uttered by you or anyone in the scene. It may be voiced over at the end. SO NEVER NEVER NEVER SELL. That is not your job. That is the advertisers job. You are to play the scene and work to get what you want from the person you’re talking to.
Personalize: This is where you can add your own experience as it fits in with the confines of the scene. You always want to work within the framework of the scene you are given and Put your own spin on it or infuse a little hint of your personality in the scene. This is very important because it is your audition and your job is to lift the copy from the page and make it come alive. The way to do this is make personal everything you are talking about. Pick someone from your life to talk to. I have a list of 5-7 people who I talk to on a regular basis and I use them and put them in the camera. I actually cast the person I am talking to or about so I have a clear picture of who is in the scene with me. They should be real people in your life, not made up people. For kids most of the time they are talking to their mom, dad or siblings. If they do not have siblings they can use a cousin or good friend Talk to them and see how the scene becomes more real for you. In addition to this work, know how you feel about everything you talking about.
Practice: Get the words out of your mouth prior to going in the room. You do not want the first time these words come out of your mouth to be on your first take… DISASTER! Find a corner, or go outside or in the bathroom and say them in full volume. The words sound different vocalized than they do up in your head..
And once you get in the room ASK FOR A REHEARSAL or look at the cue card and do a quick take out loud while the session director is finding your name on the call sheet. It is like a free take and you might even get some notes from the session director too!
When you are done, say thanks and leave upbeat. Parents should ask only one question when your kid comes out of the audition room… Are you all done? or Did you have fun? That is it…. gather their things and sign out and go on to your next appointment. Or treat them with a visit to the local eatery.
DO NOT ASK THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS as they put undo pressure on your young actor and they are unable to answer it and will sense they did something wrong.. and will carry that into the next auditions.
1.How did you do?
2.How did it go?
3.What did they ask you do?
4.Did they like you?
5.Refrain from saying.. lets hope you get this one.. or hope you get a callback.. etc… Keep your kids pressure free.
As parents of a young actor you have to accept that you will never be privy to what happens in the audition room. That is why they should be in class where they can get proper training from a professional. The only time you will see your child work is on the set. That is your only opportunity to see them in action. And then again there you are the parent. They have a director, a teacher and a studio rep to make sure they are not being worked improperly under the child labor laws.
About Judy Kain
Judy Kain has been a professional actress now for 37 years, showcasing her skills and talents in over 350 commercials and in over 80 roles for film and television. Some of her more well-known credits include a Television Series Regular on The Jackie Thomas Show and a Recurring role on the Emmy-winning show Mad Men, a role which won her a SAG Award. Her other favorite recurring credits include Married with Children, For Your Love, Grosse Pointe, and Manhattan, AZ with Chad Everett. She has done numerous guest appearances on the hit shows Modern Family, The Middle, Bones, Castle, Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, ER, Seinfeld, The District, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Friends, and The Drew Carey Show just to name a few. Her teaching career has also lead to immense success, being voted BACKSTAGE WEST’S FAVORITE ON-CAMERA COMMERCIAL TEACHER IN LA in 2010 and 2011. Her other acting classes have won BACKSTAGE WEST’S FAVORITE IN LA as well, and continue to produce amazing results for her students. She teaches Advanced Callback, Commercial A to Z and Commercial WednesdayWorkouts at her acting studio, Keep it Real Acting.
Judy first co-founded the acting training company, Talent To Go, which lead to the empowerment of countless actors’ careers. In 2009 and 2010, TTG won the BEST CASTING DIRECTOR WORKSHOP IN LA. Judy opened Keep It Real Acting in 2012, which now continues her teaching legacy and offers an vast amount of classes for all students of all ages and skill levels. She is continually grateful to have helped transform so many actors’ careers.