Think your kid is cute enough to be in a commercial, print ad or even the movies?
A new book provides the ins and outs of showbiz and everything a parent needs to know before getting their kids in the business.
“Parenting in the Spotlight: How to Raise a Child Star Without Screwing Them Up,” is written by talent coach and Westchester resident Denise Simon.
A 30-year veteran of the business, Simon has been an actress, teacher, director, casting director and personal talent manager, who has managed actors Scarlett Johansson, Mira Sorvino, Lacey Chabert and Judy Reyes.
Simon also works with child actors and offers valuable advice on what parents need to know such as how do you know when to hire an agent? What kind of clothing should be worn to auditions? What about taxes, school, and helping your child cope with rejection?
She’s appearing at the Westchester Broadway Theatre on Friday to answer questions like these and sign copies of the new book.
Simon says the first thing parents should determine is if their child is suitable for this type of work.
“So you have a cute kid and people are stopping you on the street or your child is exhibiting signs of play acting? I recommend getting a professional assessment,” says Simon. “They will tell you if there’s a personality or skill level that makes them (your child) competitive in the industry.”
She says biracial children are getting attention from casting agents, children with an atypical look are appealing and generally boys get more work than girls.
“They have to have charisma,” Simon says of a successful professional child. “It’s personality. There’s a lot of different mediums. It sometimes is the ‘it’ factor; we know it when we see it.”
There is potential work at every age, but there’s timing involved. For example, babies need to be at least three months old before they can do print advertisements; children between the ages of eight and 11 can potentially find the most work.
“There are union laws and tutoring laws,” says Simon. “I don’t start working with a child until eight. When the child can listen and take direction; 8 to 12 is the sweet spot.”
Simon says parents should do their homework, research agents and classes and vet people before getting into the business.
“Everyone has websites you; have to do your research,” says Simon. “Someone who doesn’t have a website and answering the phone at night is suspect.”
She also says be wary of being stopped in the mall.
“Some of them are legit and will offer classes but you should never spend thousands of dollars on photos. Remember, children change because they are growing. And if you’re going to spend money on classes you want to check out what is being offered.”
“There are life skills involved like presentation, confidence, learning collaboration and social skills you learn,” she says.
One of the biggest lessons is resilience.
“Learning resilience is key; kids learn that it isn’t about them. The learn it at a young age. Some can’t handle it — I ended (acting) at 27 years old; I didn’t want to live hand to mouth — and it’s tough life. You have to remember its for fun and when the kid wants to get out, it’s time to go.” – Twitter: @krhudsonvalley