Does your child want to be on TV or in a movie? Yes, of course! It looks easy and fun, and they have visions of fame and fortune. But it’s hard work with no guarantees. Don’t be discouraged about letting your child pursue his or her dream; passion is where all successful actors begin. For on-camera work, there are a number of steps you can take that will put your child on the right path to pursuing his or her dream.

Rehearse and record on camera.
Training for on-camera acting needs to be done in front of a camera and then reviewed. When I show students playback of themselves rehearsing, they cringe, but it provides essential information about how they appear to an audience and shows what to improve. Kids can discover unconscious habits like blinking, licking their lips, raising their eyebrows, or playing with their hair and clothes. They see how the camera picks up the slightest movements and sounds, which leads to the biggest difference between working on camera versus the stage: subtlety. Most young actors who have only worked onstage need to learn how to tone down their facial expressions, body movements, and voice. The only way to learn how to do these things is to keep practicing on camera.

Memorize your lines.
Mastering audition technique is key to getting the role, and that starts with memorization. If an actor looks down at her notes, her face disappears from the camera and we just see the top of her head. Although adult actors may be more adept at working with the script in hand, children get easily distracted by the piece of paper and are not able to remain present and listen. Since auditions are usually filmed from the shoulders up, an actor’s emotional life exists in his or her eyes. It is important to know the dialogue by heart so an actor can stay present in the scene, focus on his or her partner, and respond to direction instead.

Build improvisational skills.
Improv training teaches actors how to listen and respond honestly. This is especially important when acting for TV commercials, which are often all improvisational. There may not be any lines required. Your child may be asked to improvise a scene with no more direction than “be an angst-filled teen in the back seat of the car who is annoyed by her brother.” Mastering the ability to improvise means better acting and better results.

Seek professional training.
Parents, you mean well, but unless you are a trained actor or acting teacher, please do not offer your kids acting advice. Giving your child a line reading or choreographing his or her scene can be disastrous. What kids need is proper training by a reputable acting coach or teacher, and providing one is a far better way for parents to support their kids than doing it themselves. Ask friends in the industry for recommendations. Kids need one who is encouraging and challenging at the same time. Parents can run lines with their children, but otherwise, stick to the classic roles like chauffeur and cheerleader.

Each of the performing arts has its singular aspects. The tips above will help your child transition to TV and film acting with ease and effectiveness. The most important thing in acting for the camera is being natural and authentic. By guiding your young actor to observe these strategies, you will be providing the loving support and guidance they need for success as they pursue their dreams.

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