For more than 30 years, I’ve worked with young actors and found that many of them fall victim to the same simple mistakes. Talented children are regularly passed over in auditions because of bad habits that parents sometimes don’t even notice.
If you’re on the lookout for these common mistakes and can fix them, you might find your child getting more attention in the audition room. Here are seven mistakes you can help your kid avoid.
1. Not memorizing the script.
One big mistake I see is kids keeping their faces buried in their scripts, which makes it impossible to make a connection with their scene partner or audience. We want to listen to actors because of the human connection they create. When lines are memorized and young actors don’t have to think about what line comes next, they can really listen and develop connections. Especially with very young actors, reading can be a challenge that gets in the way of authentic performances. If they memorize the lines beforehand, they can focus more on the scene than on pronouncing the words. Plus, during TV and film auditions, casting directors expect actors to have the scripts memorized so that they can look directly into the camera instead of at a piece of paper.
2. Asking how to say a line.
No line readings! If you’ve heard of the great acting teacher Sanford Meisner, then you know that his definition of acting is “living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” A child actor can only give a genuine performance when they know what a character wants and what motivates them to achieve that desire. Casting directors want to see children being themselves. When we tell them how to say a line, we aren’t letting them find their truth and create a compelling audition.
3. Not making a choice.
Watching an actor stand and recite lines is boring and ineffective. The difference between a mediocre scene and a standout must-hire is the intention your child puts behind the lines. What do they want to achieve in this moment? Why are they saying this line now? When they can make choices, they will be able to commit to making the scene their own. Understanding the character’s point of view will help them to make their scene specific, not general.
4. Second guessing themselves.
Your child should trust themselves enough to make choices. Some actors get very nervous and question everything while they’re performing, including if they’re moving right, speaking correctly, are entertaining or boring, or if they’re even worthy of the part. All of this mind chatter will prevent them from listening to their partner or reader. When they second guess themselves and their talent, the noise in their head gets in the way of connecting with character and desire. Help your child build confidence so that their talent can shine through!
5. Showing up late.
A child may be young, but they should still be professional. Remember, they’re working in an industry and they need to be respectful of other people’s time. Punctuality demonstrates that they can handle the responsibilities of a working environment and will reflect well on them with casting and others. Make sure your child understands the importance of showing up on time and being prepared.
6. Bringing the whole family to auditions.
Nothing spells unprofessional like every sibling, uncle, and cousin showing up to an audition. It can make a child nervous before they audition, it makes the waiting room crowded, and it can be a nightmare for the creative team running the audition. Young actors show maturity and perform best when they don’t have an entourage.
7. Skimping on training.
Even if a young actor has a great look and a great personality, they require training to succeed. Just like with sports or music, acting involves skill. Instruction in voice, speech, movement, technique, and even business savvy will not only improve an actors’ skills, but give them the confidence needed to get hired and give an excellent performance.
Be on the lookout for these mistakes so that you can help your child develop their skills, confidence, and attitude. A few simple tweaks can make the difference between getting passed over and winning roles.