A good agent opens doors to auditions, so I’m not surprised that one of the first questions I am asked by parents is, “How can my child get an agent?” Talent agents know how to identify kids with the most potential, and in order to maximize your child’s chances you should know what those factors are. While some characteristics are out of your control, there are some that aren't.
David Gilbert, of Zuri Model and Talent Agency, says, “Most importantly, I always ask the kid if this is something they want to do. I want to make sure they're not being pushed into it.” There are two types of parent-child teams: Those led by the parent’s agenda, and those led by the child’s. Most young performers who rise to prominence are driving their own careers, with parents who help them get things done. Nancy Carson, of the Carson Adler Agency, agrees, saying, “I want kids who really want to do this, the kid who drags his parent into the office, not the other way around. ”
The “Wow” Factor
There will always be an intangible aspect to stardom. Charisma is hard to define, but we all know it when we see it. As Bonnie Shumofsky, of Abrams Artists, says, “I believe identifying young talent is a process. As in many professions, there is a combination of the so-called art and science. The science aspect is what is tangible. The art, however, is having an eye for what I call the “wow” factor. It may be from a performance I see or even just a conversation during a meeting. It is very hard to put this piece of the process into words and as with most art, it’s more a measure of sensing and being in tune with the emotional impact generated by a young artist. That’s what I look for.” The agent will be evaluating your child’s personality at all times, looking for the sparkle that only a diamond has.
There is no substitute for confidence. It affects everything about a person’s demeanor—face, voice, body language—and every interaction. David Gilbert says, “I am always looking for someone who is going to ‘win the room’—when they walk into my office, they’ve got to have confidence. Also, they’ve got to be directable, able to make adjustments on the spot.” When a young performer believes in himself, he not only makes a great impression, but he is better able to respond to unexpected situations such as taking direction during an audition or taping. Being self-assured puts people at ease, inspiring confidence in the agent or director—and transmits to an audience, too! It is something that can be developed over time with experience, yet we can also dig deep and project more confidence than we might feel at the moment.
Barry Kolker, of Carson Kolker Organization, knows there has to be a market for each young performer in his stable. “When signing children and teen performers, I look for a ‘type’ that I need, so that I don’t have ‘conflicts’ and submit too many clients.” This is often a matter of timing, so keep in mind that while your child’s “look” might not be in demand today, things may change tomorrow. It could also mean that one agent already represents someone with this particular “type,” but there will be other agents who are looking to fill the same spot in their roster. Persevere. Markets are fluid and young performers evolve as they grow up, so over time they will find themselves positioned differently depending on many factors.
Kolker goes on to say, “I look for talented kids/teens with a lot of personality who have a passion for performing and whose parent or guardian is able to make the commitment. I’m looking for a family who I feel will be easy to work with and that I feel/hope that we can be successful together!” Gilbert agrees, saying, “I want parents who support their child and are encouraging, who understand that their job is to be a good parent and mine is to be a good agent.” Certainly, as a stage parent, you can control how committed you are to supporting your child’s acting career. You are an important ingredient for success, and agents know it. Make sure they understand you are willing to do what it takes so that you all succeed in the end.