Yes, there is work for children in the entertainment industry. However, before you run out and try to get your child discovered, be certain you know what you’re putting your child into before you try to find an agent. Read the first part of our two-part series to get a brief background on the child entertainment industry.
Introducing your child to the entertainment industry can be rewarding, but it can also be a challenging and stressful environment. Only a small percentage of young talent make it near “star” status. The good news is that your child does not need to have an impressive resume to get started in Toronto. Many great agents will take a chance on a child who hasn’t landed a professional gig yet.
Finding a Toronto Talent Agent for Your Child
Here are 8 tips for parents who would like to find a talent agent for their child it Toronto.
Get Educated: Pick up a copy of The Agents Book, which is available at Theatre Ontario and TheatreBooks. Inside this resource book you will find unbiased information on agents, training, photographers and other resources. Readers will also find special advice for kids and parents on classes and what to expect on the set.
Professional Headshots: A professional headshot is an actor’s calling card. Children over six years of age will need headshots, if they are starting to work regularly. A set of headshots shows agents that the family is serious and is willing to invest in the child’s professional career. Don’t worry headshots don’t have to cost a fortune (more to come).
Babes and Pictures: Infants and toddlers don’t need to have professional photos. Good quality digital pictures taken by mom or dad are fine. You will get bonus points if the pictures show your child’s personality. But don’t stage anything — make sure it’s natural.
Accurate Pictures: Make sure the photos are clear and updated. A good way to turn off an agent is to show up at a meeting with a child who looks nothing like his picture.
Classes: Classes are important, but think before enrolling a child in classes at an agency. Send your child to dance, drama or music classes instead. This is the first step to see if they really want to pursue performing, or if the desire will wane once things become more structured.
Network: What do you do if you are looking for a job? You network! The same applies when you are looking for an agent for your child. Talk to everyone you know regardless of whether they are in the business.
Avoid Scams: An agency is probably a scam if the meet any of the following requirements:
- Advertise in the newspaper
- Tell you that your baby needs professional photos to support his or her acting career
- Ask you to pay for representation or pay to get an audition
- Say they can guarantee work as soon as you sign a contract with them
- Pressure you into signing a contract without allowing your to think over the details
Fight Back: If the agency advertises for clients, you can ask Industry Canada to investigate. If you think you are the victim of fraud or unethical behaviour, act immediately. Call the police if your credit card has had unauthorized charges put on it.
There are plenty of great agents and agencies for children in the city of Toronto. If you are thinking of getting your child into the entertainment industry it is best to be informed and educated.
Full disclosure: I’m a member of Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) and have been working in the entertainment industry for 20 years. (I started when I was a child.) For the uninitiated ACTRA is a national union of professional performers working in English-language recorded media in Canada.