For teens and kids interested in landing acting jobs, there are many options available. Deciding which route to take and how can be a daunting task. But with just a small amount of time, you can research avenues that can yield all sorts of opportunities, regardless of experience.
Probably the best way for a child or teen to receive his first professional experience as a performer is with a local community theatre. Community theatre requires nothing more than a basic audition of some kind. No agents or managers are required. Pay, however, is usually nonexistent, but the benefits of learning the ropes with a group of actors of various skill levels is valuable. Pressure in these situations is much less than it might be in other areas, such as commercials, for example, so the experience can be more enjoyable for the teen, child or supervising parent. Benefits include learning the basics of acting, like working with a stage manager, rehearsing, costuming, hitting marks for lighting, making entrances and using proper etiquette backstage.
Another appropriate way to land acting jobs is through schools specialising in acting. Performing arts high schools, essentially conservatories, are an ideal way to both complete general education requirements while at the same time focus on the arts. An example is LaGuardia High School in New York City, famous from the "Fame" television series. Students here are expected to meet state requirements of education as any other school but additionally spend their elective units in classes designed to prepare them to enter the world of acting. Full-scale productions are often a normal part of the curriculum and give students the chance to prepare, audition and land their first roles in everything from revues to Shakespeare to dance and music. These schools don't exist for young children, but many theatres offer acting classes for young children. Through these classes kids can often be selected for roles in a company season. A role in the elementary school play is always a good option too.
Parks & Fairs
Amusement parks and Renaissance fairs are also worth considering for acting jobs. Though places like Disneyland, Six Flags and Universal Studios are obvious places to go, they cannot be found everywhere. Most amusement parks, regardless of the size, offer stage shows of one type or another and are good places to gain experience on stage. Renaissance fair jobs are worth considering for a slightly different reason than most other jobs. These jobs tend to be less about working with a script and more about improvisation. Improvisation is an important skill to have. When things go wrong on stage, which they do from time to time, having improv skills can make a huge difference in the flow of a scene.
A very common area for children and teens' first jobs is through commercials. Booking commercials requires an agent. Commercial agents work on commission, usually 10 per cent of any work that is booked. Though some agents play the field, most work with a more specific group, like children and teenagers. The first consideration will be a stack of quality head shots, photos of the face down to the shoulders, that represent the person's personality well. Second, head to a bookstore and search for a directory of agents. After this, either mail or, even better, drop the photographs off in person along with contact information. Do not be fooled; this can be a difficult task, as most agents receive hundreds of such photographs per week. Commercial work generally pays very well, but competition is fierce and perseverance a key.
Film & Television
Like commercials, film and television work requires agents, numerous auditions and persistence. These jobs are generally the most lucrative, as they can often involve being on set someplace for days or weeks at a time. As these jobs are coveted, it is often very difficult for a newcomer to break into the field. A great way to circumvent this is by creating a well-made, low-budget film at home that can be submitted to agents. This can mean scenes from a favourite series or film, or even scenes written at home. Today, with so many computer programs available that offer entry-level editing software at fair prices, there is no reason why this shouldn't be a consideration. Plus, by actually creating a film or scene, both teenagers and younger kids get to learn about a portion of the process that others might not normally see. Films and scenes can easily be made cheaply by using a digital camera and uploading scene by scene to a computer.
Another consideration should be geographical location. Community theatre, as mentioned, can be done just about anywhere. Amusement parks and renaissance fairs are also quite common. But for the others mentioned, there are certain areas of the country that are known to carry the pulse of the entertainment industry. Los Angeles is especially known for commercial, television and film production. New York City offers the same and also offers a greater amount of theatre, from Broadway to 100-seat Off-off-Broadway. Chicago, to a lesser extent, offers the same but is especially well known as mecca for experimental, fringe theatre. Any city needs advertising, however, and starting in a city other than these three hubs can be a benefit, as there is much less competition. Commercial work, specifically, is needed in every town as advertisements for local businesses will always demand local talent to get the word out about their products.
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