On tour, our beautiful Wednesday Addams, played by the incredible Jen Fogarty, had a fun game. Whenever we would stop somewhere for lunch on the road that had a field, she would look for 4 leaf clovers. Sometimes she would find one and sometimes not. It all came down to being in the right place at the right time, talent for knowing where to look, and a little bit of luck. And that, my friends, sums up the acting profession.
Recently, I have had many people ask me to lunch or coffee to find out how to make their kid a star. I’m glad to do it, although I’m so busy running my foundation and my children’s lives, that I thought I could sum up my thoughts here. Some of what I say may be unpopular, and Im sorry in advance. But these are my opinions and you may feel free to disagree.
To begin with, if you want your child to do well in theatre, you don’t need an agent. You can do all of it yourself. No local agent (except in NY) wants to represent theatre actors. Why? There’s no money in it for you and therefore none for them. And you don’t want to have to give 10% of your very small salary to an agent. You can find theatre auditions online. Even ones in NY. There are tons of resources. However, be prepared to shlep back and forth to NY for theatre callbacks at least 3 times for each show. Sam went back 6 times for Christmas Story on Broadway and didn’t get the part because he grew 1 inch during that 2 month time.
Commercials: are great money but if you want to get an agent for one in LA or NY, you will have to live there. You only get a few hours notice for commercial auditions. And those are based on looks only. Not acting. Especially in kids since they are trying usually cast a family or a ” type.” Local agents can get you commercials that will be much easier to get to that will be just as good exposure and money.
TV/Film: How many of you moved somewhere for a guy because he said he “might” marry you? That’s agents in LA and NY. Of course they will sign your cute kid. What do they have to lose? They make money off of you. They tell you your kid has the look. Guess what? So do 1000 other kids. Also, be prepared that your kids look will change every single day. Their face, body, voice. All of it. So then one day your cute kid is awkward and unmarketable. And it could last awhile.
Agents really don’t want to have to waste time with actors who do not live there locally. (Ps: my agent thinks we live in LA which means we have to be able to get there very quickly. It adds up.) They also hate having to hire on set tutors so be prepared to homeschool or have them do online school and graduate early. Also, you cannot have a job. You have to drop everything and be places at a moments notice. Also a plus is lack of siblings and a lack of a marriage.
If you moved to LA because you were promised the moon and sun, don’t be suprised if you end up sitting outside staring at the stars. Best thing to do as a newbie is to build your on camera resume by being in local televised things: student films, web series, short movies. Don’t move to LA without a “demo reel” of your kids on-camera work. And by the way, on-camera doesn’t mean clips of your kid onstage in a musical. These are 2 completely different worlds. Stage acting vs on camera acting.
Take on-camera classes and have your local agent tell you the best workshops around town. You have amazing local theatres, classes and voice teachers with which to hone your child’s talent. Wherever you live, you do.
Finally: I do not believe your child should go to college and major in acting or theatre. A wise man told me, there is no college in the world that can give your kid the look they want for a movie or show. No school can teach an average singer to be an amazing singer. Best thing to do with college: get a major for something you can use professionally and go to acting classes and singing lessons at night. Even minor in theatre or dance. Audition for shows wherever and whenever you can. Make connections. But be prepared to do something else.
Remember: For every job you book, you can have months or years of unemployment in between.
The person who gets the part is not always the most highly trained or the most talented one. It can be look or it can be pure, raw talent. Shirley Jones was in veterinary school when she got her first Broadway show. The casting directors of Matilda on Broadway specifically wanted kids who were not polished, trained actors.
The only thing you leave a theatre conservatory school with is a whole lot of debt. And very little actual experience in shows.
You want experience? You should work on a cruise ship after high school. You get incredible direction, work with amazing directors and choregraphers, and make great connections.
And by the way, this business is all about who you know. Not necessarily what you know. Unless you want to be a director or producer, screenwriter or anything behind the scenes or part of the business side of acting, in which case I think college degrees can actually be very helpful.
To conclude, think of this as a 4 leaf clover. The few that find it still have to keep it alive. If you keep looking and never find one, it doesn’t mean you are not a hard worker or that you didn’t really really want it. It doesnt even mean you are not the best 4 leaf clover searcher in the world. You may just not be as lucky as someone else.
In our house, acting is Sams after school activity that he loves. Yes, he’s been lucky so far. And something great may happen again. There is always the possibility of another short term move or adventure. But we still think of it as part of his life, not his whole life. He’s a kid. Would you uproot your child and their family because of a love of soccer, baseball, basketball, dance, gymnastics, hockey? Would you let your child major in those things in college? If yes, disregard everything I just wrote. If no, please take my words to heart.