Some suggestions
Donnajeanne Goheen

First of all, I will assume that you have made a decision based on sound judgment about your child’s talent, as well as their desire to leave their friends and activities in Omaha or St. Louis in order to enter the very competitive world of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Hopefully, your child has extensive experience as a performer in their hometown. Membership in the Screen Actors Guild and some credits on a resume will make the move to L.A. easier and more justified. If your child is 11 years old, has only acted in a school play and a church pageant and looks 13 or 14 already, this may not be the time to make that trip to Hollywood. There are many reasons to NOT make the trip but if you’re going, here is some advice to make the most of the trip.

1. Two to three months before you plan to go, you should send your child’s picture(s) to several agencies in L.A. Call the SAG office at (323) 954-1600 and request a list of agencies -- there are about 200 agencies, so it may be useful to contact the Samuel French Book Store in Hollywood and order “The Agencies” book from them for about $10. It will tell you a little about each agency -- most of it is fairly generic info and they basically state that almost every agent is hardworking and very respected -- but at least you will know which agencies will only consider union talent or are not taking on kids at all. You might also consider looking for a manager for your child -- it means paying out another 10% or 15% commission but managers can usually get your child interviews with better agencies than you might and they have useful connections to casters, coaches, etc and can often accelerate and insure the success of your child.

2. Once you have selected a dozen or so agencies, I suggest that the following go in the envelope: A professional headshot and resume if you have one, or a laser copy of a composite with two or three pictures of your child. These pictures should be close-ups, good smiles and bright eyes looking directly into the lens. Use a school photo only if it is exceptionally good. Snapshots should not have other people in them or alot of distractions. The best thing to do is to stand your child under a light against the front door or a plain hallway wall and shoot off a roll of film while directing them to smile, look excited, look lonely and sad, “have a secret”. You might change hairstyle for half the shots, braids or gel, etc. Get your film developed and select 2 or 3 shots that look great. Glue stick them on a sheet of paper -- maybe print their name and date of birth out on computer in one corner and layout pics. Make laser copies at local copy place. Include a SHORT cover letter or memo stating that you are planning to move to L.A. or coming for pilot season or coming for the summer and are seeking representation. State BRIEFLY your child’s performance experience and strengths. I emphasize SHORT and BRIEF! Be sure to include both your address and your phone number ! Include a 3 x 5 card or half sheet of paper that has the name of the agency you are sending to typed across the top so you will know later who has responded. On this card or sheet type the following:

_____Yes, we would like to meet Joey. Please call_______________ to schedule an interview.
_____We are not conducting interviews at this time and have no opening on our roster for Joey. _____Please contact us again about Joey. We may be interested______________________ date Comments:

Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope and paper clip the above form to it for their use. Some will use it, some will not. (Some may never open your envelope if it comes at a very busy time.) Mail your materials. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE CORRECT POSTAGE! Try to time it so it will arrive on Saturday and it will be there when they come in Monday or arrive Monday which tends to be a little slower for most agencies most weeks. Wait 14 to 20 days. If you have not received your return envelope or a phone call, call the agency. Call between 1 and 3 p.m. ONLY. They are too busy before and after. Tell them you submitted your child’s materials, “in a bright fuschia envelope” ( maybe they’ll start digging through the stack of submissions and pull it out, open it as you speak) and you want to make sure someone has taken a look at the pictures and can let you know if there is interest or not. There are several possible responses: a. If we are interested, we’ll call you b. I’ll look for your submission. Call next week. c. How old is your child? Are they SAG? d. SAG? Hmmm- Redhead? Could you fax photo? e. oh, yes, here it is -- well... and they’ll tell you on the spot what they think.

3. So, let us assume there are three agencies interested in your child. Try to set up the appointments so your favorite one is last so you can use the first one as practice and the second as polishing and really be prepared to shine for the third, most preferred agency. I advise against interviewing with more than 3 agencies unless none of them are interested in your child or you dislike all three of them -- but do not initially set up a half-dozen appointments -- if 6 agencies express interest, choose three and interview three. Trust me, interviews 4 and more will not likely go well -- your child, even the most professional and outgoing kid becomes stale and bored after 3 interviews. Take a break -- and take some time to assess why 3 agencies said no if that happens.

4. Ideally, you should make a pre-move trip a month or two before the “big move” and secure agency representation before you move. If that proves to be too expensive, then try to schedule your interviews a few weeks before the busy seasons get really busy -- that is, be prepared to move to L.A. in mid-January since many agencies will stop interviewing new talent during February and March. It’s easier to schedule interviews all summer long, but if you don’t interview til July 10th and it takes 2-3 weeks to get new pictures shot and the agency logo printed on the lithos, you’ll have only 2 or 3 weeks of auditions before it’s time to head back home for school. ( Which by the way, most agencies are not interested in signing someone who will be in L.A. for only 5 or 6 weeks).

5. For the interview, your child should be dressed “casually nice” and not too drastically different than their own tastes and personality. The best wardrobe is one that does not distract -- and leave the floppy hats and big hairbows at home, please! Stick with solid colors, denims, the GAP look, etc. for most kids. There are always some exceptions and that might be your “skater kid” or “gothic” girl. If your child is going to have a specific niche they should dress accordingly.

6. So, we will assume that all three agencies are interested in repping your child -- now you have to decide. That is where it often helps to have a manager or a seasoned parent who really knows the business and can help you make best choice. There are numerous factors to consider -- agency size, number of agents working on behalf of your child, the support staff, will they do both non-union and union work, are some kids there too similar to yours, too few kids to convince you they really work the kid market well , what’s the energy in the office? Do you like the agent(s)? Does your child? Does that even matter -- sometimes it does, most of the time it does not. Agents are not going to spend Sunday afternoons with you -- they are going to get your child auditions and negotiate deals. Good luck making the best decision. And if it turns out to not be the best choice, you can leave anytime if there’s no contract and in 151 days if there is a contract.

7. HOUSING: If you do not have friends and relatives, you’ll need a place to live. Check our housing webpage for short term housing options.

8. SCHOOL: You may make arrangements with your local school to complete assignments while you are in L.A. Some schools are easy to work with in this regard and others are not. Some teachers just say, “ Read three books, do book reports, visit a museum and write a report, practice multiplication tables and keep a journal”. You can also enroll your child in local L.A. school. They all seem to be pretty accustomed to people showing up to register kids and then withdrawing them 2 months later. There are also a number of tutoring services and independent study programs available and many actor kids are enrolled in the Voyager Charter School.

9. GETTING AROUND: Los Angeles is easier to master than you may think. It is laid out in a very straightforward manner and street numbers match up pretty well all the way across town. You will need to purchase a Thomas Guide at Target or Office Depot and then it will be quite easy to find your way around. Auditions are held in more than 300 locations so you must have an L.A. map!

10. FREEWAYS: These are a little intimidating and sometimes it is really faster to take surface streets. Look for routes you can take over the hill ( from the valley to Hollywood/West L.A. using Cahuenga, Laurel Canyon, Coldwater , Sepulveda ). Allow extra time for ALL appts.

11. WORK PERMITS: You’ll need to get a work permit for your child. Come to L.A. prepared to do so with copy of birth certificate and a recent report card that shows a C average or better. Your agent should give you info for getting the permit. Ask if they don’t.

12. TRAINING: Professional actors continue to train on a regular basis no matter what age. Check the casting offices and ask your agent for suggestions of schools and acting coaches.

13. ACTOR RESOURCES: One of your best resources will be found at the local newstands -- BackStage West -- a weekly publication that has tons of ads for acting schools, photographers, printers, etc. as well as audition notices, mostly for non-union and student films.You will also want to check out Samuel French Bookstore in Hollywood on Sunset or in Studio City at Radford and Ventura Blvd.

14. NETWORKING: You’ll need a support group so find some other parents but keep your perspective and try to avoid the gossipy side of this business. And understand that there is more gossip in this industry than truth and there are always exceptions to rules and there is almost always another side to the stories you hear.

Working with a manager can make the move to Hollywood easier and more successful for most. The industry as well as life in L.A. can be very overwhelming and the support and guidance of a manager can make a difference. Some folks feel that a child doesn't need to have a manager until "they have something to manage" but many children miss the opportunities to go beyond the bottom rungs on the ladder to success. A good manager who is actively involved in developing your child's career can accelerate the movement up the ladder of success, making sure the performer is well-prepared, isn't "lost in the shuffle" and that agents are more pro-active in their submissions and pitches. A manager may also save you considerable money through their contacts for training, photography, etc. In the long run, most kids with managers accomplish more than kids without a manager and it is far better to pay two commissions out and to have 75% or 80% of SOMETHING than 90% of NOTHING.

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