Interviews with Talent Agencies
It is common for child actors and parents to wonder about what happens during interviews with talent agencies. Interviews with talent agencies can be stressful for both the parents and the children. It is certainly quite helpful to know what to expect before you arrive at a talent agency interview. Neither you nor your child wants to be surprised!
I recall one talent agency interview where my daughter and I did not have our best experience. We’d had a rough morning — we had to check out of our hotel and move to another. As a result, both my daughter and I were hot, tired, and “stressed out.”
We had recently arrived in Los Angeles, and were living in a hotel until we found an apartment. My husband tried to extend our hotel stay, but mistakenly booked us in a different hotel.We suddenly had to pack up our belongings and move to a different hotel before my daughter’s talent agency interview in the afternoon.
That would not have been so bad except for the results of the traumatic day we’d had a couple of days earlier (see “Are You Ready to Brave the Los Angeles Traffic?” to read about that). The doors on the driver side of our van were unusable, so we had to use the passenger-side doors to load our van. As a result, it took much longer to load all our belongings into the van.
When I finally finished loading the van and tried to start it, the battery was dead. I later realized this occurred because I had to climb out of the van on the passenger side the night before, so the automatic headlights that turn off when the driver-side door is opened, did not turn off! As a result, the battery died.
I called AAA to come and start the van (I was thankful we signed up for AAA just before our trip). It was July, and even at 11:00, it was already quite warm. My daughter and I were already hot and exhausted from making so many trips between the hotel and the car, and this added even more!
Finally, AAA arrived and started the car. We were able to go to the new hotel, unload enough of our things to get fresh clothes for my daughter to put on, and quickly get her ready. We barely made it over to the talent agency in time for her interview.
When we got to the talent agency, we were given a commercial for her to learn, and I was given papers to fill out. Since she could not read yet, I needed to help her learn the commercial, but I was busy filling out the papers.
The talent agent came to take her back for interviews much more quickly than I expected! I was still filling out papers and had not even helped her learn the commercial yet. I was totally flustered and embarrassed and asked for more time. After that, I felt rushed and nervous, and both of us had trouble concentrating on the commercial.
Looking back, I know that I should have worked on the commercial first before I filled out the papers since the agent’s time was obviously the most important thing. I did not expect for the agent to come back to get my daughter so quickly! I know I appeared less than professional, annoyed the agent by making her wait, and kept my daughter from being properly prepared for the interview.
Not only is it important that your child be calm and prepared for an interview, it is important that you, the parent, come across in a positive way. Since your mood rubs off on your child, you have to understand what an effect your behavior and state of mind have on your child. Also, your behavior is being observed by those at the talent agency.
What happens during interviews with talent agencies will vary somewhat based on the sort of talent representation you are seeking for your child, the particular agency, and the individual agent. However, the basic process from one talent agency interview to another tends to be similar.
So, “What Happens During Interviews with Talent Agencies?”
First of all, exactly what happens during interviews with talent agencies is a bit of a mystery to parents since parents are often not allowed into these talent agency interviews. Your child must be willing to go (without you) to talk with potential talent agents while you sit in the waiting area. And you must be willing to allow your child to go with them.
Your Child’s Safety Always Comes First, Even with Talent Agencies
This sounds a little frightening, and that is why you must make sure you are meeting with reputable agencies and not unknowns who approach you on the street about representing your child. Before going to an agency meeting, it is essential that you do your homework and make sure it is not a scam or other situation that could put your child in danger, particularly if the talent agent approached you and is not with a well-known agency.
With large and/or established agencies, safety is much less of an issue, but even then, you need to be careful and attentive. If something does not feel right, check it out thoroughly, and only allow your child to go with someone if you feel certain your child will be safe.
Reputable agencies are typically very professional with many people going in and out, open doors, and windows that allow others to see what is happening. If you are at an agency that has been recommended to you by others in the industry, there is certainly less chance of danger. You do not need to be fearful about allowing a child to interview with agents without you, but it is essential that you feel good about your child’s safety.
What Type of Talent Representation Will Talent Agencies Provide for Your Child?
Know what type of talent representation the agency is considering for your child before the interview occurs. There are a number of different categories, including commercial, theatrical, legitimate (theatre), music, voiceover, and modeling . Sometimes talent agents represent children across many different categories or sometimes they will represent your child for just a single category. You need to prepare your child for whatever the particular type of talent agent typically will expect from your child.
If the talent agency represents children for multiple categories, your child is likely to meet two, three, or even more different talent agents. Often your child will be interviewing for theatrical (tv/film), commercial, and perhaps for print and modeling. When your child is called in for an interview, ask exactly what representation they will be considering your child for so you can prepare appropriately and know what to expect.
Talent Agencies Want to See a Great Personality
For young children, most talent agencies are primarily looking for a great personality, but also for certain looks (especially with print and modeling), and the ability for the child to interact with adults and others without parent intervention or supervision. They are looking for that certain something special that draws people to your child (also known as the “it” factor).
This is true with older children as well, but an older child will be expected to have more in the way of skills and experience.
Typically, your child will be given a short commercial to prepare upon arrival, and if he/she is very young, you will need to help with it, particularly if your child does not yet read. In some cases, you may first be asked if the child has a commercial already prepared. If your child has one ready, it will avoid the stress of trying to learn one quickly in the waiting room. Even if your child is not allowed to use a commercial he or she already knows, just having gone through the exercise of learning a commercial will help with the preparation of the commercial that is given to your child at this time.
The Role of the Parent During Interviews with Talent Agencies
You will probably be given some papers to fill out. You will have to provide some basic information about your child and you, and then possibly fill out a profile on your child’s skills, abilities, and experience. You should bring headshots and resumes with you (though you probably already gave these to them before your child was called in to the agency) and other photos or a portfolio if your child has one (for print/modeling).
The talent agents may or may not have a chat with you before, during, or at the end of the interviews. Just relax, be friendly and pleasant, and let them see that you are not an obnoxious and domineering type of stage parent. They also want to see how you interact with your child, so don’t talk for your child or tell them what to do. Also, don’t brag incessantly to them about your child. Let your child shine on his/her own.
Talent Agents Will Chat with and Observe Your Child
The talent agent will ask your child some questions and just chat in a friendly way with your child for a little while. They will be likely to ask them about their friends, their families, their pets, what they like to do, and other basic questions. This will help the agent get a good feeling for your child’s personality.
Your child will probably be introduced to two or three or more different people during these agency interviews. Each of these people may ask your child a number of questions. The agents may also give your child some toys and observe him or her playing with the toys.
Cold Reading and/or Improv
Children may also be asked to do a “cold read” if they are able to read. A short script will be given to them, and they will be given a little time to read through it, and then asked to act it out with the agent. This is more common for older children. They may also be asked to do a variety of improv exercises where they are asked to pretend and act out some different situations and emotions.
In some cases, your child will be asked to do a monologue. This is just a script for a single person to perform that tends to be about 30 seconds up to about one or two minutes. Children are rarely asked to do this during Los Angeles area talent agent interviews, but in other areas, it is more common. It is a good idea to ask the agency prior to your child’s interview if your child needs to have a monologue prepared.
Singing or Other Talents
If your child is a good singer, make sure they have a short song prepared to sing. The agent may or may not ask them to sing. Your child (or you) can ask to sing it for them. If your child has other special skills, you can bring this to the agent’s attention.
Modeling and Print
If your child is seeking representation for modeling and print, the agent is going to be more concerned about your child’s height, weight, smile, and physical appearance than for other types of representation. The agent may even do some measurements. The agent may have your child walk and pose, and if you have photos or a portfolio of previous work, the agent will want to take a look at those.
Obviously, your child’s look is very important here (understand that this does not always mean beauty), but personality is still important. You are more likely to be allowed to participate in the interviews for modeling and print agents, particularly if you have a portfolio for your child.
How Do You Prepare Your Child for Interviews with Talent Agencies?
In preparing your child for the interviews, make sure that your child knows to answer questions with more than a simple yes or no. If he/she can think of a funny little story to tell that is related to the questions, that is likely to be entertaining for the agents and give them a more positive feeling about your child’s personality. Also, remind your child to make eye contact with the person doing the interviewing. You can even do some practice interviews just so your child has an idea of what to expect.
Prior to your child’s interviews with talent agencies, have your child learn at least one commercial just in case it can be used rather than a new one. If an agency wants a monologue, make sure your child has one prepared for the interviews.
If you have time and the funds to do so, it is good to have your child work with a professional coach prior to interviewing with talent agencies. A coach can work with your child on commercials, monologues, cold-reading, improv, and on other skills as well as on how your child presents himself or herself to the talent agencies. They can make sure your child is ready to nail the interviews to get a great talent agent.
While how your child is dressed for these interviews is not a major factor, it is a good idea for your child to be dressed in cute and comfortable clothes for the interviews. Do make sure your child is at least least clean and neat, even if he or she is dressed in a tee-shirt and jeans or shorts.
Remember that the most important thing is that your child be friendly, confident, and engaging during the interviews with talent agencies. Don’t put pressure on your child to behave or act a certain way. Help your child to just relax and have fun, as this will allow the talent agent see how special your child really is.
At the end of the interview, one of the agents may talk to you and tell you that they want to represent your child, or they may tell you that they will be in touch later to let you know. If a talent manager set up the interview for you, they will call to let the talent manager know.
Also, remember that just because one particular agency is not interested in your child, it does not mean that your child does not have what it takes. Different agencies are looking for different things at different times, and one agency may not want to represent your child, but another may be quite interested. If this is something your child really wants, don’t get discouraged; just keep trying.
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