How to Become a Child Actor

Holly Bissonnette| October 13, 2014

Show business gravitates people towards it much that any person would gladly hop on a bus and head to the nearest auditions available. Whether it would be for TV, a movie or for the runway, people are just drawn to the glitz and glamour that the industry promises, plus the fat paycheck. It’s almost normal for a person to be discovered one day and made famous on the next.

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Children also dream of becoming famous, though they have less complex concept of how much they could make in the business. Many kids would plead to their parents almost every day to go to the upcoming Disney channel auditions or even modeling auditions. This just goes to show that adults do not necessarily dominate showbiz, kids can do that too.

Child Stars With Big Names

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Do names like Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera ring a bell? Anybody could tell exactly who they are right now, but back in the early 90s they sang and danced their way through Disney Channel. They were all part of the Mickey Mouse Club, a show that ran until its cancellation in 1995.

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Before Dakota Fanning became that gorgeous woman she is now, she tugged at our hearts and made us cry in the movie I Am Sam. Preceding Dakota are big names such as Jodie Foster, Drew Barrymore, Taylor Lautner, and the Olsen Twins, Mary Kate and Ashley.  All of them started when they were youngsters and they’re now making waves in the world of Entertainment.

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They are among the countless of big names that have been around the industry since they were kids. But not all child stars who aced their acting auditions got bigger projects and breaks in their careers. Macaulay Culkin was one of those iconic child stars who fell off the radar yet up to this day people would always recognize him as the kid on Home Alone.

How Does a Child Star Make It in Showbiz?

Dakota Fanning was one kid who started with a TV commercial. While children like her were not even considering acting and modeling auditions, she was already cast in a Tide commercial at the age of five. She moved on to act in many small plays and appeared on the TV show ER. From then on she appeared on more TV shows and landed a major role for the movie I Am Sam 

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At the age of seven, she was already a name someone easily identified with blonde hair, big blue eyes and a toothy smile. She made a mark on Hollywood and that paved the way for her to acquire more movie offers and nominations for several acting awards. The secret to her fame was simple; she did not stop, and instead became an even more remarkable actress as she grew older.

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From the time that she had her first TV commercial and even at a young age, Dakota did not lose that love for her craft. She kept acting at plays and that in turn improved her skills enough to land her a movie almost right away. It is important for actors, even at a young age, to want to be in the industry for the love of it and not merely for fame and fortune.

Children are like Empty Canvasses

This love for the craft, whether it’s for acting or modeling, is something that should be innate in children and it’s not something that can be imposed on them. They can start with simple acting classes or having them watch a show they’re interested in. Let them discover their talent and explore different hobbies to make them realize what they really want.

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Younger actors and actresses are easier to train because they’re like blank slates and they take in everything that they’re taught. If they want something as much, they will absorb every acting lesson and use that to succeed in their auditions. They will have to be in love with the idea of acting and then be taught to act.

If they exhibit a natural love for these talents, it’s time to encourage them by involving them in more activities and even more acting classes if they want to. That old adage that says “love your job and you will never have to work a day in your life” will definitely take its concrete meaning after getting accepted at casting calls. They will treat it as their own playground and not as something they need to do, which will stress them out eventually.

Are Child Stars Meant to Fail? 

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The stressful environment during filming and auditions is perceived by most people to be the root cause of many issues the child star encounters as they grow up. With Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes always having a run in with the authorities, it misleads people and allows them to think that these actresses have been victims of a sad childhood and an even bad turn out of their careers.

This remains to be a misconception that child actor Paul Petersen strives to make right. He formed a non-profit organization called A Minor Consideration, following the death of a fellow child actor Rusty Hamer who committed suicide after being unhappy with how his career turned out. A Minor Consideration, to this day, aims to make conditions better for child performers and assist them in the transition to living ordinary lives outside the limelight.

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Paul, along with his group of former child actors, has helped struggling actors cope with the transition. They had confronted River Phoenix who was then reported to have troubles with drugs and alcohol following a major lapse in his career. His group tells actors who’ve given up that they have all been there and that these actors can pull through. Sadly, it did not turn out well for River Phoenix as he eventually died of a drug overdose.

Failure in Hollywood and life in general is always an option, not a impending truth for actors. The group tried to intervene and make the lives of these actors better by showing support. But at the end of the day, it’s an actor’s fault that they failed their careers and failed themselves. Support groups like A Minor Consideration make the showbiz industry a better and safer place to work in, even for kids.

What Role Does The Parent Play? 

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Not all kids will make their Disney channel auditions on the first or second try, but that’s not reason to believe that they will have to give up on their dreams and give up on their lives. This lesson could be hard to explain and they could not grasp it right away, but it’s a lesson that’s worth instilling in their minds for future success.

Parents play a vital role in the kids’ outlook towards their careers and their future.  They guide them to lengths that could make or break their careers. It is important for parents to note that even if their kids have booked a TV commercial or starred in their own short film, they are still kids and they need to enjoy their childhood.

The secret to the resilience of these kids rely on the values that their parents have taught them and has nothing to do with them being celebrities. When they go home and the makeup has been wiped off their faces, parents will be parents and kids will be kids.

It’s All About Child’s Play

To help hand in hand with the role of the parents, regulations in the working conditions of children have been imposed. These rules improve the quality of work that child actors get and regulate the number of hours when they would have to work. This means a chance to keep up with their studies and ample time for playing.

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The Disney Channel identifies and recognizes these rights of children. They have fostered the best environment for kids over the years that acting or being on TV never seemed like jobs at all. It’s the exact reason why any kid would want to be on the next Disney Channel auditions because being there seems so fun.

Reality TV has somehow followed suit though in a different direction. Kids are encouraged to be themselves and do what they do on a daily basis. They’re asked to be their normal selves during filming they could not even call it acting. This is what attracted kids and parents towards reality TV auditions.

Since it’s barely called acting or modeling, parents and kids saw this as an opportunity for exposure. Sometimes it’s not just for the child alone, but the rest of the family. Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson rose to fame through the show Toddlers &Tiaras, which eventually led her and the whole family to star on their own reality show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. 

Fostering Child-Friendly Working Environments

Acting and modeling have their own child-friendly dimensions for children because we need to protect them from the harsher and more demanding versions of these industries. With the industry becoming friendlier to children in the advent of more Disney channel auditions and Reality TV auditions, more and more kids are encouraged to try out for show business.

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No one can take away the dreams of the child. Instead, these dreams should be cultivated and nurtured with the help of parents and child-friendly working environments. Their dreams start with the first few auditions that will prepare them for a break in show business.

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