If your child shows promise as a good actor and teachers comment on their acting talent, your next steps are finding out how to become a child actor. But before getting carried away with dreams of having a famous actor in the family and expecting your child to play leading roles in film and television shows, understand the entertainment industry is a commercial workplace and competition is intense for every single acting role, even for children.
Get ready for the financial, time and emotional cost of child acting.
How to Become a Child Actor:
- Take a decent headshot of your child at home or in the garden
- Apply to reputable child actor agencies
- Buy photos via the agency’s recommended headshot photographer
- Sign up to Spotlight via your children’s acting agency
- Investigate other casting websites for child actors
- Apply directly to casting directors for musical theatre open auditions
- Access quality acting training to improve acting skills and learn acting technique
- Compete for elite musical theatre training at a young performers company or acting school
- Gain acting experience in student films, local theatre & other acting opportunities
- Get a good acting showreel
- See each audition as practice and accept rejection, as only one child actor wins the role
- Build a network online and with everyone you meet on each acting job
- Learn other skills that the casting directors may look for – skateboarding, musical instruments etc
- As your child’s career develops, consider an acting coach for competitive roles
- Build up an acting career by working from acting job to acting job
- Build resilience by coping with frequent rejection after casting calls
What is a child actor?
A child actor is a young actor of pre-school or school age who plays an acting role in theatre, film, TV shows, commercials, music videos, short films or corporate videos. They can also do voice acting jobs for radio, TV and film animation, ebooks, and games. They need a licence or permit to work. The employer must also put in safeguarding measures to protect them.
This page is written for parents wondering how to get their child into acting and how the children’s acting world works. If you’re a teenager and aspiring actor please also read out page How to become a teenage actor.
How do I get my child into acting?
Getting your child into acting can be as simple as joining a local acting class, or attending a holiday acting course. But roles for film and television roles needs an in-depth understanding of the entertainment industry, a good agent, headshots, showreel, casting website subscriptions, last minute trips to auditions (casting calls), and supporting your child through one rejection after another.
Does your kid have what it takes to be a child actor?
An acting teacher spots talent. But a reputable children’s talent agency seeks the right combination of looks, personality and talent to suggest the child will win acting roles from casting directors. Therefore, they select a young aspiring actor for their books only after an audition workshop.
How can you tell if your child should be an actor?
Just because your child could be a kid actor, doesn’t mean they should be. Firstly, they must really want to do this themselves, not because you want them to. Secondly, can they cope with rejection? Each child star won breakthrough roles for which hundreds of kids got rejected.
Can your child become an actor with no experience?
Your child can become an actor with no experience if they have the right combination of looks, personality and talent to succeed in casting director workshops. The first stage is finding a reputable children’s acting agency by sending a decent home headshot. Alternatively, find the first acting jobs through casting websites.
How do you find auditions and casting calls for kids?
The safest way to find auditions and casting calls for kids is by securing representation with a reputable children’s acting agency. However, you can apply for numerous roles by subscribing to casting websites. Musical theatre open audition slots are allocated by the show’s casting director.
Find reputable talent agencies
Before you apply to any agency, do lots and lots of research. Scam agencies see the parent of an aspiring actor as easy prey. There are also plenty of talent agencies which mean well but aren’t selective and struggle to build a solid reputation with casting directors.
Our lists of talent agencies will get your search started:
If you’re interested in child modelling too, here’s a modelling agency list;
But what works for one family will not work for another. Plus, you will have agencies in your local area who may not be on the list but may be more understanding if you ask for less frequent trips to London.
Follow agents on social media
Follow each of your prospective agencies on Twitter and Facebook. You will soon see how much work their children are getting, and for what age ranges, type of job, etc.
For those agencies who use social media for wishing their clients luck at castings, you will see how few results in booking the job, regardless of how experienced they are.
Following the agencies will also put you in contact with a whole community of child actor parents. It may feel a bit brave to follow them on Twitter, for example. But despite the reputation of pushy mums, you will be pleasantly surprised to find a truly supportive and understanding community!
The parents congratulate each other’s children and help publicise projects the children have been involved in. They understand the reality of juggling family life with 3 London castings thrown in.
Apply to talent agents for your baby or child
By this stage, you are ready to apply when an agent tweets that their books are open. They will be clear about the photos and information you need to include.
A reputable agency will either invite your child to an assessment day or send a polite ‘no’. Some won’t respond at all, because they get too many applications for their busy team.
Good agents will receive over a thousand applications, therefore MOST people will be politely rejected. Swallow the disappointment. Absolutely do NOT ask the agent to explain why. Just get ready for the next application.
If you get someone offering to represent your aspiring child actor without meeting them, alarm bells should start ringing, especially when they ask for a registration fee.
Audition for a children’s acting agency
A reputable children’s acting agency only wants to represent children who are likely to book acting jobs. In return for the time and expense of finding paid work for the young professional actor, they receive a commission, which is most of their income. Casting directors note the quality (or otherwise) of children on agency books.
Therefore good agents meet each child to assess looks, personality, and talent before any offer of representation is made.
The most successful agencies will usually open their books for a short period, maybe only 24 hours. Then they invite just a small percentage of applications to an assessment day. The choice is based on location, looks, special skills, gaps in their books, and any previous experience.
The assessment, or workshop, aims to replicate a casting director’s workshop. The agent notes which children stand out for their looks, personality and talent. They check those children against the children already represented – to avoid internal competition – while also covering as many gaps in the agency brief as possible.
Ideally, every casting breakdown posted by a casting director is met by one of the agency’s young actors. The more acting jobs the agency puts their clients forward for, the higher the chance their young actors will win professional work and pay agency commission. Running a good agency is expensive and precarious, so the quality of professional actors on the books matters.
Questions to ask each talent agency before signing
- Do they have open books all year, or only at certain times?
- Are they a boutique agency, or do they represent a thousand children?
- Are they registered with Spotlight?
- Do any complaints about them appear on the internet?
- Do they meet all the children they represent?
- Are they a sole agency or not?
- Do they represent other actors who look similar to your child?
- Do they charge to represent your child?
- What are the commission charges?
- How much does their headshot photographer charge?
- Do they offer an online agency calendar?
- Are there restrictions on your use of social media?
- How much notice do you have to give if you want to move to another agent?
Does your child need an acting agent or manager?
Your child doesn’t need an acting manager or agent if you’re prepared to track down quality acting jobs through casting websites and casting director social media feeds. You’ll also arrange the child performance licences.
However, your child will need an acting agent to purchase a Spotlight subscription.
Find acting & modelling work without an agent
Many of the advertised jobs are low paid (and Starnow has unpaid casting calls too – just get wise to when people are taking advantage here), and you will often be expected to be a chaperone for your child.
By setting up the profile, you get the chance to organise nice recent photos of your child and get their measurements sorted. Also, identify any experience which prospective agents and employers would be interested in.
There are settings with most casting sites which allow you to protect your child’s identity. For example, you may be able to restrict the surname to the first initial and limit the listing so your child’s profile does not appear in search engine results.
However, you will also become aware that many people link their child actor profile to the likes of Twitter accounts. Find what you are comfortable with, it’s a question of personal preference and not set rules.
How much does a headshot photographer charge?
A professional child actor needs a great headshot and full body shot. At the beginning, just do one from home. But when you’ve secured a talent agent, use their recommended headshot photographer. It will normally be at a session arranged by the agency, and cost £100 or less.
Does a kid actor need pushy parents?
Forget the sneering at pushy parents. Parents support their young aspiring actors as they balance school, work, high level training, audition nerves, and regular rejection. There’s also the financial cost of headshots, lessons, regular travel to auditions, and lost work for the adult.
How much does it cost to start a child’s acting career?
Firstly you must be clear about the commitment you are about to take on. Just getting on the agency books will incur headshot, administration and Spotlight annual costs. Those costs alone will need about £200.
For paid work castings will usually be in London, sometimes in Manchester, and rarely elsewhere. A casting invitation happens with very little notice – sometimes on the same day. You do not turn them down without consequences. It is up to you to suddenly arrange time off work, agree with the school that your child can leave early, and pay the expensive train fare yourself. A Family Railcard will be your best friend.
How do you prepare your child for an acting audition?
Casting directors see dozens, if not hundreds, of child actors for each role. Turn up on time, wearing clothes appropriate to the role, with lines and scenarios well practiced. Balance positivity and excitement with awareness that you’ll probably not hear back afterwards.
What do casting directors look for in child actors?
What casting directors look for in child actors depends on the project and role. A commercial, gritty drama or horror film needs different looks and characterisation. But talent, focus, taking direction, confidence, working well with adults, previous credits and resemblance to the screen parent all matter.
A child acting career is full of rejection
This is not a school play or acting class show, with limited competition and opportunity for all. Every casting director, producer and director selects a young actor or young actress for commercial reasons, no matter their age. They must be the perfect fit for the production and the rest of the cast. Every audition whittles down hundreds of talented youngsters to just one.
Unfortunately, the majority of casting directors don’t notify talent agents that a client has been discounted for the role, or that the role itself has been scrapped. Therefore, the child and their family spend days waiting for a phone call, slowly coming to terms with the disappointment. This might happen dozens of times between each acting job won.
Do you think voice acting is a good fit for your child?
Parents and kids see child actors in TV shows and films, not realising some youngsters build a career as a voice actor for commercials, animations, radio and games. Listen carefully to your child practice bringing characters to life with just a script and their voice.
How do you know if your child would be good at voice acting?
Voice acting agents want demo tapes from prospective clients, so your local sound recording facility will have a package deal on offer. Ask them to listen to your child and give realistic feedback. An acting coach could also help. Make sure your child enjoys voice acting too!
What are the best schooling options for child actors?
The best schooling options for child actors depends on a variety of factors. The occasional audition causes no conflict. But weekly absence for travel, auditions and work risks the school’s inspection grade. On the upside, child licensing rules for acting jobs include tutor requirements.
The Not A Pushy Mum forum
Sign up for the forum called “Not A Pushy Mum“. It has thousands of members who share their own experiences and help each other out. Teenagers also join and comment on their own behalf so please remember this if the occasional post seems a little naive or immature.
Begin by spending a couple of hours reading previous discussions on the Not A Pushy Mum (NAPM) forum. You will learn a lot about how the industry works and which UK agencies are rated highly by the members.
Balancing normal life and acting experience
Meanwhile, keep looking for unpaid opportunities that your child could take part in. Every project helps their CV and also increases their acting abilities.
Keep them active in classes which they enjoy and may be useful, whether that is drama, youth theatre, dance, musical instruments or horse riding. Casting directors often look for a child actor who can skateboard or play football well.
And keep your child’s school grades high. When you are applying for a child performance license you must ask for the school’s permission to take time off if it is needed. They won’t do that if your child is ill every other week or if the child’s homework rarely appears in school. Ofsted gives no leeway to a school’s rating because their attendance and exam performance was affected by a busy child actor.
Child actor: a career full of rejection
Please be careful how you talk to your child about the search for an agent. You should be doing this because they want to act.
Your child will need encouragement and appropriate preparation for assessment days. But don’t tell them that 10 agencies have said no, or leave them in limbo waiting.
You, as a parent, will already be trying to cope emotionally with the level of rejection.
Then you’ll rinse and repeat every time they attend a casting call.
Acting is a long, arduous and unstable career. The entertainment industry is piled high with lots of disappointment along the way, even for a child actor. So do not build up a picture of fun, fame, and riches. It really is a career full of rejection.
So if you or your child can’t cope with that level of rejection, do something else more fun instead.
Why become a child actor?
If your child loves drama and later aims for a competitive place at an accredited drama school, the audition experience and acting skills picked up on set gives them a head start. They’ll also be better informed whether an acting career is right for them and be wise to the fact that only an exceptional few will become a famous actor with job security.
Those children who decide a career in the entertainment industry isn’t for them should also be able to take away positive lessons from their acting experience. They’ll have gained confidence in public speaking and interviews.
Plus, child actors build resilience through the frequent disappointments that few children experience. It’s not right for all children, hurtful if the ratio of audition to casting job is too high, and damaging if the young actor has been allowed to dream of being a child star. Your job as a parent is to keep the expectations upbeat but realistic, support them through good times and bad, and make sure they really do want to keep trying for the next acting job. With the right combination of experience and support, they’ll build resilience to see them through any future career, whether or not that’s in the entertainment industry.
And for those children who do win a role in film or TV shows…… it’s brilliant!
You can also get your child into background roles in film and TV shows by joining a child extras agency. Or by joining a reputable agency which accepts child background contracts in addition to child casting, such as Bonnie and Betty or Daisy and Dukes.
Child extras don’t usually audition in the UK, so that’s a saving on travel, stress and family arrangements for last minute castings. Some families can’t afford to support their child’s acting dream, but can put them forward for background jobs.
Unfortunately, it’s still hit and miss whether your child will get work as an extras. Learn more about this on our page about child extras.