When people learn that my children have worked in the film and television industry for most of their lives, I am asked all the questions you would expect…How did they get into it? Aren’t you worried about them missing school? Do people recognize them in the street? And as understandable as all those questions are, the one that really matters is, do they enjoy it?
If you are thinking of signing your child up with a talent agency you may want to consider all that is involved should they be successful, or perhaps more problematically, if they are not?
Being an extra on a film or tv series can be really fun but the industry is hierarchical and extras are at the bottom of the pecking order. This may not be a problem for your child as she or he may think just being on a set is exciting, even if there are other kids who are the so called ‘stars’ of the show.
The greater problem may be why, after registering with an agency, do some children get work and others do not? This can be really hard to take, and understandably, the child can go straight to feeling vulnerable about how they look or who they are.
Maybe you can help your child comprehend it is a bit like a lottery and if the Director is looking for a 10 year old boy with dark curly hair, that is the criteria - nothing personal. It can be one thing to grasp this intellectually, but not to feel rejected when weeks go by without a call, can be a whole other story.
Another aspect that needs to be considered is if you do win a role or get cast as an extra, you can’t complain or go home when you’ve had enough. You must arrive on time, but then you will wait around for ages before you actually do anything! Once committed you have to see it through no matter what. And then you will have to do the same thing over and over many times! Some kids are cut out for it and some kids just aren’t!
So if you’re considering signing your child up with a talent agent you might want to consider all the aspects that go into appearing in that 30 second television commercial, especially if you think it might boost their confidence. Helping your child to find where they shine, in their own right, might just be a more positive course of action.
(In addition to having a former career working as a performing artists for 20+ years, Megan Rees is a highly experienced therapist, specialising in working with Children & Adolescents.)
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