How to Choose Materials for Your Child Actor

Kids who aspire to be actors and are truly interested in doing it professionally work extremely hard at their craft. In an industry where youth is coveted and kids are getting more and more intense, adult oriented content (it’s not all kids movies and Disney Channel shows anymore), it’s important to be aware of what your child could be exposed to when they pursue acting as a career and start going out on auditions.

Kids are no longer actors on kid themed Nickelodeon shows or dayplayers in films about talking animals. Younger actors are popping up in more adult-oriented projects. Take Chloe Moretz in  Kick-Ass for example – she was only 10 or 11 when that film was shot, and it’s chock full of violence and vulgar language. Another example is the upcoming film Safe, starring Jason Statham and the young up and comer, Catherine Chan. Finally – a classic example is a young Natalie Portman in The Professional. There’s numerous other projects – television included -television shows like (Criminal MindsAmerican Horror Story) that also contain content that most parents wouldn’t even let their kids watch, let alone star in. However, when it comes sending your child in for an audition for one of these projects, what do you do? Where do you draw the line in terms of adult-themed content? It’s a difficult choice to cross out the possibilities associated with auditioning for such projects because they can help advance your child’s career, right?

When and how do you decide to allow your budding thespian to audition and pursue projects you otherwise wouldn’t let them see in a theater or on television? The firm answer is that only you will know when your child will be ready to work on more mature projects. In the meantime, there are a few things to keep in mind when reviewing and debating projects to audition for.

First off, always be familiar with the project and the materials prior to letting your son or daughter start preparing it. For example, if you get an audition for a series like American Horror Story and you’re not familiar with it, do some research. Watch an episode and Google plotlines. The web site Common Sense Media (
 ) is also a valuable resource for researching existing tv shows and feature films. Their editors rank shows for age appropriateness, provide in depth reviews for parents, and break down the content language, sex, violence and positive messages.

Secondly, read the scene provided by the casting director, and the script if the producers will share it with you. Most casting offices will also warn parents if the content in the scene or the show has adult themes, coarse language or violence. A show like American Horror Story is dark, and sometimes brutally violent. As the parent, look at the material objectively. Will it frighten your child? Is it going to make them uncomfortable? Most shows and projects are sensitive to the young people they bring on set, but it’s still important to be aware that being on a dark set while “scary” things are happening might be frightening.

Finally, if you’re unsure, there always should be a discussion with your child. Tell them that they received an audition for a project that could be potentially scary or dark or violent and explain the story line and character they would portray. Let them take a look at the material if they’re interested. For children, acting should be fun and not a chore, and certainly not upsetting. If your little actor is frightened or uncomfortable with a character they might be asked to portray – then let that project go, and wait for the next one. There should be no pressure, no matter how big and “life-changing” the project may arguably be. Young actors flourish when they’re inspired and interested in the material – it should not be a chore or a damaging experience – and they will only do their best when they have material they’re truly comfortable with.

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tara McGrath started her career in entertainment mainly because she couldn't see a life where she wasn't surrounded and inspired by actors in some way or another. After graduating from SUNY Purchase's Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film with a degree in Screenwriting, she worked for a year at Roundabout Theatre Company in New York. Interning under their casting department with casting directors Carrie Gardner and Jim Carnahan, she assisted in casting such productions as Spring Awakening, American Idiot and Fox's hit show, Glee. From there she moved 3,000 miles to Los Angeles and for the last year has been working for a well-known boutique talent agency in West Hollywood. She has also worked as a reader and marketing assistant for the Blue Cat Screenwriting Competition and has worked on independent features as both producer's assistant and P.A.

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