Ooh, got a great question from a reader recently.
What is the best way to handle being a mother in this business? I am currently (and surprisingly!) pregnant, and moving to LA in a year. Obviously, my husband and I will have a baby by the time we get there. Is it bad protocol to bring a baby to an audition? I know daycare is the obvious choice, but if I happen to have her for the day…
I worked as an actress in Chicago for almost four years and mothers would sometimes bring their children to the auditions, and of course leave them in the waiting room while they went in for auditions. I just wanted to feel out LA before I make any major faux pas.
As for auditions I’m holding, I might not even know that babies are along for the ride much of the time, since many actors — like those you’ve observed in Chicago — choose to leave their young ones in the waiting room with friends or other family members they have brought along. I would imagine that session runners might have a less-tolerant stance on this sort of thing, simply because of the overcrowding involved, when you show up with an entourage. But the handful of actors who have brought babies into my audition rooms with them have either done just fine or had their focus so completely split that their auditions were blown from the beginning.
Of course, I’m just one CD in a city of 600 of us. And I cast SAG indie feature films. So, what about the other CDs who are casting studio features, TV shows, commercials, theatre, industrials, voiceovers, and so on? Well, for a sense of what the general vibe might be about kids joining their parents at auditions, I decided to check in with a few working actor parents (some whose kids are also actors, others whose are not) and Anne Henry of BizParentz.org for their advice on this issue. Huge thanks to Robert Clendenin, Eitan Loewenstein, James Runcorn, Anna Vocino, and the amazing BizParentz.org for giving us a sense of what’s going on in casting offices all over Los Angeles.
“My daughter is only six months old, so leaving her alone in the waiting room is out of the question. I make my best effort to get her comfortable and quiet in the minutes before I go in. I search for the biggest, heaviest light in the room and park her stroller/car seat right below it. Just kidding. But I do make sure she can see me the entire audition. I’ve taken her to dozens of auditions so far and she’s yet to make a single peep during them. My biggest piece of advice would be to have my daughter; she’s pretty amazing.” — Eitan
“My older kids were auditioning regularly when my littlest was born. She went to every CD in town, sleeping in her car seat/carrier. BUT I was not auditioning, so I had the ability to cuddle her or take her out of the waiting room if she started to fuss. A working actress wouldn’t have that option. For auditions, NO KIDS who aren’t auditioning should be in the casting building. Yes, if you want to go to this JOB INTERVIEW, you should get a babysitter. That’s the official answer. But like the rest of motherhood, nothing is ever that black and white. You’ll probably have to weigh your options and be a little creative. Not to mention, you would go broke if you hired a babysitter for every audition.” — BizParentz.org
“I had the pleasure of working in the Atlanta market when my daughter was an infant, so I saw the same ladies at every audition, and only if my husband or a sitter weren’t available to watch her, there would usually be someone who would hold her while I went in to read. I see all these docile, perfectly quiet babies at auditions — and my child wasn’t one of them. She never wanted to be put down. EVER. She didn’t nap either, so it’s not like I could schedule my audition times with her naptime.” — Anna
Create a Support System
Absolutely, your best bet is going to be having a babysitter available at a moment’s notice. Creative options suggested by some non-acting mom friends of mine include a babysitting co-op, a shared babysitter, or even drop-in daycare services. If your network of friends is strong, the potential for making this sort of thing work (and on short notice) is better. Of course, for those new-to-town parents, there’s a bit more work to do.
“I am an actor and father of four boys (ages 12, 10, 2, and 1). My 12 year old is a working actor as well. So I have dealt with this topic on a number of occasions. I would say to build a list of friends that are reliable or trustworthy. Usually a small calling list of other parents/actors with small children works best. That way you can trade off favors and watch each other’s children when one of you has an audition. This may be difficult when you first move into town, but if you get involved with some kind of church or organization where trustworthy relationships can be established in a fast track sort of way, then it might be a bit easier. You can then either call on friends to walk with the baby/small child in a stroller while you are in the audition room, or sit at home with your baby while you are out auditioning. The most common thing I do is call on one of my best friends (Paul) to walk with my two little guys in the stroller while I’m auditioning. He’s usually paid back in full when we invite him over for dinner and my wife cooks an amazing meal.” — James
“Perhaps your agent could introduce you to another client with a young child? You drop your little one at their house when you have an audition and you return the favor for them. There are also moms you might meet at Gymboree, MOMS clubs and the like — they are stay at home moms who might have time to watch other people’s kids. Since you are new to town, it might not be a bad idea to explore some of those options anyway. You’ll need a support system in your new home.” — BizParentz.org
Have a Plan; Know Your Audience; Stay Focused
“What I’ve noticed as far as etiquette is to make the absolutely best effort to make sure your child doesn’t interrupt the audition. The session runner is your best friend when it comes to dealing with your kids. They’ve seen some horrible, nasty parents and some really loud obnoxious kids. As long as you’re polite, friendly, and making the best effort possible to make things go smoothly, they’ll be on your side. If you need to come back in ten minutes, ask. If you need to hand your kid a toy between takes, just ask. Everyone’s there to make sure you have a good audition. Part of that is understanding actors sometimes need to bring their kids and everyone has to work together to make sure things go smoothly. If worse comes to worst find a friend in the waiting room and ask them to watch your child for the few minutes you’re in the room.” — Eitan
“As parents of actors, I know we get reprimanded by CDs for bringing siblings, so I can’t imagine how bad it would be to bring an infant into a casting office when YOU are auditioning. CDs could be really, really annoyed. The other actors you audition with could be distracted, which isn’t really fair to them. And would YOU be concentrating on your job — the audition — or would you be worried that Susie Q would start crying? This is a profession, remember?” — BizParentz.org
“When your baby is still small, in its first 0-4 months, it’s fairly safe to take him/her into the audition room in either a baby carrier or small and unobtrusive stroller. At that age, they have a tendency to be calm and quiet with a bottle or pacifier in their mouth. You need to walk into the room with the confidence and persona that says: ‘I am a working actor/mommy who does not apologize for bringing my baby with me.’ If you walk into the room stressed and apologetic because you don’t know whether or not it’s a ‘bad idea’ to bring your baby, you will telegraph disorganization, stress, a lack of confidence and they (the auditors) will pick up on that immediately. Be confident and in control of yourself and nail the audition. It might be a nice touch as you’re leaving, to say something like: ‘I thought I’d give our nanny a day off while little Ashley and I had some bonding time.’ That clearly tells the other people in the room that you have the situation completely under your control; you are in charge.” — James
I’ve always suggested that actors keep tabs on what each in-room experience is like (what the general vibe is, whether the CD is into chitchat or is all business, if the CD herself is in the room for prereads, who the support staff is, even details like whether there’s an office puppy running around or how difficult parking can be on the street-sweeping day) and this is one of the details to note as well. Once you’ve been in a particular office and noticed other actors bringing kids along, you can gauge whether that sort of behavior flies or if the CD screams, “Never again!” to her assistants after those actors leave. Because everyone will have a different degree of tolerance on such issues, this sort of homework can be very valuable when you’re in those crucial, “Do I drop her off at daycare or can she tag along?” decision-making moments. And, because not all auditions are equal, what about the differences between preread, callback, producer session, and — heck — the job itself?
“The official answer is, of course, NO extra KIDS on set… ever, ever, ever. When you get a job, you MUST get a babysitter. No exceptions.” — BizParentz.org
“I see babies brought to commercial auditions all the time, and they are sweet, quiet little tykes who are so calm and satisfied with their surroundings. If you have THAT child, then no one’s gonna complain if you bring him in with you to auditions. However, I would find a sitter for callbacks and producers’ sessions for sure. And make sure you bring the breast pump to set when you book a job, or else you’re in for a world of pain over a 12-hour day on set!” — Anna
“For theatrical auditions on studio lots, bringing baby is completely out of the question, due to security concerns. They likely will not let you on the lot with your Gerber baby. Don’t even try it. Luckily, an actress usually has a day or two notice for those auditions. So you SHOULD be able to find a babysitter. But what about the last-minute emergency casting? I have seen adult actors bring babies to commercial auditions fairly regularly, and those seem to be the most common last-minute variety. I see voiceover actresses with babies a lot. It’s no biggie there, since most of your auditions are in your own agent’s office. Perhaps, if you have the talent, this might be an optimal time to explore a voiceover career.” — BizParentz.org
“I think the commercial world is far more tolerant than the theatrical one. At commercial sessions, I see it all the time and especially with infants who are self-contained. I see commercial casting people occasionally make faces at toddlers who are running amok but that is completely reasonable on their part. An out of control kid not only rattles the casting people but can also impact your fellow actors and I believe that is not professional. I think taking children to theatrical auditions is not advised. Infant, toddler, or other. Especially if it is a callback/producer session. Not only is it distracting, it sends a message that you are not completely focused as an actor, which is not advised. Cliff’s Notes: Commercial first calls: absolutely okay. Commercial callbacks: okay but preferably not. Theatrical first calls: case-by-case last resort. Theatrical callbacks: not okay.” — Robert
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Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000734.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.