Should I Bring My Kid Actor to LA for Pilot Season?

Hi,

My daughter is 9 years old and has been working in Australia, where we’ve lived since she was 4 years old. She was very lucky and began her career with a speaking role in a feature film and has worked in film television and stage since. We keep being told to come to LA to do the pilot season but don’t know where to start. She is a member of our union here and has an agent here. Should we be looking for an agent in LA?

Many Thanks,
Nicole Guymer

Hi Nicole. Thanks for writing.

First off, what does your local agent think about a trip to Los Angeles for pilot season? As I learned from my time in Australia, not all local agents are fans of the idea of having their actors give it a go in the States. Doesn’t mean they’re right or wrong, as no one has a crystal ball to consult, but it’s important to weigh the opinion of the members of your daughter’s existing team, especially if they’ve been instrumental in growing her career thus far.

Second, who exactly is doing the encouraging, when it comes to your “being told to come to LA?” Is it someone who has money to gain by encouraging it? If so, hold tight to your wallet and really do some research to be sure it’s worth any investment of time, energy, and most of all money!

The realities of pilot season — especially for children — are quite different from what you may expect. Unless there is a huge amount of momentum built up for your young actor, unless she is quite small for her age and therefore able to work many more hours than actors of the true age she’s able to play (due to child labor laws), unless she is already popping on the radar of folks both in Los Angeles and locally for some truly meaty roles in significantly mainstream projects… a pilot season in Los Angeles could be an exercise in frustration.

See, pilot season’s real opportunities, for the majority of actors, center around getting in on existing episodics and film projects that the namier actors are being held away from, due to their teams’ interest in getting them seen for series regular roles on pilots. For instance, it’s very tough for me to get access to a name actor for an indie film that shoots during pilot season (yes, this is true even as pilots continue to cast, year ’round) because his agent will want to keep him available to test at network for a juicy long-term contract that could end up being worth millions.

That’s where the majority of working actors have it made, during pilot season. Rather than focusing on trying to get access to the highest-tier opportunities (series regular roles on pilots), they swoop in and get to do meatier roles in higher-profile projects than they were able to work on the season before, because the folks a tier above them aren’t as focused on scooping up those guest star roles on series in season four, for example.

All this to say, if you have the money to afford a trip to Los Angeles, room and board and transportation while here, the ability to stay for THREE MONTHS (minimum), and someone who is seriously excited about getting your daughter in front of key buyers during the busiest, most hectic and competitive time of our year — AND you’d both be totally okay if absolutely nothing more came out of it than a few meetings with some great people — I say go for it!

But if you’re not feeling that (i.e. you’d be borrowing money to afford this, you could only stay a few weeks, you’d be trying to get meetings on your own, you’d be crushed if your daughter left without a single booking), do NOT leave the momentum of your current market behind. That momentum is what could make a future pilot season a better one.

There’s a reason Premature Moves is one of the most popular pieces in the archives, here. Unfortunately, most people don’t bump into that column until they’ve made one (or all three) of the big leaps too soon, and then are in damage repair mode.

I think what I would recommend for you right now is a little time spent connecting with agents and managers in Australia who have strong relationships with casting directors in Los Angeles. There are several! There are agents and managers based mostly out of Sydney whose clients I see regularly in Los Angeles, because they bring them out here a few times each year to get in front of casting directors and take meetings with local agents and managers. So, I know there are people in Australia who not only know your local market, but who may know the Los Angeles market well enough to perhaps advise you on whether the timing is right for a trip for you and your daughter.

I’ll close with a reminder, though, that you need to be very clear on what the costs are and not get wooed by anyone who is telling you that your daughter needs to come over to LA and spend money on expensive classes! Most acting classes in Los Angeles are very affordable and accessible without a middleman. I’ve heard about various “Hollywood jump start” programs starting up out of Australia that make me very nervous, as the cost for what the actors are getting just doesn’t line up. There absolutely are legitimate programs that bring actors to LA from all over the world, but their pricing structure is transparent and it’s very clear to see that you are getting what you pay for! Be SURE you do a lot of research on the people involved, if there is anyone trying to sell access to a big dream.

Good luck to your daughter and good for you, doing research before just plunging on in. I know, especially with kid actors, you want to empower them to live their dreams and you don’t want to stand in their way if they really have a shot at something extraordinary. But that’s the most important time to keep your head about you and do good research! So, I’m glad you are weighing this all out very carefully.


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001368.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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