Kids in the entertainment industry: Everything you need to know

 

Lights, cameras, action… the glamorous part of the entertainment industry. The part that makes people believe in the magic of Hollywood, inspiring them to pack their bags and travel to Los Angeles and New York. What most of these people don’t know is that it is an over saturated and highly competitive industry which requires lot’s of passion, confidence and drive in order to be successful and as a seasoned actor, model, and mother of two child actor/models I know firsthand the pros and cons involved.

I’ve been in the industry since I was 13 and it’s been over a decade now for my husband, Ricky Horne Jr. Our experience in this business made it an easy transition once our two kids were born, although it’s not a passion for our eldest son he has auditioned and booked jobs before too and has since gone off to College. The four of us audition weekly booking jobs separately and as a family, it’s become a family business for us.

My husband began his acting career after securing a bachelor’s degree in American Studies at Occidental College. A school that’s well known for its celebrity alums and students such as President Barack Obama and Ben Affleck. Rick got involved in acting while still in College and joined a children’s theater troupe there. Since graduating in 2004 he has been in numerous television shows, plays, films, print ads and commercials. He eventually found his niche in the behind the scenes world of writing, directing and producing a few years later. His very first short film was shot with an $800 budget, and later received national television coverage on BET’s show-Lens on talent. His second short film “Free.Lunch” was featured in five film festivals and won the award for best short film in the St. Louis festival. He is now an accomplished writer, director, photographer and producer as well as a Media Manager for the University of California, Los Angeles.

My mother got me involved in acting and modeling at the age of 13 because she saw potential in me even though I was tall, skinny and very shy. The acting and modeling classes she put me in helped me come out of my shell and build up my confidence. After taking classes I began entering pageants and modeling competitions, winning a title and a few runner-ups spots. I also took drama and theater classes in both high school and college. I began working on movie and music video sets while still studying at California State University Of Northridge and eventually left school to pursue acting and modeling full time. The numerous roles on television shows, films, commercials and print jobs inspired me to pursue other creative endeavors such as writing, TV/web show hosting, wardrobe styling and producing. I am often asked how to break into acting and modeling which is something that inspired me to start my own Talent Management & Consulting Agency; The Hollywood Hornes, Inc.  My focus with this agency is not only to secure work for aspiring actors and models but also to guide them in the right direction and help them get the tools and the competitive edge they need in order to book jobs and not get taken advantage of.

I enjoy working on commercials the most but I learned to appreciate all aspects of the entertainment industry because of the creativity it inspires. If your child truly enjoys acting then they can be great at it and inspire others too. The industry is vast and very competitive but there are so many opportunities for creative types who are passionate about their craft.  Here is some invaluable information to help guide you in the right direction:

Know your kids: By this I mean really talk to your kids and interact with them to see if they have a real interest in taking pictures and being on camera. Take pictures of them yourself, and film them playing to see how comfortable they are in front of the camera. Kids who are outgoing, social and have great imaginations make great actors. Although Hollywood is very youth and beauty conscious there are tons of opportunities for quirky character actors so big unique personalities are an advantage.

If your child can follow the direction given by the casting directors then they are already one step ahead of the rest. Some kids have a natural gift when it comes to being social…I did not. My two little ones are both very social, imaginative and follow direction well. They also have no problem turning to a camera when prompted. Some of our friends and family members like to say it’s because we groomed them to be this way, but we know for a fact that they were born with these big personalities.

Boston on cameraBossyGapAd

Boston’s audition & print shoot for Gap Kids

On set of his HBO promo spot

Aldi Grocery Store Spot Starring Boston & Lexi Horne:

 

Lexus Spot Starring Boston Horne:

 

Walmart Spot Starring Kam Horne:

 

 

True Value Hardware Spots Starring Boston Horne:

 

 

Behr Paint Spots:

 

 

Time Warner spot Starring Boston Horne:

 

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The whole family on set of our Disneyland Resort shoot

 

 

www.Taltz.com spot with our daughter Lexi.

 

Another family shoot for Capella University
Family shoot for Capella University

 

Citibank spot starring Lexi Horne and Ricky Horne Jr.:

 

 

Don’t get into the industry solely for the money:  This may be a hard pill to swallow for some, but if you only want to get yourself or your child into acting for this reason then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Entertainment can be very lucrative, but as a whole it is a fickle and disloyal industry. You can book jobs and be financially secure one year and may not book anything the next year. Even famous actors may worry about where their next check will come from.

Thousands of passionate actors supplement their income with work as food servers, substitute teachers, trainers, etc. This industry can take you on a financial roller coaster, so supplementing your income while still chasing your dreams is a smart thing to do. No one can predict how financially successful they will be in this business which is all the more reason for your children to develop other interests. I don’t know any adult in this industry that only wears one ‘hat’. Although it seems cliché when people put slashes between their industry fields that’s really how it is. In order to maintain longevity and financial stability actors should never put all of their eggs into one basket. I have plenty of friends who graduated from college first before deciding to get into the entertainment industry, my Husband included. With any career the more knowledge and skill you have the more opportunities you will have. I didn’t know a thing about sewing, styling or fashion design, so I went back to school to study it. I wanted to do television show hosting, so I got teleprompter training which opened up even more doors for me within that field. It’s a fact that the more fields you try your hand at the more opportunities to make money.

Social media is one of the biggest and most useful tools when it comes to promoting yourself and your brand.  I started my blog three years ago and have since started a photography business and a production company with my husband, promoting our businesses and brands daily. We both have more than a few slashes between our industry fields and will continue to add more so promotion is a must for us. 

Flexible schedules and reliable transportation: Getting your child an agent is only one important step in the process, you will also need to have reliable transportation and a flexible schedule. It is so important that parents understand how much driving they will be doing once their child gets an agent and/or manager. Those who are fortunate enough to get themselves or their child a legitimate agent will experience this a lot. Your agent will often call the night before with information about your audition, they might also call you on the same day of the audition only hours before the audition time. This is mainly because casting directors not only have to schedule auditions around your flexibility but also the flexibility of their clients who are the ones that pay the actors and models.

I strongly advise parents to live within thirty minutes to an hour from their agents and the major casting studios because you have to factor in traffic as well. Living closer to Hollywood is more expensive, but my husband and I save a lot of money on gas and always get to our auditions and shoots on time.

Don’t pressure your kids: I’m a firm believer in this because kids deserve a happy, healthy childhood. I love children and I feel for the ones I see crying at auditions because their parents are scolding them for being grumpy, tired or not smiling enough. Remember that they are still young with sporadic emotions. Let their emotions play out and give them some time and space if they want it. If they don’t want to smile for the camera or they get shy during an audition, it’s okay. Casting directors are more understanding then you may think when it comes to kids. If they show interest but are consistently shy and emotional then you should look into acting classes, oftentimes they can help your child to control their emotions and become more comfortable in front of the camera.

Be on time: Being on time to auditions and bookings makes a great impression. Have someone else like a family member, nanny or sitter who is willing to dedicate their time to getting your kids to their audition when you cannot. The quickest way to get dropped by an agent is to continuously miss auditions. If your child is fortunate enough to book a job, be there at least 15 minutes before the call time. Missing a booking will quickly give you and your child a bad reputation in this business. Agencies and advertisers waste time and lose money when this happens.

A little passion goes a long way: We’ve heard the phrase “I don’t know how you guys do it” plenty of times over the years. We respond the same way every time, it’s our passion for what we do that fuels our drive. My husband and I love what we do so we invest the time needed to develop our talents and expand our creativity. No matter how many ups and downs we may go through, we will never give up on our careers… that’s passion. Kids who are passionate about anything have a chance at being great at it. Let your kids develop a passion for music, art, acting, science, sports, reading, math etc…the more skills they learn the better. The more interest kids have in any field, the better their chances are for success.

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Kelloggs commercial Boston and I booked together in 2011
BossyandDad_Photo
Old Navy commercial Boston booked with his Dad in 2011

 

Beware of scam artists: There are tons of scam talent agencies, photographers, and well known acting/modeling schools that prey on parents who don’t know anything about the industry. My mother was taken advantage of by a few of these when I was young and I wish there was someone around to share this information with her, it would have saved her time and money. If you are approached by a talent scout telling you they can put your adorable child on television, make sure to ask up front if they charge a fee.

Sag-Aftra franchised talent agents and managers will not charge you a fee to represent you. Many of them don’t even send talent scouts out to find new faces. This is more of a modeling agency practice, although it’s not as common anymore. Sag-Aftra franchised companies are legitimate because they abide by union rules. Agents get 10% from the client (advertising companies, production companies, etc…), and 10% from every check you receive. They will only make this money when they get you or your child a job. A manager usually gets 15% and modeling agents get 20% because there is no union for modeling.

These numbers may vary with non Sag-Aftra franchised agencies, but it shouldn’t be much more than this. If your child gets a meeting with an agent who asks you for a representation fee up front…walk away. My family and I are all represented by the same agency which makes it a lot easier for us. There are tons of agents out there who are looking for new talent. All it takes is a phone call, and they will instruct you on the next steps towards setting up a meeting. Most agencies will ask you to send in a couple of pictures first. They usually like to see if your child’s look will be a good fit for their agency before setting up a meeting. Children change so much as they grow, casting directors understand this and while professional pictures will garner more attention from agents and casting directors you should only have to spend between $200-$800 per session for a quality shoot, it may be higher for adults.

 

Acting Classes: No matter how much of a natural your child is at acting, classes are the key to getting their callback and booking stats up. My kids have natural acting ability but I know that they can become even stronger, more confident actors with commercial and theatrical classes so I invest in it. In a sea of talented and cute kids, the ones that stand out in auditions are the ones that have trained and know crucial cold reading techniques required for commercial auditions. Theatrical auditions can be intense and nerve racking even for adults. Acting classes can help kids get over their jitters and become comfortable memorizing, emoting and acting out their lines in the audition room.

A common complaint for most parents, myself included is how pricey a lot of these classes are. Helen Gordon is a Los Angeles based celebrity acting coach for young performers who not only has the resume to prove how good she is but also has very reasonable rates. Her long list of successful students include Rico Rodriquez of “Modern Family” and Raini Rodriquez of “Austin & Ally”. Her studio is equipped with a green screen and top of the line video equipment so that children can see themselves on-camera, creating an interactive learning environment.

 

Union vs. non-union:  Everybody starts off as non-union talent until they have enough experience on set, or book their first job under the actor’s union. This is called a Taft-Hartley, and is something that many actors hope will happen to them. Both of our kids eventually booked sag-aftra jobs that got them a Taft-Hartley into the union. Initiation fees to join the union are now $3100 for all ages, which is a big investment. If you plan on your child becoming a professional actor and joining the union then start saving now. There’s still a lot of decent paying non-union work out there, but because you’re not protected by a union when you do these jobs oftentimes you won’t get paid residuals. You also won’t get health benefits from non-union work. Sag-Aftra union has excellent health, vision and dental insurance with low quarterly premiums if you or your child qualify. Your child needs to make over $16,000 a year to qualify for plan 2 and over $32,000 for plan one. Your whole family can get coverage under one qualifying actor.

Coogan accounts and work permits: These are two very important documents that you will need to keep on file for your child before they work. The law for parents of working minors is that they open up a Coogan account for their child. Years ago parents were able to spend every cent of the money their child worked for, which caused major family disputes and lawsuits once the child grew up. This law makes sure your child will see at least a portion of the money they worked for, which is only fair. Under the Coogan law 15% of your child’s earnings get direct deposited into their account. Once this money gets deposited, you cannot withdraw it. Only your child will have access to it when they turn 18.

My husband and I put more money into our children’s account whenever their checks come in to build up their college funds. We are ensuring that by the time our kids are 18 they will be able to pay their own tuition if need be. If they get scholarships, then the money can be used on a new car, rent, books and whatever else they want. Your child must have a work permit, so contact your local department of labor division- it’s free of charge. The set teachers also need copies of both documents for their records when your child shoots.

The entertainment industry requires children of all ages to obtain a work permit. If your child does not get good grades in school, they will not get approved for a work permit. Education is taken very seriously by the child labor division, as it should be. We definitely stress the importance of education to our kids and encourage them to cultivate other interests and hobbies. Some parents homeschool their kids which is their right of course. I don’t agree with homeschooling kids so that they can solely work in the entertainment industry, unless they book a long term job where they would miss too many consecutive days like a series regular role on a television show.

It is unfair for a child to be burdened with the financial responsibility of being the breadwinner of the family. Children need consistent education and social interaction with other kids to help them become well rounded adults, it also gives them better job opportunities. Whenever your child books a job there is a teacher on set who will spend a minimum of three hours working with them on their homework or other assignments. They will then give you a report card detailing the subjects your child worked on. This paper can be used in place of an absent note for school. Our son Boston is in elementary school so once we know if he has a weekday shoot, we contact his teacher to get his homework assignments for that day. He’s then able to work on these assignments with his set teacher, and won’t fall behind in school. Child auditions are typically scheduled after 3pm to give them time to get out of school, shoots for principle roles are often scheduled on the weekends and/or holidays. Our kids don’t do extra work so they don’t miss too many days of school.

Theatrical vs. commercial work: The term theatrical is used to describe a principal actor, day player, co-star, Broadway lead, or series regular role on television shows, and films. Commercial is the term used to describe television roles and print ads for advertising companies. There is a common misconception that television commercial acting is not real acting which is not true at all. It’s all acting whether there is dialogue or not. I have been fortunate enough to book numerous speaking and non-speaking commercials which all required acting chops. All acting is composed of character performances which can be a challenging feat both theatrically and commercially. Commercial auditions can oftentimes be harder than theatrical auditions because of the cold reading process. Cold reading means you will not get a story board, script or sides for the audition until you get there so it doesn’t give you a lot of time to get familiar with it. Your script/sides usually get sent the night before an audition or even earlier for theatrical roles. I do suggest that people who want to get into commercial acting take at least one cold reading class to become familiar with the process and learn successful auditioning techniques.

Get their feet wet: There are two major casting websites that well known casting agencies and directors get their talent from. www.castingfrontier.com and Casting Networks LA . You can open up an account for your child for a fee and upload pictures and profile information. There is no charge if your child’s agent opens up an account for them.  Once this is done you will have daily access to tons of legitimate casting notices within the industry. You can start off by submitting your child for jobs on your own and see what kind of response you get.

If you are still intrigued and excited by the idea of your child joining the vast community of actors and models in the entertainment industry, then here is a great website with tons of info including a list of Sag-Aftra franchised agencies in your city and state.

Best of Luck!!

Follow @thehollywoodhornes on Instagram!

Olivia for Gymboree

One thought on “Kids in the entertainment industry: Everything you need to know

  1. In all, I received a lot of very helpful information from this article. My children are begging for me to get them into the industry of acting and before I read this I really didn’t know where to start. Thank you.

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