What would you do if your child told you they wanted to be on TV?
KERRI SACKVILLE had been a child actor herself. So when her young daughter came to her and said she wanted to be on TV, she had grave reservations.
A COUPLE of years ago, my then-seven-year-old daughter began asking me if she could be on TV.
This wasn’t a surprise. The kid is a born performer. Unlike her big brother and sister, who tried and rejected the standard dance and drama classes, my youngest was instantly hooked.
She wanted to be an actor, she told me repeatedly.
“How can I be in a movie?” she’d ask. “How can I be in a commercial?”
I knew exactly how. I had been a child actor myself, with a short, almost-dazzling career. And so I told my daughter the truth about the industry.
“You’d have to join an agency,” I said. “And go to auditions. And there will be a hundred other girls trying out for the same parts and you’ll get lots and lots of rejections. It’s really, really hard and most people don’t succeed.”
Her face lit up. “Okay. Can I do it?”
I held out for two full years. But my daughter was persistent, and eventually, against my better judgment, I caved and found her an agent.
We had the photos done, we sent in her measurements, and within a week we were off to her first audition.
“It’s the perfect role for her,” the agent told us, and when I read the script, I agreed. A cute, cheeky kid talking back to her dad — it could have easily been my daughter’s own words.
My daughter practiced her lines and we went excitedly to the casting agency. The moment we entered the waiting room, I was reminded of why I’d held out for so long. Four other little girls sat waiting with their mums, four other little girls just as cute (and, no doubt, talented) as my child. My daughter was called in to do her reading, and dismissed again within minutes. The audition was over before it even began.
And that is what child casting is like. You go into a waiting room. You look around and see a bunch of other hopeful girls and their mums. (For some reason, it is always mums.) You fill out the form, listing your daughter’s name, age, height, measurements, and industry experience. You wait your turn, and then she’s called into another room, where she will play out a scene with the casting director. If they like her performance, she’ll be in there for a while. If she’s out in a minute, you know it’s a no.
My daughter’s second audition was for a feature film, playing the daughter of a famous Australian actor. She rehearsed the script for days, memorizing the lines and practicing in her room. She was super excited. I was a little bit excited, too.
She didn’t get the part. I know this because she wasn’t called back. The casting agents don’t tell you that you’ve missed out; you simply don’t hear anything after the audition. It’s harsh, but that’s the industry. You have to be able to cope.
We have been to five auditions this year. Every time there is a waiting room full of little girls, each one prettier, or cuter, or more vivacious, or quirkier, than the next. I find it difficult. I find it hard not to get invested. My daughter, on the other hand, seems to be far more robust, and, interestingly, far more realistic.
“I didn’t do well, Mum,” she told me, after a recent audition for a car commercial. “I stuffed it up.”
“Oh well, darling,” I said. “Doesn’t matter!”
And it didn’t. By that evening, she’d forgotten all about it. I, on the other hand, wondered about wasted time, and if nine is too young to learn about rejection and resilience. So much of acting is about appearance. You can be the most talented person in the room, but if the director wants a petite blonde, and you’re a tall
brunette, you’re not going to have a hope in hell.
My daughter’s talent agent has a saying: “The auditioning is the job.” She encourages her young actors to enjoy the process, to have no expectations, and to see winning parts as a happy bonus.
So far, it seems to be working for my child. So well that after “nailing” her latest audition, she never mentioned it again. And so we were both surprised when we got the call a few days later that she’d won the part. She’s shooting her first TV commercial next week.
I’m proud of my daughter. She got the job because she’s talented. But she also got the job because she had the right look for that particular role, which is entirely a matter of luck.
And that’s what this industry boils down to: a little bit of talent, and a whole lot of luck. If your child can cope with that reality, give it a shot. If not, keep her out of the waiting room. There are dozens of cute little girls there already.
By KERRI SACKVILLE