If your kid has an extensive repertoire of TikTok dances or puts their entire soul into their musical theatre classes, it’s possible you’ve envisioned the bright lights of Hollywood. Could your outgoing, charismatic kid make it as a child actor?
To get the lowdown on what it takes to make it on the big screen, we spoke with Joe Lorenzo, a former Hollywood talent manager (he helped get Rico Rodriguez, who plays Manny on Modern Family, his first role!) and current CEO of Society Performers Academy.
Let’s start by establishing your cred. Which child star careers have you helped launch?
As a talent manager, I started Caleb Blackburn on Pretty Little Liars, I started Brianna Yde who was in School of Rock. I also got Rico Rodriguez (Manny on Modern Family) and his sister Raini Rodriguez (Trish on Austin and Ally) their first roles in the Netflix movie Babysitters Beware.
Then I pivoted in 2017, and launched Society Performers Academy, which is the development and training side of the business. That means helping kids get trained and put in the right classes, getting the right headshots, then putting them in front of agents and managers.
How can a parent know if their child has what it takes to be a child actor?
To parents, I’d say, “Just try an audition.” Nobody should ever charge you for an audition, so it can’t hurt to try. The worst that could happen is somebody says no.
I get asked all the time what I look for when I’m auditioning a child. My answer is always this: Disney and Nickelodeon coined the phrase, “The It Factor,” because none of us know what it is until we see it. I’ve also done casting in the past, and a lot of times, even the producers and director didn’t really know what they wanted for the role until it walked into the room.
What can a parent do to help set their kid up for success as an actor?
Much like you would with a sport, see if you can afford it and if you have the time to do it, and if you decided to go for it, support your kid. In fact, treat it like a sport—actors are basically athletes in their own right, in that they’ve got to train, they’ve got to treat their bodies correctly. Nobody just wakes up and all of a sudden they’re Jennifer Lawrence, you know. They have to work at it and they need their parents’ support.
What’s a mistake parents make when trying to help their child become an actor?
The biggest mistake is listening to the wrong people. Really do your research and homework. Make sure the people you’re entrusting your child to have a history in this business—in casting, agents, managing, producing.
Any on-set advice for parents if a kid actually gets a part?
There’s a union code that says parents are allowed within earshot and eyeshot of your child at all times. Do that—don’t leave your child on set as a babysitting mechanism. Be there for your child, especially the ones that are under 12.
Most auditions aren’t in-person anymore—kids are sending in audition tapes. Any tips?
Go on Amazon. You can get lights for like 60 bucks, you can get a tripod for 20 bucks, and a little thing that you can hook up to your phone to go on to the tripod. Film the audition that way, using a quiet place with a blank background in your house.
Do you think auditions go back to in-person soon?
No, and it’s not because everyone’s still afraid of the pandemic. It’s because they realize they don’t need to carry that overhead. They don’t need those casting offices anymore. Once you get to a certain level in the auditioning process—let’s say you pre-read, and then you’ve gone to the producers, and now you’re ready to go to the network studio—you’ll probably go in person for the network in the studio.
What’s the difference between a talent agent and a talent manager?
The main difference is that a talent manager is not supposed to negotiate. That’s the main thing—managers are not supposed to procure work for their clients, the agent is. The other difference is that agents have more clients—it’s a bit more of a numbers game to them. Managers have fewer clients and they are able to handhold and take on new talents, or green talent as we call it, to develop them.
So a lot of kids agencies want the new kid that they find to have a manager because that manager can answer their questions. Those are the biggest differences. Agents are really the ones that are supposed to procure and negotiate everything, and managers are the ones that are the more development type and answer your questions because they have more time in their day.