Acting for Kids & Teens: An Interview with Christine Scowley, Casting Director by Tony Nation

Acting Programs for ChildrenWhat’s the best way for kids and teens to start exploring acting and teen performance in NY?

One of the best ways to start exploring acting as a youth is to simply get involved with your school or local theatre and/or music programs. If you enjoy performing in school plays or community theatre, you may then want to take a few acting classes, workshops or coaching sessions to see if you are interested in furthering a career in acting. The best way to decide if you really want to pursue acting is to take every chance you get to perform! The best way to gain experience as a kid/teen is to participate in school theatre productions, student or short film projects, and/or by becoming involved in community theatre as well as going to see performances that inspire you. If you are very serious about pursuing acting then you should research the materials needed to further your career including headshots, resumes and additional study/course work in the field.

What do you recommend to parents who have kids/teens looking to pursue a career in acting?

Parents should be aware of the tools, time commitment and energy that it takes for their child/teen to pursue a career in acting. Although acting should be fun for the child/teen, it’s also a business and should be treated as such. Kids/teens need to have business materials (including headshots and resumes); they will need to search for an agent or manager (and then decide which one is right for him/her); kids/teens will need to attend and be prepared for auditions and likely participate in classes, workshops, or coaching session. All of this requires a certain amount of dedication from the kid/teen AND the parent. Parents and kids/teens should discuss the financial issues involved in pursuing an acting career and set a budget. Parents should also be mindful of the types of projects that the kids/teens are auditioning for and research those projects to make sure they are appropriate for their kid/teen to participate in.

What skills do kids/teens need to have in order to pursue a career in TV and film?

Kids/teens need to have a positive attitude! They need to be diligent when preparing for auditions. They should know the material and rehearse before coming into the room to audition for the casting director. Kids/teens need to be mindful that when working on their craft different processes work for different people, so each kid/teen should find an outlet that helps them study, work on, and perfect their craft. For some this might mean belonging to a theatre group, for others it might be taking classes, and still others might find a variety of techniques helpful. When you are acting… you are a work in progress… you can always learn more and grow more by exploring all available avenues. If you are motivated, persistent and dedicated this will take you far!

What do you look for in a good kids/teen headshot?

Smiles. I look for nice natural smiles. The more natural the actor appears in the photo, the better. Also, for kids/teens it’s EXTREMELY important that the headshot represent the current age and current look of the kid/teen. Kids and teens grow quickly and headshots must be updated to reflect the current look and age of the kid/teen. Solid colors are best to wear for your headshot (blues, greens and sometimes dark reds tend to work well). It’s best not to wear black, polka dots or patterns that distract from your face. Your face is the primary focus – your nice, natural, smiling face!

How do I get noticed for projects casting in Los Angeles?

Watch for casting notices from the projects that cast in LA and submit for them! Many casting directors are now searching nationwide for actors and often view audition tapes from out-of-towners for various roles. Be prepared to put yourself on tape. Follow all of the instructions given to you by the casting director when you are taping an out-of-town audition (note – research productions that ask you to audition via tape and make sure that production is right for you). Be prepared to travel for auditions if you feel that it’s important to audition in person. Discuss the different opportunities available to you with your agent or manager if you have one.

What is the difference between auditioning for theatre projects and film/TV projects?

Auditioning for any kind of project is an important skill that all actors should prepare for. Different auditions require different skill-sets. On-camera auditions differ from theatre auditions in that some auditions require a more broad performance and others a more quiet introspective performance. It all depends on each individual audition and what the end goal is. Each audition will require a different tone, spectrum and playing field. The most important piece of advice I can give is KNOW what audition/role you are going in for. Research your role. Have a point of view. If it’s an on-camera audition don’t walk out of frame! Make the role unique and make it your own. Be prepared, be professional and knock everyone’s socks off!
Christine Scowley is a Casting Director in Los Angeles and a member of the Casting Society of America. Scowley cast the hit Nickelodeon series HOW TO ROCK and Disney Channel’s MOVIE SURFERS. She also cast the series SMASH CUTS for the CW and conducted the nationwide search for the pilot HUGE for ABC FAMILY. Her Nickelodeon credits also include the pilots BIG TIME RUSH and EVERY WITCH WAY (to air this year), and she cast a special episode of TRUE JACKSON VP. Scowley also casts for Disney Family Online and consults on music talent for Sony Music International. Additionally, Scowley created and produced the series ROCK THE CRADLE with Fremantle Media for MTV, which featured the children of rock stars competing in a sing-off. Scowley often travels the country conducting nationwide searches and she loves working with actors and music talent!