How to Begin Your Child’s Acting Career in Los Angeles

Brent Pittman —  09/26/2012
Tricycle

My boy learning how to ride his Radio Flyer

All parents think their kids are cute. Thankfully in our case, our kid really is cute. People stop and tell us all the time and add, “He should be in commercials.” All that is going to our head and we think–why not?

We live in Los Angeles and people from all over the world come here to make it in “the industry”. Maybe our red head toddler could get a few gigs to save for college or 1st car. Our businesses could also hire my son for marketing and use that money to start a Roth IRA for him.

We are realistic and don’t really want our kid to become some burnt out crazy child star, we’d be thrilled with a gig or two.

If it doesn’t work out, we at least had a laugh or two.

How to Begin Your Child’s Acting Career in Los Angeles

1. First, you’ll need a really cute kid and/or one with special talents and dynamic personality. Most kids fit this bill, so let’s move on.

2. You’ll need to move to Los Angeles to be near the action and ready to trek out to auditions on a moments notice. I hear there is a whole community of child actors in Toluca Hills for pilot season.

3. Time for some professional head shots. These need to be high quality, not taken on your iphone. I’d recommend Jay Todd, he’s great with kids.

4. Find a top notch agent who will find opportunities for your cute kid. They’ll take 10% of your earnings, but hey without them you’ll get zilch. If any agent wants money upfront, run away. Read more about agents and managers here. For a listings of AFTRA agents click here.

5. Wait and pray for the phone to ring. In the meantime, you’ll need to iron out more financial and legal details while you’re waiting for the auditions.

Finances and Legal Aspects for Child Actors in Los Angeles

You’ll need to iron out these details before you start hauling your kid to auditions and a contract is signed. A good agent should be able to help navigate the legal waters and ensure compliance.

1. Establish a bank account or trust for your future child actor. For California residents this is called a Coogan Account or blocked trust account. This account protects the child’s earnings until the age of 18. The Coogan Law states that within 15 days of being paid, 15% of the gross income must be deposited in the trust and a copy of the bank statement sent to the employer for proof.

Optional banks that offer Coogan Accounts:

2. Make sure you’re compliant with California child labor laws by having an 1) entertainment work permit and 2) a work permit for your minor child. Learn how to apply for these at here.

3. Find a good lawyer to review any contracts before signing. You don’t want to lock your child into terms or conditions that you don’t agree with.

4. In between auditions is a great time for you child to take acting classes or network with other parents of child actors.

Above all have fun and make sure your child is also having fun.

Do you have any tips for child actors? 

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Brent Pittman

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Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.
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  • AverageJoe

    My tip for child actors: when you make it big, remember Uncle Joe. Don’t you think splitting some of that money with him is a great idea?

  • Haha this sounds really really interesting! Have you landed any gigs yet? How long have you been doing this for?

    • Haven’t started yet, but working on the groundwork. Hopefully this will turn into a series. 🙂