Child Actors! These are your Top 10 Tips for Pilot Season
Welcome to magical, exciting yet sometimes frustrating experience of PILOT SEASON. With 25 years plus as a Casting Director, seven years as a private coach for many working young actors worldwide and as former child actor myself, I’ve experienced many years of pilot seasons! It’s guaranteed to be a wild ride but I will try to make it a little less bumpy for you all with my “Top 10 Tips for Pilot Season!” Whether you’re traveling to Los Angeles for pilot season for the first time or the fifth time, auditioning via tape from the comfort of your own home or simply CURIOUS about what this journey entails, my top 10 tips for Pilot Season will make the process more understandable and manageable. Here we go…BUCKLE UP!
1) Come to Los Angeles for pilot season Prepared. Make sure you have everything set up in advance. You should have the following secured prior to your arrival:
- A place to live
- Reliable transportation with GPS
- Childcare for siblings. It’s not OK to bring them with you on auditions or on set
- Adequate Funds. Its SUPER expensive to live here on a daily basis. Don’t underestimate that.
- LA Representation ( Agent and/or Manager)
- Current CA Entertainment Work Permit & Coogan Account
- Current Headshots Photographed by LA Headshot Photographer stapled neatly to Resume
- Acting Reel
- Actors Access Page
- IMDB Pro Page
- Private Coaching
- Weekly acting classes
- Appropriate audition clothing with a VARIETY of outfits in solid colors, both brights and earth tones. No Stripes! Plaids are acceptable if your child needs to go in suggesting and/or looking the role.
2) Don’t bring your child actor out to Los Angeles for pilot season expecting to book. Realistically it takes at least 2 years just to get your feet wet and have casting directors familiar with you and your work. Establish yourself in your hometown market before you make the trek to L.A. Make sure you child is on his or her A-game at home, booking those choice jobs in a smaller market before being thrown into the huge, highly competitive Talent Pool in LA. A week or two is simply not enough time. Sometimes callbacks don’t come for a couple weeks and then testing may not be for a couple weeks later. Pilot Season is Generally Mid Jan to Mid April ending before Upfronts Presentations Mid May. Nickelodeon & Disney cast pilots YEAR ROUND as do some of the Cable Networks.
3) Know the FACTS about Pilot Season. About 120 pilots are filmed for Pilot Season with Only five percent getting the green light for Full Series Order. Most producers and networks want established names with a fan base because it increases their chance of being picked up. Of the shows that are made into full series, most don’t stay on the air. They are cancelled mid season, without even showing all the episodes, in hopes that Hulu will pick up and air the remainder. MANY shows recast lead roles after they shoot the Pilot or they often book a character as a “Guest Star” then when the show is picked up they recast.
4) If you self-tape for auditions make sure your child’s tapes are Professional Quality. This means, tapes should have excellent lighting and sound and should be shot against a solid, light background. Do not have the attitude that if they get the callback THEN you will make a professional tape…that won’t work. Your child needs to be off book (have the lines memorized) and the reader needs to read softy with the eye line being the reader, not the camera. Learn how to compress and upload your tapes, as casting directors will NOT open password protected accounts OR wait hours for downloads to open. If you are submitting tapes then you need to be ready to come to Los Angeles as soon as a Callback comes in, you may have little to no notice but to jump on a plane. If you are not prepared to come for callbacks, DON’T TAPE. If you are self-taping you need to be prepared to pick up your own travel expenses for the callback unless it’s a situation where it’s a nation wide search and they are willing to relocate someone. Occasionally for kids networks ..very, very rarely for Network pilots.
5) Your child needs to be VERY prepared for every audition. Don’t wait until the callback to get offbook, because if your child is not prepared that callback probably will not come. Casting Directors are not sympathetic to the fact that kids have homework, dance class, football or 5 other pilot auditions. They are taking the time to see your child so YOU need to take the time and effort to make sure your child is prepared for that opportunity.
6) Be prepared for your child actor to have multiple auditions and/or callbacks to occur in one day, and likely, not located anywhere near each other. Have the car packed with wardrobe, pictures, resumes, office supplies, snacks, WIFI for in car coaching and anything else you need to have your child ready for last minute and same day auditions.
7) Be aware that not every pilot season is child actor friendly; this year could be very “kid-light” or very “kid-heavy.” There is no way of knowing in advance unless you are friends with A LOT of TV writers! Some years writers favor one age group over another or some years there are more roles for girls than for boys. Again we have no idea what to expect until we are in the thick of it.
8) Don’t participate in waiting room Gossip!
9) When your child is ill, STAY HOME. No-one, including casting directors, your fellow actors and their Hollywood Moms, want your germs! Be aware when your child ill, overwhelmed or just needs a break. If at any point the audition process becomes too much, you must LISTEN to your child. Not all kids are cut out for such a rigorous, high stress, crazy competitive environment full of more rejections than celebrations. However when you commit to your agent that you and your child are going to do this and you start turning auditions down it will make them question why you are here. After all, the whole point of pilot season is to be seen by as many Casting Directors as possible on as many projects as possible in hopes for the right fit. Really give this decision a lot of fore thought and communicate with your child to make certain they are ready, not only with their acting chops but emotionally!
10) Keep super organized, it’s going to get hectic! Keep a log of all your child’s auditions, wardrobe, sides with notes etc. Be honest with your team about which roles you are willing to accept in regards to questionable subject content as Pilot season can be VERY edgy. DON’T go on audition then back out. Be open and honest from the get go!
And here’s a bonus tip! STAY POSITIVE & SUPPORTIVE and remember, your child is working so hard! Don’t ask your child as soon as they walk out of the audition room, “How did you do?” Instead, ask your child how she feels about her audition experience. Don’t count minutes or compare the amount of time spent in the audition room with what others did or did not do. Why? It doesn’t mean ANYTHING. One actor could be in the room for 20 minutes, doing the scene over and over and not get a callback, while another actor may walk in the room, not even complete his scene and have a callback before he gets out to the car! Don’t be negative or overly critical. This should be a fun, memorable and enjoyable experience for your child; because after all, they are CHILDREN. Best of luck to all!
Beloved Casting Director and Children’s Acting Coach Cheryl Faye began her career in entertainment herself as a young teen. She graduated to a career in casting on the Feature Film “Fatal Beauty,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “Heathers.”
Faye eventually became a highly sought after acting coach for professional child and teen actors in Los Angeles, and even directed multiple promos for Disney Junior on the Disney Channel. Sadly, our tight-knit HMB community lost Cheryl on September 9, 2018. She will live on in the hearts of this generation of child actors, forever.