A Post-Pilot Season Survival Guide: No Part. Now What?

Whether your child is a veteran in the entertainment industry or she’s just dipping her toe in the water for the first time, you’ve heard of that bustling time of year known as “Pilot Season.” In a span of time that traditionally runs from January to April, there’s a flurry of casting, production, and screening activity as networks make decisions about which programs will hit their airwaves in the fall. 

As an actor, pilot season is ripe with potential. All those roles, on all those shows. “Surely some young performers will find their break-out role through one of them. Why not me?” your child thinks. It’s easy to get your hopes up as casting calls begin to line up on your son’s January calendar. Then you reach May and those auditions may not have resulted in a role on a pilot (or his pilot wasn’t picked up by a network). So, how do help your young performer cope with the disappointment? These tips should help.

It’s not you, it’s them
Creating content for television (or any other medium) is a business. The casting director’s job is to find the right fit for this particular role. When that decision is “not your child,” it may have little, if anything, to do with his or her talent, personality, or audition. Trying out for the role of the youngest daughter of the series lead? Perhaps another child actor more resembles that leading actor than yours does. The decision may be based on something out of your child’s control, such as her hair color or how young/old she appears on screen. Don’t take the rejection personally.

Learn from it
Even a bad audition is a good one if your child can learn from it. When he’s ready to look back objectively on his casting calls, consider what worked and what didn’t. Encourage him to work with his acting coach and agent to identify ways to improve before the next call. 

Remember, it’s a process
The reality of being an actor is this: Your child will hear “No” more than she hears “Yes.” Even today’s biggest stars heard a lot of ‘no’ before they became household names. George Clooney, for example, was five years old when he appeared on the local television talk show his father hosted. He played sketch characters. His first IMBD listing is an uncredited extra in a TV mini-series in 1978. He’d hold a series of guest roles and relatively small supporting roles before his breakout role on “ER” in 1994. Your career may not take a similar path, but it bears repeating: if your child is enjoying the journey, have fun with it. Focus on the journey itself, not a perceived destination. Decide how long of a haul she’s prepared to endure. Watch her body language. When it stops being fun, it’s time to move on. 

Spread your “eggs” around
You know the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” When it comes to child actors, that means, don’t let acting be your only focus. Encourage your child to follow simultaneous passions, not just show business. Stay active in sports, religious training, and clubs, to name a few. When your entire identity feels tied to the entertainment industry, rejection can be harder to handle. 

For more discussions on set life, follow us on Twitter at @OnLocationEd

Homework on the Run: 3 Must-haves for Your Portable Study Station

You pick up your child from school a little earlier than usual. He’s got an audition for a national commercial and you need the extra time to make sure you’re not late. It’s a tight schedule today! There’s the commute, the waiting room, the audition itself, the commute home and, if you can pull it off, there’s karate class later tonight. 

And then there’s the homework. Between the work he missed during class because he left early and his regularly scheduled homework assignments, there’s a stack of schoolwork to be completed by tomorrow. When does that get done?  Here’s the good news: With a little preparation, you can create a study space even when you’re on the run. 

A homework tote
One of the biggest hindrances to doing homework on the road is not having access to the supplies you need. Start with a shower caddy, tote bag, or plastic bin. At the start of the school year, your child’s teacher may have given you a supply list. Any item on that list should be included in your homework tote. If you don’t have a specific list, start with these materials: lined paper, graph paper, pencils, pens, erasers, highlighters, calculator, index cards, pencil sharpeners, glue sticks, and other school basics. Toss in a book light too. Your homework tote should be large enough to hold everything you need, yet small enough to be carried into the waiting room, if needed. 

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A work surface
Your student is going to need a flat, stable surface to write on. If you opted for a plastic bin to hold your school supplies, it may be a workable solution. Your student may find, however, that a small lap-desk with a padded bottom and a firm top is more comfortable. 

 

A little mood music
Research on whether music helps or hinders the learning process is mixed. At least some of the studies that support a positive impact (or at least a neutral one), indicate that calming, soothing music is a good choice; while louder, jarring tunes can be a distraction. The deciding factor often comes down to our own personal work style. If music keeps your child from focusing on the tasks at hand, then avoid it during study time. On the other hand, if a sonata or a jazz piece or a favorite string of pop tunes helps him concentrate, then make sure you toss a pair of ear buds in the tote and load up the phone with a playlist of homework-friendly songs!   

Optional: Internet enabled device
For some students, homework may require accessing an online text book or researching online resources. If that’s the case, you may consider bringing along a laptop, tablet or phone with internet access.  Just remember, WiFi may not be readily available. 

Juggling school, auditions, and extra-curricular activities simply means having the flexibility to make use of the time you do have and the forethought to have on hand the tools you’ll need to make use of it. Join the discussion on academic performance and life as a young performer; visit us on Facebook and share your tips for balancing it all. 

“Baby, You Ought to Be In Pictures”: 5 Steps to Avoiding a Scam

“Excuse me, can I talk with you for a moment? Your child is beautiful and has real start potential! She’s just what we’re looking for,” says the woman standing at the kiosk in the center of the mall. There are photos of smiling faces all around and signage that tells you this woman should know a thing or two about what makes a star. You might think: She’s a talent scout, after all. And of course, she’s right. My child is positively adorable with those sparkling eyes and generous, toothy grin. 

But wait. Before you take a step forward and engage in a conversation about the future of your child star, there are some things you need to know. It’s important to recognize the difference between a legitimate opportunity and a scam.

Money up front is a no-go.
Real agents get paid when you do. They find you work and are paid on commission. If you’re being asked to pay up front to be represented, it’s time to walk away. 

There is no such thing as a sure thing. 
The woman in the mall is so sure of your child’s unique and wonderful qualities that she guarantees success. Real agents know this is a tough industry and there is no guarantee. No matter how attractive or talented an actor may be, there is no such thing as a sure thing. If the person standing before you is promising bookings and wealth, think twice.  

The countdown is on
A high-pressured sales pitch begins with a great set of promises and ends with a sense of urgency. If the person you’re speaking with begins to talk about ‘limited space’ or a deadline to provide your answer (and your upfront fees), you’re being scammed. A legitimate opportunity has some shelf-life to it. You should have time to research the company you’re considering. If you are being told you must act immediately, move on.

There’s a photo package involved
Yes, if your child is interested in pursuing work in the entertainment industry, he’s going to need a head shot. An agency requiring you to use their photographer should be another red flag. As the FTC notes, a legitimate agency will allow you to use a photographer of your choice. Young children, whose look is going to change at a fast clip, may be able to use snapshots and not the more formal professional headshots. 

Titles, locations and more
Do your research. Before you sign anything, spend time researching a prospective agency, as well as the industry in general. As an example, the mere fact that this organization is recruiting at a mall kiosk is a potential sign that this may be a scam. Also, the woman told you she’s a talent scout – another warning sign – as that title is not a generally accepted position in the industry.  Still tempted? Ask for a business card and then go home and Google for more information.

Be cautious, informed, and diligent, and you will be able to discern legitimate agencies from scam enterprises.
 

Industry Voices: Staying Safe Online

An interview with BizParentz Co-Founders Paula Dorn and Anne Henry: Part 2

BizParentz Foundation, a non-profit organization, supports young performers and their parents by providing education, advocacy and charitable support. Created by stage moms Paula Dorn and Anne Henry, BizParentz aims to share information on topics associated with children in the entertainment industry so that families can make an informed decision best suited to their individual needs and experience.  

On Location Education recently had the opportunity to sit down with Paula and Anne to discuss safety and other important issues related to child performers. In part one of that interview, we discussed safety, smart choices and stage names. In part two. we highlight online safety for your child performer. The following is BizParentz advice on keeping young actors safe in cyberspace.

OLE asked, “Actors are often encouraged to have an online presence as part of their branding and marketing. What precautions should a parent take to keep their young actors safe in cyberspace?” 

BP: The advice given to adult actors should be very different than the advice given to young performers.  Yes, we work in an adult world, but kids are, and should be, DIFFERENT.   

 For example, social media presence is a very dangerous thing for children.  That's why we have COPPA laws (kids under 13 should not even be on social media, if you read the TOS to most websites) and why the FBI now has entire divisions set up to deal with it.  There are dangers on the net that simply don't exist for adults, but are very prominent for children.  

Adult actors need to brand themselves.  Kids, not so much. That's because kids change so quickly...there is no time to build a brand before the "product" (the child) has changed into a different product -- they get older, taller, voices change, etc. For this reason, we suggest that parents focus more on obtaining quality WORK, and less on "branding."  

There is a huge myth out there that social media is "necessary" for a child actor's career.  It really isn't.  It is a choice.  If parents choose to make that choice, recognizing the dangers, the very least they can do is the following:

  • Parents should not only monitor, but completely control the child's professional online world.  Parents should have all the passwords, not just be "friends" with their child so they can "monitor.” 
  • Buy your child's name in website form (ex. tiffanysmith.com), and on social media.  This helps deter imposters and fan fiction at your child's expense.  Even if you don't put any content on those sites, claim them, so others don't beat you to it.  
  • Keep professional and personal online profiles separate.  All professional stuff should go through "their people" (aka mom or dad).  Personal pages and private groups should be for real life friends and family and they should be tagged as private.   
  • Only post professional photos.  When you post a photo online, for the most part, it becomes the property of the site you posted it on (Facebook, Instagram, etc).  You need to assume that you will lose control of the photo at that point. Only give away professional photos.  Be aware of the common behavior and fetishes for pedophiles and don't feed the beast.  Example?  No pictures of bare feet, kids in bathing suits, laying on their bed, etc. 
  • Build an infrastructure, a wall, for your online presence in the real world. That means having a PO box to register sites and accept mail, rather than having any evidence of your home address. Use a stage name for your child if you can.  Prioritize getting a real agent and/or manager so that they can handle any inquiries, auditions, and job offers.  Imagine your child is famous and successful -- that level of talent is mysterious.  Be mysterious.  
  • If you choose to interact with people in real life (an acting coach for example, or an agent), make sure you thoroughly vet them.  
  • Do not share where your child is to physically going be in advance, and don't share location of your home or the name of their school.  Share successes AFTER they happen.  Share that you were at the cool new restaurant right AFTER you leave. 
  • Do not buy followers or IMDB Starmeter ratings. These are questionable arenas and once you are on a target list, expect similar businesses to contact you.  Ditto for kids’ award shows, pay-to-play red carpets, online photo contests, online magazines, etc. All of these will put you in the position of "prey" and they will not advance your child's career.  The real industry can spot these frauds a mile away and they aren't impressed.   
  • Know that most college admissions officers now check social media.  Employers too.  Do not post anything you wouldn't want them to see.  Your child may have other aspirations when they get to be 18 and the may not appreciate the online footprint you have created. 
  • Learn to say NO.  Block suspicious people from your child's pages.  Be obvious and present -- let the predators who might be out there know that there is a mama bear watching them.  No job opportunity or networking move is worth your child's safety. 

We highly suggest all parents (showbiz or not) read Gavin DeBecker's book, Protecting the Gift.  It talks about how parents should listen to and trust their instincts.  You don't need to have a reason, or be judge and jury to NOT deal with someone in your child's life.   

 BizParentz is working on California legislation about young performers and social media safety, with the recognition that influencers now include children. For updates on that process, or for more information about BizParentz, visit their web site at http://www.bizparentz.org/home.html.

To read Part 1 of our interview with BizParentz stop by our blog here: Industry Voices: Safety, Smart Choices & Stage Names

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Industry Voices: Safety, Smart Choices & Stage Names

An interview with BizParentz Co-Founders Paula Dorn and Anne Henry: Part I

How it all began: In 2001, Paula Dorn met Anne Henry. Their sons, both 10 years old and established young performers in the LA area, were working in a live show at Disneyland. Around that same time, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) was sponsoring legislation that updated the “Coogan Law,” which requires trust accounts for young performers.

Recognizing the need for more effective communication about these legal changes – particularly for the parents who would be affected – Paula and Anne founded BizParentz. What began as a mailing list to share information about the new laws, quickly grew into a vital industry resource that focused on a wide range of issues to help parents of young performers.

Incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit in 2004, BizParentz Foundation is a grass-roots, volunteer run, non-profit corporation that provides education, advocacy and charitable support to parents and children engaged in the entertainment industry. On Location Education recently had the opportunity to sit down with Paula and Anne to discuss safety and other important issues related to child performers.  

On Location Education: What advice do you have for parents regarding child actor safety?
 
BizParents: That's a huge topic.  The number one rule is that you should be within sight and sound of your child 24/7. Recognize that if you stray from that, the risk increases significantly for all kinds of safety issues -- physical injury on the set, pedophilia, financial predators, etc. You are the ONLY person who loves your child, and has their best interest at heart.  By not being present, you allow other adults to have influence and control over your child.    
 
Second, recognize that the industry has different motivations than you do.  Theirs are business and money, primarily.  There is very little in the way of background checks in this industry, so predators (scam artists and pedophiles) abound in this environment.  As a parent, your priority is raising a healthy, happy child.  That means you need to be aware of risks and play defense -- protect YOUR interests.  Don't get sucked into the idea that your child is special snowflake and that this is about their "gifts" or "talent." Your child may very well be talented, but this is about business. 
 
Third, make sure you have your family's boundaries defined in advance.  You should know what kind of roles you will allow your child to play, how much you will allow showbiz to affect their education or your other children, and how much you are willing to put into this career financially.  You should also have an exit plan -- when is this going to cross the line into "too much," and when will you stop chasing the rabbit.  Thinking about these things in advance, when there isn't yet money on the table or the stress of a quick decision really helps families to avoid danger and stay focused on the safety and well-being of their child.      

OLE: How can parents of young actors identify and avoid potential scams?

BP: We suggest using a "Listen, Research, Wait" model, and we advocate parents learning to recognize business models, rather than the names of businesses.  Scammers will often close a company and re-open under another name, move to another state, or use a stage name themselves.  So, it is really valuable for parents to learn how to spot the red flags of a scam and learn what industry standard behavior is.  Most scams are operating outside the "real" industry -- at the fringes.   

Note: You’ll find additional information from BizParentz on this subject here: Avoiding Scams.
 
OLE: What are the benefits (safety or otherwise) of using a stage name? What are the cons?

BP: We highly suggest using a stage name.  This is one of those "hindsight is 20/20" things for us personally -- we wish would have done this. It works most effectively if you can do it VERY early in a child's career, before they have credits under their real name.  

There are many good reasons to use one. For example, it allows the actor to participate in normal activities without compromising their location. They can register for public school, little league and other activities under their real name.  If their name ends up in the local paper or on an internet team roster, it doesn't give away their location to predators.  Using a stage name is not foolproof, but it does shield most children from most predators, and those who may wish to invade their privacy. 

In Part 2 of our interview with BizParentz we discuss online safety for your child performer.

To learn more about BizParentz, visit their web site at http://www.bizparentz.org/home.html

 

5 Habits to Spruce Up Your Study Skills

Demonstrating productive and effective study habits is a key component of a successful academic foundation. The challenge is that we are often taught what to study, but not how to study. Whether in a traditional school setting or on location, you can help your student boost his or her academic performance with these five tips.

Note it down – The first step to good study habits begins before your student leaves the classroom with good, old-fashioned note taking. Not sure where to start? Focus on facts the instructor highlights. Keep papers such as homework, classwork, and quizzes that have been returned. These are great tools for review, too.

Create a work space – Identify a space for homework and studying. It should be relatively free of distractions and have enough work surface for your student to spread out books, papers, and materials. Keep the area stocked with paper, pencils and other related school supplies. It doesn’t have to be a desk. The kitchen table can be homework central at a specific time of day, especially if you want to be close at hand to answer questions and keep your student moving. Some research indicates that listening to music can help improve focus and concentration. Whether music is a help or hindrance, however, depends upon the individual.  

Practice not review – It’s never a bad idea to review your notes and previous assignments, but there’s more to studying than re-reading what you’ve learned. Students need to practice concepts and work on recalling material. Use tools like flashcards and the online resource Quizlet, which allows students to create online quizzes of their own material or search for existing practice sessions that others have developed previously.

Make it a game – There are things your student will simply have to memorize. But that’s no reason not to make it fun! Use songs, poems, mnemonic devices, and games to help your student commit the materials to memory. Sometimes simple rhymes and other memory boosters stick with us long into adulthood.

Use the time you have wisely – Studying demands time, which can be a hard-to-come-by commodity, especially for a young performer. Encourage your student to study when in the car, while waiting to go into an audition, or other down times.

Bonus tip – the same skills that help you study academic material can be applied to learning lines. Give it a try!

For more discussions on academic performance and set life, visit us on Facebook.

 

Assuring the Well-Being of Your Child Performer

Recently, two industry powerhouses, Sally Gaglini and Alan Simon, had the opportunity to engage in a Twitter discussion on the topic, “Assuring the Well-Being of Your Child Performer.

Alan Simon is the founder and President of Location Education, co-chairperson of the SAG-AFTRA Performer’s Committee (New York Branch), and a member of the Young Performer’s Committee of the Actors’ Equity Association. Sally Gaglini is the author of Young Performers at Work: Child Star Survival Guide and a legal advisor with twenty-five years’ experience working with young performers.

If you have a child in show business (or your family is thinking about getting into the biz), you will learn a lot from the discussion. As Sally says, “Empowering parents with essential information gives children their best hope for protection and success.” If you missed the Twitter discussion, or you’d like to revisit what was shared during the live discussion, we are reprinting the transcript below:

How can parents discern a legitimate opportunity in entertainment vs. a scam?

Sally Gaglini (SG): References, references, references.  Parents must do their homework.  Also, seek out experienced parents for referrals and perspective.

Alan Simon (AS): Be mindful that real agents / managers NEVER ask for money up front. They are paid on commission. Agents, by law, receive 10% of gross earnings. Managers should receive no more than 15%. Agents are regulated by the state in which they work. But managers are NOT regulated. FYI: Agents can submit clients for projects; Managers are not.

SG: A good rule of thumb is, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it generally is. Do not be pressured into signing something NOW. Your child counts on you to make an informed decision for him or her. If you are tempted to sign something, seek out an experienced attorney first and pay her for one consultation. There are also voluntary lawyer organizations and reduced fee panels that can help. Check state regulations also, some states, like Massachusetts may regulate managers.

AS: It’s worth noting that a Polaroid or school picture will suffice as an introductory head shot. Hundreds of dollars NEED NOT be spent. Mall solicitations are all about spending money. Avoid them like the plague!

Young performers sometimes experience a loss of privacy or loneliness. What can parents do to prepare them for this?

SG: Before that occurs, you must assess if your child can handle it. Learn how much work is involved before signing your child up for a career in entertainment.

AS: Remember the word BALANCE: it's what helps families navigate the business.

SG: True. Balance age appropriate social events with friends alongside school and the work. Balance is bliss. Keep a cell phone charged & your child’s friends' SKYPE ready. Stay looped with birthday parties and other rites of passage. You can actually negotiate time off for “PROM” with advanced planning.

AS: Maintain a world away from the job. Remember who your friends are. Children have TWO jobs: one professional (the job), one educational (school). Both need to be balanced.

SG: Ask yourself if it will be worth your child's loneliness & loss of privacy. If not, explore another outlet for fun.

Rejection is inevitable when pursuing a career in entertainment. How can a parent help their children cope with this?

 AS: When the audition is over, go out for ice cream, change the subject.

 SG: There are far more “NO” responses than YESes. If your child cannot handle it, explore another outlet for fun. Determine in advance how much rejection you will allow your child to take before you push the escape button. Then stick to it!

AS: Before even getting involved in this world, honestly evaluate talent & intention. Know your "type." Also, don't want the job more than your child does.

SG: Good point, Alan.  Listen to what your child is saying. Pay attention to their body language. If they’re uncomfortable, let the dream go. 

AS: Encourage your child to follow simultaneous passions, not just show business. Stay active in sports, religious training, clubs, to name a few.

SG: Focus on the FUN FACTOR of the process. Place emphasis on experiencing the JOURNEY. If your child is cast, it’s a bonus.  

AS: Oh, and don't listen to know-it-alls in the audition waiting room.

What are some considerations for a family when working in their home location (NY vs. LA) as opposed to traveling on a national tour?

AS: To start, determine who travels with the child.

SG: Ask, "can our family afford this financially?" Decisions should be made carefully, strategically, & methodically. Also ask, “can we afford the time loss as a family?" If one parent stays behind to work/pay bills, then the other parent & child may be far away.

AS: Exactly. Consider the impact on the PARENTS' dynamic. Consider the needs of other children at home. Don’t forget to also consider schooling, specifically extended absences, when on tour for 6 months to 1 year.

How does a career in show business affect the family dynamic?

AS: Travel will test a strong marriage... as it will a weak one.

SG: Take a thoughtful approach with ALL of your children in mind, not just your working child.

AS: If the child is the major bread winner, consider the implications on the adults in the household.

SG: Right, if the child is out-earning their parent(s), how will that affect that the child when grown and his or her relationship with you? How much money will the family be needing of your child’s earnings? What impact will that have on the family now and in the future?

AS: Don't let the rumor mill run your life. No one knows more than you do.

SG: Build in family time, even if this means that you meet half way. Keep separate records: What you spend on show biz jobs vs. your own resources. Remember that you generally maintain obligation to support your child as long as he or she has not been declared emancipated. 

How does one handle schooling when professional commitments arise?

AS:  Athletics, school plays, traveling teams: these are the norms. Schools know how to handle these types of activities. But the fact is, not every school supports a professional performer.

SG: Learn who in your district makes decisions about curriculum and days absent. Loop your child’s teacher(s) into prospective opportunities well in advance. The goal is to assemble a supportive offense.

AS: In public school - Make friends with the principal and the superintendent, so you can know local absentee policies. In private schools - ensure that your tuition payments allow for extended absences. (Don't assume!)

SG: Advocate for your son or daughter to receive the right studio teacher for him or her.

What safety issues can a parent realistically affect regarding their child’s performance on set or stage?

SG: Secure your child’s domain name.

AS: Parents need to limit online access, from both fans and predators.

SG: Right, and be cautious with your child’s image. Understand the difference between personal information and private information. And fight to protect what is private. If you see something suspicious, speak up!

AS: Get to know the performers' unions and how they protect your child's working conditions. Also, ask if due diligence (background checks) have been done for those in contact with the children.

SG: Ensure coverage of work-related insurances paid by employer/producer, like workers' comp, liability, etc. Keep your eyes and ears on your child “on set” or “on stage” at all times.

Learn more about these topics in Sally’s book Young Performers at Work: Child Star Survival Guide, as well as in previous On Location Education articles. On Twitter, you can follow Sally and Alan here: @SallyGaglini and @OnLocationEd.

 

Four Can’t-Miss, On-Set Boredom Busters for Young Performers

People who work in the film and television industry know that there can be a lot of waiting around during production. This can be particularly challenging for a young actor. The good news, however, is that with a little planning, on-set downtime can be productive and enjoyable. Here are four ways young performers can combat boredom between takes.

School Days
If your child performer would normally be in school during production hours, then those blocks of time between scenes will, at least in part, be filled with classes. Child actors must spend a certain amount of time working on their education, per SAG regulations and state laws. You’ll find more information about on-set education on our website

Learn a New Skill
Need to master a new accent for an upcoming casting call? Intrigued by coding? Whether your child’s interest has been piqued by a professional skill or something beyond the entertainment industry, downtime is a good time to explore and practice. If you are looking for ideas for new skills and interests, try these great online sources: TED Talks for kids, 3-2-1 Acting Studios and Khan Academy.
 
Embrace a Hobby
Balance is important for performers of any age, which means it is essential to have an identity and interests outside of the entertainment industry. Devote some of your on-set downtime to those activities. Your soccer-loving daughter may find a safe space to practice her footwork. Your artistic son may want to hone his skills with pastels when he’s not in school or performing. Curling up with a good book, navigating the boss-battle on a favorite video game, and other kid-favorite activities are also good options.

Stay Connected
Working as a young actor can be isolating. Use on-set downtime to connect with friends at home. Keep your cell phone charged and your SKYPE account at the ready. Social media is another valuable communication outlet that can combat isolation. Not only is it a good tool to keep up-to-date with friends and family, young performers can also connect with fans and network within the industry. Just be smart about it. You’ll find some tips on how to be social media savvy on our blog. 

How does your young performer stay occupied during on-set downtime? Please share your ideas with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Dos & Don’ts of Parenting an Auditioning Child

This is it. You’ve been running lines with your child to prepare for this audition. Your young performer is now headed into the casting room, nervous, excited, and ready. All you can do now is wait until your son or daughter emerges from the casting room. But then what? 

Do Smile
Your child is going to take his lead from you. If you’re tense and it shows, guess how he’s going to feel. Don’t plaster on a phony, cheesy grin; he will sense the inauthenticity. Your child worked hard to get to this point. Regardless of the outcome, getting in and out of that casting call is an accomplishment. Offer a genuine smile that conveys you’re proud of him for the hard work that went into preparing and the confidence it took to get in there and give it his best. 

Don’t Ask. 
Naturally, you’re eager to hear how things went, but the waiting room isn’t the time to ask. Give your child time to digest the audition at her own pace. If she wants to volunteer information when she first sees you, that’s great. Otherwise, hold your questions until you’re out of the building. When you do ask, focus on how your child is feeling. A simple “How’d it go?” or “How do you feel about the audition?” will suffice. Don’t fire off a list of questions designed to reconstruct the audition for you. 

Do Switch Gears
When the audition is over, go out for ice cream. Hit the trampoline park. Do something completely unrelated to the business. Take the focus off the process and back on to being just a kid. You should always encourage your child to pursue passions outside of show business. Not every audition is going to result in a new role. In fact, most actors hear “no” more than “yes.” Feeling disappointed over a no is normal, but a child who sees his career as just one facet of his life is apt to take that disappointment in stride. The child whose focus is solely or primarily on the biz may not. 

Do Focus on the Fun
Acting, even professionally, should be fun for a child. It should be something she opts to do. Before you even get started in this world, honestly evaluate your child’s talent and desire. Make sure this is something she wants more than you do. Every now and then take stock of where your child’s heart is. If the process is becoming more like a chore than a pleasurable hobby, it might be time to call it quits. 

Don’t Listen to Waiting Room Gossip
It’s easy to get pulled in to the chatter in the waiting room. Someone “who knows someone” talks as if she has the inside scoop. Another someone who has been down this route before offers – in a decidedly factual tone – his insights over who will and won’t land a part. Before you get caught up, remember this: it’s just waiting room gossip. Don’t accept what you hear hook, line and sinker. 

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Industry Voices: An Interview with On-Set Teacher Sally Rusk

It used to be said that school was about the three “Rs”: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Today’s students delve deeper into a wider range of subjects, of course, with additional studies in the areas of history, science, technology, and more. But when your classroom is on a set and your schoolwork happens between takes, your teacher’s responsibility goes even further than that.

On-set teacher Sally Rusk recently sat down with this reporter to discuss her experiences on-set.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to teach young performers or you’ve been interested in taking your teaching career in a new direction, Sally’s insights are something you need to read. 

OLE: How did you get your start as an on-set teacher?

SR: The convergence of several experiences - production and teaching - sent me on the path to being an on-set teacher.  I began my career in production as a writer/director/producer of marketing and training programs. Because I wanted to transition into the production of children’s program, I took classes in education. I also trained as a reading tutor in order to help my son struggling with dyslexia. I enjoyed teaching and soon realized that teaching would be a better life style fit for raising a family than the unpredictable world of production. I returned to the University of Delaware to earn a certification for teaching kindergarten through grade eight. I worked in a Montessori school, a middle school for the arts and a traditional public school. 

One day I found myself with my son on location in a beautiful field shooting a feature film. My curiosity was piqued when he was sent to the “school trailer.” I explored the role of on-set teacher and tucked the idea away until later. Eventually in 2008, with the new flexibility of an empty-nester, I was fortunate enough to work for On Location Education as their on-set teacher on the movie Doubt. 

OLE:  What types of projects have you worked on? 

SR: I have been on TV shows, on feature films in studios and on locations in and out of the country. My classrooms have been very nice school trailers, a small tent on a glacier in Greenland, the top of the Reading Pagoda, a deck overlooking a Costa Rica rainforest, and on boxes in an abandoned factory.  You never know where you will be teaching.

OLE: How does your role on-set differ from the responsibilities of a teacher in a traditional classroom setting? How is it the same?

SR: Obviously, besides the physical surroundings, there are other differences. In addition to teaching, I feel my role is to help the students balance their educational requirements, their professional responsibilities, and just being a kid. I strive to continue their progress with academics and to take advantage of the educational experiences abundant during production. 

You need to know child labor laws. The production may turn to you to advise them on the number of work hours permitted for a certain age or expect you to watch over the minor’s safety during the shoot. Knowing all the SAG rules for minors may not be required of the teacher, but it is a good idea.  Working for On Location Education is a huge advantage. They know all those idiosyncrasies.

You teach all subjects and multiple ages. One minute you may be teaching basic vowel sounds and the next reviewing how mitosis divides chromosomes or the impact of Imperialistic British Empire. Thank goodness for the internet.

OLE:  What is the most rewarding aspect of being an on-set teacher?

SR: You really get to teach. You get to work with students one-on-one or in small groups so you learn your students’ strength, weaknesses and learning styles so you can get some great interactions going.

I like having the opportunities for creative teaching in all core subjects. 

If you are lucky you get to visit some unusual locations and get to plan some amazing field trips for your students. That may be just a walk around set, a guided tour around the block, or a hike across the glacier with the Stunt Coordinator. 

You get to work with an amazing variety of talented people.

OLE: What's the biggest challenge?

SR: Just like everyone in production work, your personal schedule has to be very flexible. It is a crazy unpredictable scheduling that can turn into long hours. When you get reserved to work, you mark off that entire day on your calendar because you rarely know what the hours will be until the evening before. It’s not for everyone.

You have to think on your feet. It’s a challenge, but it’s also what I love. You never know what you will be teaching or how long your session will be with your student. Some students come prepared with lessons and work from their schools and others do not. Sometimes you have time to prep a lesson, but many times you have to get creative on the fly.

OLE:  What advice would you offer someone who is considering a career as an on-set teacher?

SR: To do it right, like all teaching positions, be prepared to put more time and energy into the job than the actual hours with the students. Be flexible.

OLE:  What misconceptions do you think people have about the role of an on-set teacher?

SR: The teacher’s role in this is often misunderstood. California requires a “Studio Teacher” to be on set (Specific title compared to an on-set teacher). In addition to being certified teachers they are child advocates (they have training similar to a social worker.) Because so many production people come out of California they think all teachers play that role.

OLE: How do you stay active in the industry?

SR: I am still writing/producing/direction so that keeps me in touch. I keep track of productions coming to my area through film office websites.

OLE: Thank you for your insights, Sally!

If you’re interested in exploring the career of on-set teacher, you’ll find more information on our web site here: http://www.onlocationeducation.com/teacher-requirements/