Question: What do casting directors look for most in children? --Tony
In short, casting directors are looking for children who have a life outside of acting. They want to see an actor but also a child. This person should have a host of extra-curricular activities going on, and acting should be just one of them. Casting directors tend to shy away from hiring child actors who are all actor/no child. The actor should be well-read and relaxed, confident in his abilities.
Also, casting directors look at the entire family when selecting children for projects. They know they will be hiring the whole family, essentially. So, it will be important to the casting director to see a well-balanced group; one that is very supportive of a child's desire to act without being overly "stage-mothery" in its support.
Casting directors find that most children are better at cold readings in the audition setting than adults. They are less inhibited, as well as being less "in their head" about the process and the importance of getting the part.
Preparation, on the part of the child, should include watching films and TV shows with a critical eye (scouting out the types of roles for which she would be considered), reading and discussing the script with parents, and practicing for the audition. The child should go in comfortable "in her skin," so to speak, and not try to be a little adult.
After that, the casting process is very much like it is for adults. Casting directors are looking for people who fit the character breakdown and who--if playing members of a family--look as though they could actually be related to one another. If the actor is talented and within the scope of what the producers of the project are looking for, the actor will usually land a callback. That means the actor is "hireable." After that, it's just a matter of which "way" they decide to go with the role.
Or, as one casting director put it, "You come in and act, then we do our mumbo jumbo." Don't be overly concerned with the mumbo jumbo part of it. Just go in and do good work!
Bonnie Gillespie is a Los Angeles casting columnist, the owner of Cricket Feet Management, and the author of Casting Qs: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews.
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