The Prince of Cuteness and Baby Adorable were made for the camera. Everyone says so and the lure of a head start on the college fund beckons. But just how do you get those priceless images off your cellphone and into the pages of magazines or on the screen? Where do you take little Noah and Emma to nail their fifteen minutes of juvenile fame? Hunt for a reputable agent to open doors for you, or search a few DIY resources for an informal, but potentially profitable entree to casting calls and auditions.
The Big Kahunas
Backstage, Playbill and Actors Equity all feature constantly updated casting calls for quality listings. Backstage and Actors Equity let you screen for region and type of work, and Actors Equity lists both equity and non-equity gigs. Casting Call is a free registry you apply to with head shots and resume; it takes children with appropriate work permits. Online performer and model listings for these aggregators are national, not just for New York or L.A., and they tend to cover major productions, regional or national, but may also contain local listings. They are also weighted toward performers, not just models, but they include commercial work.
Use their filters to find listings by age range, gender, ethnicities, union or non-union, compensation, and type or role. Subscribers to some services can save searches and get email inbox alerts when a new listing for theater, film, TV or a commercial meets saved criteria.
Services such as Auditions Free offer daily updated casting calls for young performers and models, and they will alert you about new listings via email if you sign up for notifications. Disney Channel has its own casting call notifications for its TV shows, films and theme park opportunities.
Print modeling takes you and the small star to go-sees where the child may try on clothing, be photographed, chatted up, and asked to pretend to be in a situation. You wait a lot, hope your child is still in a happy mood when it's your turn, and then you wait some more to hear back about booking the job.
Collect your own list of potential gigs by researching catalogs you'd like to approach and getting on their mailing lists for casting calls. GAP has an annual nationwide contest you enter online for a chance at GAP ads and catalogs, digital and paper. Local photo contests take submissions for local print ads -- shopping mall community boards and free broadsides like New York City's Big Apple Parent announce those hometown competitions. Pageants are another way to break into modeling and performing gigs, although pageant participation is a career in itself. Check with area photographers who specialize in child portraiture for suggestions and connections for local modeling.
The Playground Network and Beyond
There are more hopefuls out there than you think, making Mommy-and-Me classes and playground encounters a source of local buzz about casting calls and where to find frequent gigs. Professional photographer friends may tap your child as a model for a shoot, or point you at a job they hear about. Occasionally, casting directors look for promising candidates in children's dance classes or peewee sports programs.
The bulk of the opportunities are in big media centers such as New York and L.A. For kiddie careers, families go where the work is. Most large ad agencies outsource their casting to talent agencies, so you may need to consider that option if you get serious about booking jobs.
A legitimate agency won't ask you for upfront money -- they earn a percentage of the fee for work they find for your child. And infants and young children don't need a portfolio of expensive shots -- kids grow too fast for that kind of investment. If a would-be agent or manager says you need pricey training or photography, run the other way and avoid getting scammed.
Any paid work for your underage performer-model will likely require an official child performer permit. Check with your municipality to find out what local or state paperwork you need and how often it has to be renewed.