What Every Child Actor’s Parent Should Know


By Marci Liroff

I recently saw the documentary “An Open Secret,” which exposes the yearslong grooming and sexual molestation of several children in the modeling, film, and television industries. I was stunned to see that so many of the convicted felons were not only back on the street, but had secured jobs in the entertainment business working with minors again.

I spoke with Anne Henry and Paula Dorn of BizParentz Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 to support professional young performers and their families, and provide information and advocacy to parents about the new laws to protect their children. Both Henry and Dorn were involved in the making of “An Open Secret.” I asked what parents should do if they have suspicions that their child is being molested.

“Anyone who suspects molestation should stop and talk to their child in a very sincere, loving way. Let your child know that you will believe them and support them, no matter what. Then be quiet and listen.”

They also urged parents to contact BizParentz to see if the foundation has any available information about the suspected abuser, adding, “It is extremely important to report abuse, if it truly is abuse. One thing that the film makes clear is that there were many people in the ‘camp’ that didn’t say anything, but looked the other way. If any adult had stepped forward, it would have saved many other children from abuse. We don’t want that to happen again. We encourage parents to report any suspected abuse to law enforcement, and we can assist in preparing a parent for that.”

Recently, Deadline Hollywood reported that the California state labor commissioner is investigating three studio teacher frauds. Each of these men had posed as a credentialed studio teacher and welfare worker on the set of several productions; none of the productions checked their court-ordered paperwork. According to BizParentz, all parents should do the following before and upon arriving on set with their child:

• Express to your agent that school is a priority and negotiate for studio teacher approval in your contract. Parents should have a list of studio teachers that they have prescreened and with whom their child works well.

• By the time they’re hiring your child, they know who the teacher will be. Run their name through the online studio teacher database and do a Google Image search to obtain a photo of the person you should expect to see on set.

• When you arrive, immediately ask for a call sheet and Google the studio teacher. When you meet him or her, ask to see his or her Green Card (an ID card that every studio teacher is issued from the Department of Labor). We hope that these will have photos soon (something we are lobbying for, in light of recent allegations of impostors) but until then, parents will need to be vigilant to verify that their studio teacher is real.

• On set, always be within sight and sound of your child. Always.

Check back for my next article, where I’ll discuss keeping your child safe online and acting scams that target minors, along with newly instituted laws in California to protect child actors. Check out the BizParentz site on FB for resources on these topics.

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

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By Marci Liroff

410929439_f2b867589c_oPhoto credit: skalas2

So your child wants to be an actor? Really? Please think about this long and hard. Let me share my perspective as someone who has worked with children for the last 35 years as a casting director and acting coach.

Whenever I meet a child actor I always ask them how they got into acting—what makes them want to be an actor? “Well, my mom and I were at the mall and this lady came up to us and said, ‘You should be a model! Let’s get some headshots of you! Then we got my pictures taken and now I’m an actor!” This response always breaks my heart: “There was this convention in town and I went with my parents and they picked me! My parents paid a few thousand dollars and I met a bunch of agents and now I’m an actor.” Or this classic one: “I really don’t remember how I got started or why. It’s ok I guess.” Or my least favorite, “I want to be famous!”

Here’s what I actually want to hear: “I asked my mom if she could get me involved in acting because I just love it. She said no, but I kept asking her every year and she finally said yes. I’ve been in plays at school and just can’t wait to start my new acting class.” Or, “Because I have to. I need to tell stories.” A wise little girl told me, “I just love to zip out of me and zip into another character.” These are the kids that make it. These are the kids who are there for the right reason.

Anne Henry, co-founder of BizParentz Foundation and the mother of a young actress herself, says, “When kids are asked why they want to act, I like to hear things like ‘I love to create characters and tell stories. I love to make people laugh.’ Or ‘If I couldn’t be a professional actor, I’d still be performing somewhere—at my school, in a class, or in community theatre.’ I’m looking for some sort of answer that tells me that the child likes the day-to-day job of acting.

Rather than ask kids why they want to act, I like to ask them about their favorite acting experience and why it was great. Their answer will tell you a lot, and tends to negate any canned answers they learned from their parents.

On the flip side, I cringe when a child says, ‘I want to make money’ or ‘I want to be on the Disney Channel.’ When I get that kind of answer, I know that they don’t love the art. That answer tells me that they bought into the fame myth or they haven’t actually done any acting. If this is their perspective, they are unlikely to have the stamina for the real job—they just want the result (fame), not career itself (acting). They probably don’t understand that fame for a child is usually not very fun, and not very likely.

When I talk to the parents of committed successful professional actors, they say things like ‘My child has been reading, making up stories, and performing their whole life. They begged me to let them audition for the play, get them into an acting class.’ Wise parents will talk about doing everything they could in their local community, and watching their child have success and accolades from lots of different sources before they enter the professional arena.”

Talk to your child before and during their journey into acting to make sure they’re here for the right reasons.

If you started as a child actor, how and why did you get into it? Parents – please share as well!

Glad you’re here!