Bonnie and Betty's tips for parents of performers

Bonnie & Betty child model and casting agency provides babies, kids and teens for various assignments, including photographic, commercial, TV, film & stage work. Founder Bonnie Breen spoke to us about how parents can help their child navigate the world of performing arts. Here’s the need-to-know basics and some FAQs. 

How an agency works

They should always provide you with all the details of the audition itself, where you need to go, and who the contact there is. It’s their job to build relationships with casting directors in order to receive work coming in.

Castings always have a very quick turnaround and casting directors will normally call agents within the same day if they want to see one of their performers for an audition. Generally it will be between 4pm and 6pm, and for the next day.

Feedback

More often than not, agents will not get feedback if their child/client isn’t successful. The casting director will come back if they want to ‘pencil’ the child - to keep that day in the diary free for the child to potentially be seen again. If the pencil is ‘released’ this means the child hasn’t got the job, or confirmed which obviously means they have been successful.

Joining an agency

Bonnie and Betty specifically open their books twice a year, due to capacity and wanting to meet all of the children individually. They had 1400 applications when their books were open for one week this year. From this, they could see 120 children per day and from those meetings, 70 ended up on their books – they don’t look at showreels for this as it’s not needed at this stage. 

Sometimes they will take on children who have no experience at all - it depends on a few factors, including their look and age.

Agencies will take on more clients who are 9 and above as they can work longer hours. 

Bonnie & Betty host improvisation sessions with a group of 10 children to get an idea of how they perform. They try to make it feel as much like a casting as possible and parents aren’t allowed into the room. 

Audition tips

It’s not a good idea to bring along too many family members, it should be just one parent or guardian only. Audition spaces tend to be quite small and having too many people in the waiting room can make it all feel very chaotic and isn’t very relaxing for the child.

  • Make sure you have your child’s information to hand - height, weight, measurements (chest, waist, hips.)
  • Arrive on time, but equally not too much before.
  • If you’re going to be late, call the agency, or they may ask you to call the studio itself. 
  • Your child should wear casual and presentable clothing (school uniform is ok), unless it has been specified otherwise.

 If a school says no to a child being released for an audition, unfortunately the agency cannot do anything about this.

You can find more information about licensing laws around young performers here.

Chaperones

A chaperone is licensed under the council for where they live. Some councils require them to update every year, 2 years or 3 years. Some require that they attend a course, and others require nothing beyond a DBS check. When Bonnie and Betty take on chaperones, they interview them to get an idea of what they are like before they send them out with clients, and they also have some training from the agency too. Ask your agent if they offer this. 

Tips for learning lines

Casting directors tend to say to please ask parents not to coach them too much, as they want the child to appear as natural as possible.  

Learn the content, but not a specific delivery style, as the casting director may get them to try various methods. 

FAQs

Do you charge for headshots?

  • Bonnie and Betty have one photographer that they use, in order to keep their clients profiles looking uniform. There is a new phase at the moment of landscape shots but portrait is far better, as cropping landscape doesn’t look as good.

How often should kids refresh their photos?

  • Once a year, or sometimes every six months. *You should check with the agent that represents your child whether they will update your child’s profile or if you will.*

Is it worth having video on their Spotlight profile? Should the video be professional rather than just at home?

  • We wouldn’t recommend home videos. It’s very useful for a casting director to be able to hear and see a child perform, so you can’t go wrong with adding good quality video or audio. However, out of date video wouldn’t be worthwhile. Children constantly develop and grow, so it is crucial their photos and height are up to date on their Spotlight profile. 

If your child performs in something, do you then have the right to put that onto Spotlight in a showreel?

  • You would need to have permission from the production company first.

Do I need to tell their agent of a change in my child’s appearance?

  • Yes, tell the agent of any changes you are planning to make to your child’s appearance, including haircuts. It’s advisable for boys to keep their hair a little longer, so the client has the option to change it if need be. 

How can my child join Spotlight?

  • Children would have to come through a stage school or be represented by an agency. The agency then manage their Spotlight profile and casting breakdowns for them. 

What is a normal amount of auditions a child may get?

  • There isn’t a way to predict this unfortunately, it totally varies per child and the time of year that they join, as to how busy it is in the industry.

Would you recommend that a child attends every audition that they are called up for?

  • Definitely. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes in the lead up to getting your child called in for that casting. It’s always advisable to let your agency know in advance if you’re busy. It’s also a great learning curve for your child in order for them to get more experience, as all castings vary. 

What are the costs for the parents?

  • Headshots (varies per photographer), some child agencies will also charge a website fee and recommend that performers are members of Spotlight. 

What age can children join Spotlight?

  • Four. For more info on joining Spotlight, click here. Always be cautious of other sites and casting calls you may see elsewhere. Use common sense - are they asking for money? Does this sound right? If you have any questions about the legitimacy of an agency or the fees they’re asking for, get in touch with Equity.

How do casting directors search for performers?

  • They use the Spotlight website and digital editions to search by look, skill, height etc.

When adding skills to their profile, how many should they add or how competent should they be?

  • Don’t add too much, only add the skill if they are more than confident doing this and would feel able to within an audition if they were put on the spot! 

Is there any training that you recommend for children?