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Young Performers

Children’s agent Bonnie & Betty share their advice for young actors and their parents/guardians about how to make the most of your Spotlight profile and improve your casting chances

Bonnie & Betty is an agency that represents babies, children and teens for various photographic, commercial, TV, film and stage work. We spoke to founder Bonnie Lia about how parents can help their child navigate the world of performing arts, and the essential information they need to know.

Audition tips
Advice for parents/guardians
Updating your child’s Spotlight profile

How an agency works

An agency represents their actors/models in specific fields, be it modelling, acting, voice over, etc. It’s their job to build relationships with their clients, such as casting directors, production companies, ad agencies, photographers, etc, in order to receive work for their actors.

Generally, an agency will receive a brief/casting breakdown and submit an appropriate actor via Spotlight or another method. The client will review the options and decide who they wish to see for the next step. The first point of call nowadays is typically a self-tape request, and then perhaps a live/in person or online recall. Sometimes, there are several recalls/callbacks before a decision is made.

Joining an agency

Do your research. Parents will post on parent’s forums about the agents they’re with and what work they’ve gotten their child, so take a look at those.

Don’t look at things like sponsored listings. If you search for ‘top child agencies,’ the first few results that appear that have ‘sponsored’ next to them have paid to be there. They’re normally a bit dubious.

Once you know which agencies you’re interested in, find out if and when their books are open. When they’re open, they’ll normally have an application form on their website.  The next step would typically be meeting for an audition.

Bonnie & Betty opens for every age group about once every 1-2 years, and currently do their auditions virtually. They’ll send a small piece of script over the day before the audition so they can assess the child when they’ve had minimal time to prepare, which are similar conditions to a typical casting.

Audition tips

  • Don’t bring too many family members to an audition – just one parent or guardian. Audition spaces tend to be small, and having too many people in the waiting room can be chaotic and stress out the child.
  • Make sure you have your child’s information on hand – height, body measurements, details of previous jobs (if any), contact info, etc.
  • Arrive on time, but not too early. If you’re running late, call the agency. They may ask you to call the studio itself.
  • Your child should wear casual and presentable clothing (a school uniform is okay) unless it’s specified otherwise.
  • Don’t over-coach your child on how they should deliver their lines during an audition. It may prevent them from delivering in the way a casting director asks. They should learn the content and be flexible with their delivery.
  • Sometimes it’s best not to practise self-tapes in advance. Sit down with your child, read the script, and just do it. This off-the-cuff approach usually leads to better takes.
  • Things like LAMDA exams teach children in a way that’s generally more suitable for stage acting, so keep this in mind if they’re auditioning for a drama, for example. Less is normally more. If the casting director wants more, they’ll ask.

Take a look at five more audition tips on Spotlight.


A child can only be chaperoned by their parent or legal guardian, or a licensed chaperone.

If you’re a parent who works full-time, and the child’s grandparent or adult sibling is often around, then it might be worth them becoming a licensed chaperone. Even if they don’t end up using it, it’s a handy option. Most councils don’t charge a fee.

If there’s a licensed chaperone on set, the parent usually just needs to drop off and pick up the child. If you’re not comfortable with this, discuss it with your agent in advance so they know not to submit your child in the first place.

Take a look at what makes a good chaperone.

Advice for parents/guardians

The number one rule for parents/guardians is to think about if you’re able to commit before applying to an agency. Imagine getting a self-tape request that needs to be done within two days, but your child’s at football after school one day and judo the next. How are you going to fit it in?

What if your child is needed for a recall at 4.30pm in London, but you work until 6pm? Agents never know how busy a child is going to be, so it’s hard to give parents notice to plan in advance.

Have you got other people around you who can help out? Can you take time off work at short notice? If you can’t, then you need to be sensible and consider whether it’s actually viable.

Essential questions and answers for parents

Do Bonnie & Betty charge for headshots?

We have a recommended photographer’s list. This doesn’t mean you can’t go to another photographer, but because we’ve pre-approved those photographers, we know that they know what we need. If you do use an alternative photographer, we can’t guarantee they’ll be fit for purpose until we’ve seen them.

We’ve got the modelling division and the acting division, which is quite rare. We need to make sure we’ve got appropriate photos for both, depending on what division the child is on.

How often do you think young performers should update their photos?

Annually is fine for over fives. If they’re younger, they’re changing a bit more regularly, so there’s no point in getting professional photos because they’re going to need to be updated within a couple of months.

This may differ with other agencies, so it’s always important to check with your agent if you’re unsure.

Is it worth children having videos on their Spotlight profile? If so, should the video be professionally done?

Most of our clients have self-tapes on their profiles. So many casting directors have said how helpful they’ve been. They don’t need to be professional, but they do need to be kept up-to-date. This helps when casting directors don’t know who to ask for. Hearing a child and seeing them on camera gives them more of a feel for their personality and character.

We ensure our clients have an ident, where they introduce themselves, show their hands and their profiles, and then talk about themselves for a minute or so. They should also have an acting tape, showcasing a little bit of script or a monologue. All videos should be shot landscape and not portrait.

If they have specialist skills, like piano playing or gymnastics, should they also include a video of that?

Yes – definitely! But only if they are skilled. The one thing I would avoid is self-taken videos of your child in the chorus of a non-professional show. The casting director won’t know which child is yours! It’s better to do a self-tape of them on their own singing, dancing, or doing a sport – whatever their skill may be.

Once again, this may differ with other agencies. Some may prefer only professional video clips from an actual on-screen job to be added to the profile.

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

For sure! This includes changes to hair, teeth, etc. Sometimes, clients will be looking for a child that has missing front teeth, for example. If a child has long hair and then it gets cut to a cropped style, we need to know!

What else is important for the parent to keep up to date?

We ask parents to update a child’s measurements every three months. You should also go through all of the sections on your child’s profile and remove any skills they no longer practise or add any new ones that aren’t listed, because we’ll often submit children for a job based on their skillset. Clients also search on Spotlight by skillset. A lot of parents forget to add languages, for example.

Height is probably the number one thing, especially with stage work. They’ve always got a height limit, and they normally measure the child at the casting, so it’s going to be a waste of time if they’re not the right height.

What’s the normal amount of auditions a child may get?

There is no ‘normal’ in this industry, unfortunately. It’s a, ‘How long is a piece of string?’ question. Some children get self-tape requests every other day, some get one once every two months. We just never know.

All a parent can do is to make sure everything’s up-to-date, and we can make sure we’re doing our part and submitting them for the jobs.

Do you recommend a child goes for every audition they’re called in for?

Definitely. If it’s for something that the parent doesn’t want them to do, then that’s fine – just tell the agent and we’ll let the casting director know. If, on the other hand, they just don’t think the job brief matches their child, they should still audition and let the casting director decide. They’re asking to see them – do the self-tape and see what happens!

Also, casting directors have very good memories, and they will bear the child in mind for other things if they’re not right for that particular project. It’s a missed opportunity if you don’t go for everything you’re called in for.

What are the costs for the parent?

Headshots, typically, shouldn’t be any more than about £100 for a session and the copies of the shots. Then you’ve got your Spotlight membership. Self-taping has made it more affordable in terms of not having to take a child to a casting. If they need to be seen for recalls though, that could work out expensive if you’re outside of London.

How do casting directors search for young performers?

They either use search functions, where they can search for any information that’s on a Spotlight profile. Or they will send breakdowns out on Spotlight and ask agents to submit what they’re looking for.

When adding skills to a child’s Spotlight profile, how many should you add and how competent should the child be?

Add everything that they’re capable of and can comfortably do if they were called into the casting room and asked to perform that skill. Some skills, like horse riding, can’t be done in the room, so it’s a good idea to have a self-tape of that on the profile. Don’t add something as a skill if they’ve only given it a go once or twice, like archery at a summer camp.

You have the option to put it down as either ‘skilled’ or ‘highly skilled’. If they’re amazing at the skill, make sure to flag that and provide notes to your agent. If you’re not sure whether to add a certain skill, check with your agent. It’s much better to check than to potentially miss out because it isn’t on the profile.

Is there any training you’d recommend for children?

A lot of children’s drama classes are about building confidence, which is really important. It’s about them being able to go into the audition room and give it a go. Once they’re with an agency, we’ll often do workshops, self-taping tips and things like that.

If a child is going for something like Matilda, for example, then they’ll have to have performing arts training, but it will depend on the role/job. Training doesn’t necessarily mean that one child’s better than another.

Knowing how to self-tape is a really important skill now. We have a step-by-step guide of how to self-tape for parents. You could have the best child in the world, but if the parent can’t do a good self-tape of them, the child’s not going to get anywhere, unfortunately.

Are there any other skills parents should familiarise themselves with?

Always read your emails, have a look through self-tape requests beforehand, and if there’s anything you’re unsure of or anything that’s unclear, double check it with us immediately and don’t leave it to the last minute.

Thank you Bonnie for sharing your advice for young actors and their parents!

More tips for young performers and parents:

Image credit: Alex Charilaou