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Young Performers

Spotlighter and former young performer agent, Mel Brown, answers your questions about how to use Spotlight for young performers and how best to interact with your child’s agent

My child has just joined Spotlight as a young performer. How does the casting process work?

Spotlight is the UK’s leading casting platform used by casting directors and agents across the globe to source actors for roles. Being a Spotlight member means that you’re in a pool of actors that can be searched for by casting directors and submitted for roles by your agent on a daily basis. Young performers and their parents don’t have direct access to job breakdowns or submissions, instead agents take care of this process on their behalf, receiving the breakdown information and suggesting their appropriate clients.

Agents mainly use Spotlight to find their clients work via the jobs feed. Once the agent presses the submit button, the young performer’s profile is sent straight to the casting director, who then filters the suggestions and will audition the performers they think suit the role.

Keeping headshotsphysical details and credits up to date on the young performer’s profile is vital, as all the things listed there makes performers searchable by casting directors. Some West End shows have specific height requirements, so it’s especially important to keep this information current.

Casting directors can receive hundreds, sometimes thousands of suggestions for just one role, so landing an audition is a huge achievement in itself. The industry now does a lot of first round auditions via self-tape so that they can try to see as many people as possible for a role. Check out our handy advice on self-taping for more tips and tricks on how to nail these.

Will I need to pay more than the Spotlight fee when I join an agency?

You can find membership costs for a Spotlight Young Performer membership on our website. If you’re asked to pay more fees by your agent, you need to know exactly what that money is for. Some agents use their own in-house photographer, for example, and will invite you to use and pay for that service.

Agent commission is standard – all agents will charge commission on the jobs their clients secure. The rates of commission, however, can vary from one agency to another, but should be outlined clearly in the contract you’re invited to sign when you join the agency. For more guidance, take a look at the AYPA’s guidelines for working with your child’s agent.

You can also read more about what to look for when signing with an agent, as well as tips for understanding contracts. This can also be referred to as the ‘agency terms’ or the ‘artist/agent agreement.’

Some agents will charge one commission rate across all types of work, and others will set specific rates for each different project type. For example, theatre will be at a lower rate than feature film and TV. If you’re ever concerned, you can always contact our membership support team, and they’ll let you know if the agency is registered on Spotlight. Please note that we can’t offer recommendations of agents, so doing your own research is key. Equity, the actor’s union, also offers support on numerous industry-related subjects – membership is available for children aged 10+.

How many auditions am I likely to get during my Spotlight membership?

Due to the nature of the industry, this is a ‘how long is a piece of string?’ question. Some young performers land their first role after one audition, some struggle to get one audition in two years. Your child may have two or three auditions in one week, and then nothing for months. There’s no set formula or pattern to this industry. The important thing is just to enjoy performing.

If you don’t hear anything from your agent, it doesn’t mean that they’re not suggesting you for roles. Casting directors can’t realistically audition every performer suggested, even if they wanted to (and we know they do!). They have to work to budgets and deadlines, and simply can’t fit everyone in. But casting directors have great memories and always keep lists of profiles they are drawn to for potential future projects. Your child’s profile could be working well behind the scenes, and might only come to fruition later down the line.

A lack of auditions might also mean that suitable roles for your child’s casting type aren’t coming up, or simply that the industry is quieter than usual.

Take a look at our 5 audition tips for young performers.

The key thing is not to compare your acting journey to others. Each young performer is on their own unique journey, and the rate of auditions you may get depends on many different factors. For example, casting directors may be looking for a family resemblance, meaning the casting is dependent on the other roles being cast.

Another important thing to remember is that all casting details posted by casting professionals on Spotlight are strictly confidential, so when your agent does send over audition and role information, this should be for your eyes only and not shared publicly.

Why is being available and flexible a key requirement for young actors and parents?

Some auditions will give you up to a week to prepare, while others can happen within 24 hours, so being flexible and adaptable is essential in this industry. Most casting directors will try and schedule in-person auditions for your child after school or on weekends, but sometimes this isn’t possible.

As auditions are limited, it’s essential that you let the agent know if you can make an audition straight away, because if you can’t, another young performer needs to be found to fill that slot. It’s important that you’re always contactable – if you see a missed call from your agent, give them a call back as soon as possible.

When agents send you audition information, make sure you read every last detail, as they’ll have sent this information for a reason. Some projects have a large overall shooting period and need the performer to be available for all of this time. Though the role might only shoot for a couple of days, productions need a degree of flexibility, as they will be working around numerous schedules. They also need dates to play with in case there are weather or production issues, etc.

This performing arts industry can be very challenging and you need to be prepared to change plans at the last minute. Auditions can affect your social life (as well as the rest of the family) so you need to be aware that entering into the world of performing is a big commitment.

Can a young performer be represented by more than one agency?

We don’t recommend this at Spotlight, but it is possible. If you do take on more than one agent, always discuss this with your current agent first and outline clearly which agent will suggest you for what type of work. Always read your agency contracts carefully, as some agents ask for sole representation and won’t want your child to be signed up with another agent.

For more information, listen to our Professional Young Performer Consultant, Ellie Samuels, talking about this topic.

How do I prepare for rejection?

Agents never sit on information about an audition. As soon as they have something to tell you, they’ll give you a call straight away. Unfortunately, unless your child makes it to the final few performers for a project, it’s very unlikely that you’ll receive any feedback.

Casting directors are getting better at providing feedback, but they don’t always have time to respond to each individual self-tape they receive. If your child isn’t getting second round auditions from their self-tapes, you can always contact your agent directly and ask them to review the self-tape for you. They may have some insight or feedback which might help.

The best thing to do is to immediately let auditions go once they’re done. It’s easy to start dreaming about where the opportunity could lead, or spend time feeling frustrated that it didn’t go the way you hoped, but ultimately this industry requires you to let go, move forward and go with the flow. Rejection is part of acting.

It’s also important to remember that while acting, singing and dancing are wonderful skills to have, it’s always good to think outside the box. What other skills can your child gain to make them stand out from the crowd? Can they speak another language? Can they ride a horse? Can they do karate to a high standard? Can they play a musical instrument? Having other things to focus on outside performing is important – don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Your child should focus on other things that also make them happy.

I’ve decided to part ways with my child’s agent. How do I go about finding a new agent?

If you part ways with your child’s agent, your child’s Spotlight membership will be halted immediately and a partial refund issued. However we do retain all their profile details, so once they have a new agent, you can contact us and we can get you back up and running. If your child is over 18 they will qualify for our adult performer membership. No agent is required for this membership.

If you’re looking for a new agent, the best place to start is with our online Contacts directory, where you can filter a list of young performer agents in order of proximity to your location.

When looking through the agents on Contacts, it’s key to do your research. Have a look at:

  • Who the agency is currently representing
  • What work their clients are currently appearing in
  • Read their FAQ pages
  • Ask a few questions like who are the agents? What did they do before they became agents? Those with an industry background are likely to have some great connections to help you on your way.

When contacting an agent, remember to keep the email brief. Always write with a purpose in mind. Make sure you:

  • Format your email so it’s easy to read.
  • Include a brief introduction to your child.
  • Explain why you’re writing to them.
  • Link them to any work your child has done (making sure all the links work and the access password is provided if required).
  • Don’t provide too much personal information at this stage.
  • Try to find a specific agent to address the email to rather than using a generic opening.
  • If someone has recommended the agency to you, make sure to reference this. It really helps to build the connection from the start.

Some agents will specify on their website how you should get in touch with them, so make sure you follow these instructions. Keep a record of all the agents you get in touch with and if you hear back from them, so that you can follow up in the future with any who say that their books are not currently open, etc.

Each agent works in their own unique way. Having a strong, communicative relationship with the agent is key, as is working in the spirit of trust without fear of asking questions.

Don’t worry if it takes time for the agent to get back to you. An agent is always multitasking, and their priority is getting auditions in and suggesting people for work, so they might not have a chance to look at your new headshots/showreel/voicereel right away. But they will do eventually, and they’ll get back to you with feedback as soon as they can.

Take a look at our Young Performer Support Hub for more helpful articles and podcasts about the industry and tips and advice for young performers.

Image credit: Joanna Nicole Photography