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The Talent Convention Controversy: Parents and Industry Pros Debate

July 02, 2014

The Talent Convention Controversy:  Parents and Industry Pros Debate

The value of talent conventions for aspiring child actors is a controversial one, debated by parents and industry professionals alike.  Parents hear and offer divergent views.  While some have attended and enjoyed the experience, others who have attended felt that the experience was of little value.  Similarly, when industry professionals are asked about whether or not they recommend conventions, replies are mixed.  Some industry pros even attend conventions themselves, but when asked, do not categorically recommend them.

Here, ChildrenInFilm.com delves into why there has been such controversy and inconsistency about conventions within the entertainment community.

As with most things in life, everyone has an opinion. The question is:  does that opinion come from first-hand experience?  When receiving advice from others, CIF recommends you go straight to the source and ask those who have actually participated.  As for those industry pros who attend but don’t recommend conventions, we see that this is generally because they enjoy attending the events, sometimes find new talent, but are often stunned by the high number of children who are not prepared.

Conventions from the Parent Perspective

"She had a wonderful time," said Helen Reas, mother to Emily Reas. "The self-confidence she gained from competing with hundreds of kids from all over the world is immeasurable, and she was fortunate enough to dance in the showcase performed at the end of the convention."

"For the most part she had fun," said Jennifer Szego, parent of Olivia Szego.  "But I was led to believe that my child would be seen by many agents and that was just not the case.  There were about eight in the room viewing her perform and then you got to go around and drop off your headshots. I feel that we were just a number."

Conventions from the Perspective of Industry Pros

"Some conventions are better than others, meaning that the kids come better trained and are more L.A. ready," said Debbie Palmer-Beal. "Each has good and bad talent.  As industry pros, we have to see thousands of kids, but are looking for only a select few."

In her Hollywood from Home webinar, acting coach Dawn Jeffory-Nelson commented, "It often depends on the market in which a particular training school is located.  Some are excellent at training their students for the conventions, while I've been surprised by others that give the kids poor coaching." 

"Conventions offer kids a chance to stand out in the best of the best," said Hollywood Manager, TJ Stein.  "It means something if they shine at a convention, rather than simply being plucked out of their small town.  If you go to a convention to become famous, you're going for the wrong reasons.  If you're there for the process of the competition, then you'll grow from it.  Go to become better and to be exposed."

Conventions from a Cost Perspective

Anyone who has participated in a convention whether parent or industry pro will tell you that conventions can be extremely costly and that people should only attend if they can afford to. "We have met people who mortgage homes on the dream of their child, and have had their hearts broken," said one pro who asked to remain anonymous.

In a Constant Contact poll conducted by Children In Film from 2009-2013 – 85% of the 464 respondents stated that although the convention cost was upwards of $5,000.00 they felt that the overall experience at conventions was ‘fair’.

To view the results of our convention survey:  Click Here