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An Out-of-Towner's Guide to 'Making it' as a Paid Performer

July 19, 2017

So you want your child to be the next big thing in Hollywood, but there's just one problem: you don't live in Hollywood. You've heard that you have to live in Los Angeles to make it in the industry but is that really true? Yes and no. Although it is true that the big jobs are usually offered in the big cities, there is still some work to be had in your own home town. You simply have to know how to find it, and, more importantly, you have to be prepared and informed in order to get it.

Let's start by determining your goals, and then move on to how we're going to help you achieve them. Read carefully, be honest with yourself about your family and your goals, and then go for it! Just keep in mind, there is no magic pill.  This business requires talent, determination, instinct and a lot of luck. Good luck!

Your Goals (Be Honest)

It is very important that you and your family first determine your goals. What is your family's definition of success?   

  • Is your family committed to supporting a child who has dreams of becoming a major Hollywood player, or.......
  • Do you have a child who simply enjoys performing and your family wants to help him/her become a top working performer in your hometown?

The answers to each of these questions will lead you down two completely different career paths.  Once you determine the answers, you must next access your family's abilities (your child's talents and your abilities financially, emotionally... and pertaining to time, resources, etc).

Take the Be Honest quiz in our KidStart program to help you with this process. 

In-Town Celebrity vs. Out of Town Star (Get Organized and Informed)

If your family has determined that you want to become the big fish in your own pond, then you are ready to move forward with an in-town plan focusing on local representation and productions which will mostly consist of commercials, print photography, student films, and theater.  However, if you have your sights set on lead roles in major films or series television it is highly unlikely that you'll find such opportunities in smaller non-showbiz towns. Yes, every rule has an exception, but you must be aware that finding work for major films and TV shows outside of LA or NYC is not common. Those who have dreams of starring in such roles must commit to a plan which focuses on opportunities in the major hubs.

What is considered Local?

Remember, a 500 mile radius is considered "local."  This is an industry standard that applies even to those children who live in California.  For example, San Diego is a 2-3 hour drive from Los Angeles, but those kids frequently travel to LA for work.  Apply this rule to your area.  Do you live in the Carolinas?  Traveling to Atlanta (and occasionally to NYC) for an event should not be out of the question. You will need to do this frequently.  Will that be difficult for your family or out of the question?  If so you may want to reassess your goals. 

Starting Point, U.S.A.

No matter where you are starting from, make sure you go through our KidStart Program.  This information is important regardless of where you live or travel for opportunities. From this you will learn that being prepared and understanding the business as a whole is exteremly important.  Research the Labor Laws in your state and the state(s) you intend to travel to for work and make sure you understand these laws. Why? Because, for one, it is a critical step to avoid being scammed and to keep your child protected. 

Does your state requires a work permit or blocked trust account? Are agents required to be licensed? Who will you call if you have a question about rules and laws? Get organized ahead of time. A prepared child and parent will be more in-demand than those who are not, regardless of your location.

Every Picture Tells a Story...what's yours? (Your Child's Photo's)

Make sure the story your child's photo is telling isn't one of being ill-informed and unprepared. Your headshots are extremely important. Your headshot should be of Hollywood quality even if you don't have intentions of moving to Los Angeles.  Remember, many of the industry pros you will work with in your home town have come from major hubs and will be looking for talent that stacks up to a certain level of standard they are used to. Also, understand the difference between photos used for acting and those used for modeling. Actor headshots are not Glamour shots. Check out the winners of our Photo Contest to see if your acting headshot is comparative.  Need a new one? You can search our membership directory for qualified photographers in your area.  Kidstart even has a complete list of important dos and don'ts when it comes to taking your own great photos (which will save you a fortune - especially if you're just starting out or have a very young (under age 5), rapidly changing child. 

I Can't Get Experience If I Don't Have Experience (Resumes & Classes)

Your child's resume is another critical part of the equation. But what can you put on a resume of a child who has never had paid employment? The answer: classes! Children age six and up who are serious about procuring employment either at home or on location can easily fill a resume with experience received through training from quality industry pros.  The question is, can you find classes in your own home town? Usually - if you do your research on that pro's qualifications.  Plus, there's a small-town perk. A lot of times these pros teaching the classes in smaller towns are also the ones who have a hand in casting the parts when they come along.  Larger (chain) acting schools even fly industry pros in from the major hubs for guest lectures and weekend events. 

Also, remember that initially any experience is experience worth listing - school plays, mall runway shows, church pageants. Put them on your resume until "bigger jobs" come along and you bump them off. 


This is the single most critical choice you will make after you determine your career path.

Once you're organized and have your headshot and resume put together, it is time to begin seeking representation. As a performer with a goal to stay in town, you'll want representation from the best possible agent and/or manager in your area. If your family goal is to start locally, and then expand, consider representation tht is heavily connected to the industry outside of your town (In LA or NYC). You may not need those connections now, but you will want them later. But regardless of whether you're looking for local our out of town representation, it is very important that you learn the differences between an agent and a manager.  You must take the time to research and locate the best representation for your child. In smaller hubs, agents will probably represent your child "across the board" meaning he or she will be looking for any and all opportunities. However, in the larger hubs there are different types of agents who usually specialize. Not only do large agencies have separate kids divisions, they can also have separate agents within the kids division specializing in commercials, print, theatrical, even voice over work. Choose a representative who matches your long term goals. 

Remember, it's not just what you know but who you know. (Follow Through)

Once you have secured representation, your representatives job is to help you book work.  Your job now is to do a lot of networking with producers, casting directors, directors, etc. These opportunities may come in the form of personal meetings made by your agent or manager, or perhaps it will come in the form of paying to attend a workshop or showcase.  If you've decided to be a working actor in your home town, it makes the most sense to focus on events that involve the top pros in your area. While it is not harmful to attend an event with professionals from Los Angeles, know that their expectation will be that you are prepared to travel frequently to Los Angeles or to move to Los Angeles. Regardless of what you choose, it is imparative that you get out there and start making fans.  And, no matter what types of networking you participate in, make sure you do your research ahead of time. 

One Ringy Dingy, Two Ringy Dingy (Auditions)

Yee Haw! The phone is ringing and your agent wants your child to audition for a (insert great opportunity here). It's go time! You've studied, you've shopped, you've mingled and you've managed to get this far, but what should you expect? What else can you to to ensure that your child is fully prepared to win the attention of the casting director? What can you do to help your child and your family manage expectations and possible disappointments? Well, Children In Film has covered that too.  Read through the KidStart Program (step 9 specifically) to learn more about auditions and while you're at it, take a look at some of the articles in our responsible parenting section such as "Dealing with Rejection" and "The Psychology Behind Fame."

Education While on the Job 

No matter where you film, audition or work, your child's academic education cannot and should not be neglected as a result of employment.  Prepare ahead of time, have discussions with your school, and explore the Education Tab on the Home Page of ChildrenInFilm.com.

Remember, the KidStart Program can and should be followed regardless of where you live.  Understanding the steps you need to take in order to launch a career in the showbiz industry is key to making your experience a successful one.