You’ve had an interesting journey to becoming an agent. Where did it all begin?
I actually started as a make-up artist as part of Daniel Sandler’s creative team, and that’s where I discovered the possiblitlies – and the countless different roles – that existed in the industry. It’s also where I met Jody Medland. I was assisting as an MUA on a commercial he directed, and I soon learnt that film and TV projects always gave me the most excitement.
So working as a make-up artist was a real eye-opener?
It gave me the opportunity to work in – and experience – different areas, so yes. There are so many different specialist roles within make-up alone: fashion, editorial, film, TV and bridal, to name a few. I think sometimes you have to try different things to learn what sparks a fire in you. I absolutely love the film and TV industry. There’s something quite magical about watching a project transform from a script to being put together by teams of people that create the final product you see on the screen.
It was through my children that I discovered the performing side of the industry. When they were signed to an agency, I was fully immersed in the role of a “casting mum,” taking them to castings and costume fittings, and chaperoning them on set. Not until I did that did I realise the work that went into managing child performers.
Looking back, do you feel you were always destined for this role?
I do. I just wasn’t sure in what capacity. Having been a casting mum for almost 10-years, I’ve learnt so much, and I found I was always passionate about seeking more knowledge and advice. I was really thrown in the deep end when I started, so I just had to go with the flow for a while. Although I looked for advice, there wasn’t much out there, which still frustrates me to this day. I find myself advising other parents of child performers all the time now, so it did feel a little serendipidous when I was asked to be an agent for young performers.
You’re a mother of three children, a fully qualified chaperone, and now an agent. Where do you find the time?
Ha! Good planning skills, a supportive family, and a very understanding husband. I’ve had to become something of an expert at multi-tasking with an organised calendar, and good communication skills are key. To be honest, it’s a lot easier now than when I first started. My two eldest boys are now 20 and 17 and they both drive, so that helps a lot. Archie is 11, so stilll needs me to chaperone him to castings and on set. I also have family that live nearby, so If I need help with anything at home, I just ask. A lot of child castings happen with 24-hours notice, so it really is about communicating with the family, making sure everyone knows each other’s diaries and availability, and who’s cooking dinner that night – stuff like that. When I’m chaperoning away, I always make sure there’s food in the fridge, and my husband always ensures he’s around when I’m not. Something that’s key to my sanity is learning when to switch off so I can spend some quality time with the family, which is tricky, but vital.
With all the press about the vulnerability of actors, do you feel an extra reponsibility towards protecting young performers?
Absolutely! I have to say, in all the years I’ve worked in the industry – especially with children – I’ve only witnessed pure professionalism. There are so many rules in place now concerning children: they all have to be licensed to work in any capacity, regardless of age; they need to have a licensed chaperone with them on set; there are legal rulings on the hours they can work, how many breaks they must have, the amount of school work they still need to complete, etc. I’m passionate about making sure parents and companies are going through the correct procedures when using children for work, because these laws are in place for a reason.
What’s the most common mistake you see from parents?
Honestly, there are quite a few:
- Putting their child into the industry when the child doesn’t really want to do it. Your child has to lead you in this. They have to be passionate about performing and really want to do it.
- Telling their child they’re going to be rich and famous. This is the wrong way to go about things and sets up the wrong attitude entirely.
- Bitchiness in the casting rooms and on set. Unfortunately, parents often bitch about other children, parents or crew members, which is so nasty and completely unnecessary.
There are lots more things I could talk about, but these are the main ones I see.
Do you have any advice for those who are starting out?
Yes. Before you even look into signing with an agent, there are a few things to consider.
- Make sure your child really wants to do it.
- Make sure you chat to your school and get them on board. Sadly, if your school isn’t going to support your child’s journey, it just won’t work, as you need the school’s permission to obtain a license for your child. Without this, you’re encouraging your child to work illegally.
- A lot of castings are in central London, mainly after school, so spend some time working out train times to make sure you can get there. Or if not, can you arrange for a trusted relative to attend the castings? Can you finish work early? If not, this is a big problem, and you’ll be wasting many people’s time if you ignore it.
If the above elements are in place then you’re all set, but if any of these things are a problem, you need to address it as soon as possible.
If you do manage to land an agent, communication is key, and you must let them know the moment any dates become unavailable.
Finally, HAVE FUN! Encourage your child without putting pressure on them, and do what you can to make it an enjoyable process without getting their hopes up. The competition in the industry – especially for child performers – is huge. Not everyone gets called to castings, and for every child that gets booked for a job, there will be hundreds, if not thousands, who don’t.
Are you currently open to new performers, and if so, how should one contact you?
Yes. In the first instance, please drop me an e-mail telling me a little bit about your child and why they’re interested in becoming a child performer, along with any experience they might have had so far. State your full name, address and phone number on the e-mail so I can choose how to reply, and please send your message to firstname.lastname@example.org
What do you most love about the job?
Everything! There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the final result of a project that you’ve got your client booked on. It’s a proud moment for everyone, and as it’s such an emotional journey to achieve any type of success that the feelings are definitely heightened. I’m really looking forward to helping and supporting parents and carers on this journey. I often feel like the agents and parents of young performers don’t get the credit they deserve, but they sometimes need a bit of a pat on the back for getting their child to the casting in the first place, as the lifestyle of supporting a child actor is a big sacrifice. As someone who’s lived it, I know that first-hand.