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Motherhood in the Biz: Acting, Managing, Parenting with Kids in Showbiz (Vol. 1)

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When I was in middle school I auditioned for a community theatre. The auditions were at the elementary school that was located on the K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base.  I was so excited to play Staggio the patriarch of the family, who with my 13-year-old skill had a spotty Russian accent. “Velkome!  I am thinkink you will lovf it.”  My parents were not so excited because that meant they had to drive me to rehearsals for weeks.  “Sweetheart, we can’t wait ‘till you can drive yourself” they would say as they drove the onto the military base which required a stop in the security station and a permission slip each time we made the 20 minute drive.  They then had to wait for two-hours and drive me back.  But that’s what we do for our kids right?  Totally put all of our own dreams, desires and to-do lists on hold to give our kids joy.

Now I’m a mom myself and while I do want to give out bucket loads of joy I also want to keep my own dreams on track. Anyone in this business will tell you it is a constant hustle.  The entertainment industry was the “Gig Economy” before they called it that. If you’re a parent in the business with kids who act, it is paramount to avoid wasting time or money. So I’m going to put our combined 27 years of experience in the biz to work for you and pass along some info that I hope will make your journey less bumpy.

Let’s pretend that you’re a female 007 with kids and I’m your gadget inventor.  Here is your first secret weapon: A terrific kids acting class at a reasonable price that offers a flexible schedule.

Bo Kane’s Acting Class is a great place for beginners and terrific for breaking bad habits of the seasoned performer formed at other classes.  Plus, it is held at On Your Mark Studios, which is a real casting office, so the kids get comfortable in a real world setting.  Bo and his wife Denise are working actors (Bo was just filming an episode of The Orville recently) who have teenage children who also work as actors.  To put it simply.  They are the kindest coaches we’ve ever worked with and they really know their stuff.

Flashback to 2015: My daughter, Marleigh, is on her mark and doing a bit of pre-scene dancing and spinning while things are getting prepped. She’s being recorded by a large video camera that looks very old-school.  She stands in front of a blue background facing the audience of other students.  The camera is also connected to the TV in the next room where the parents sit and watch but are not allowed to interject or interrupt their children, since that wouldn’t be allowed in a real casting session.  It is a great set up and it is how I finally figured out why my charming girl wasn’t booking any jobs.

It’s my daughter’s turn, so Bo sweetly prompts her, “Marleigh, are you ready to start?” Marleigh doesn’t hear him because the wall she is facing is covered with framed photos and the glass acts like a mirror so she can see the live feed from the computer monitor in the glass.  She is endlessly fascinated with her own image.  Bo continues warmly, “Marleigh, did you hear me?  Ok, you need to stop looking at your reflection and look right in the camera.  Are you ready to start?”  Marleigh laughs and spins a couple more times. I try not to feel annoyed and remind myself that she is only 6.

Denise has organized the kids in a “line-up”, which often happens for commercials, and has several children standing shoulder to shoulder.  The camera is working its way down the line doing a short close-up interview.  It stops on the child to my daughters left who is doing an amazing job, despite the fact that Marleigh’s disembodied hands are making hula dancer type movements into the frame near her head.  As the camera moves over to Marleigh we see that she’s literally doing dance moves and watching it all in the reflection.  Bo asks her to start and she snaps to attention does her slate but then right back to dancing.  I’m in the next room having an epiphany!  This must be why she isn’t booking anything.

It took a bit of practice and a lot of patience but eventually my daughter stopped hamming it up, which turned out to be her way of dealing with nervousness, and she booked a job! She’s also had more confidence at school.  I give all the credit of her newfound poise to Bo and Denise.  Every class I’m amazed at their calm demeanor and how it really helps the kids do their best.  I reaffirm my goal of being more like them after every class.

No not all teachers are created equally.  I’ve had teachers say that they need to be hard on you or the kids.  They feel the need to yell, chastise or embarrass students and if you disagree they say, “You need to get thicker skin. This is how it is on set.”  To that I say, “Nope.”  That’s just not true.  You don’t EVER have to get good at someone in power embarrassing you and neither should your child.  We’ve worked on lots of sets and that has yet to happen and if it did we would walk away.  My child’s mental and physical health is the most important thing.  So choose classes that build your child’s self-confidence, so if they are in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation on-set or in real life, they have the skills to stand up for themselves.  This not the only great kids class on my list but it’s a terrific place to start.

**I’m not compensated for giving my opinion and there is no guarantee that you’ll find employment by using the info in this article. 

Resources for this article:

Bo Kane’s On Camera Class for Kids

 

Erin Leigh Neumeyer

About Erin Leigh Neumeyer

Erin Leigh Neumeyer is a family and headshot photographer and actress-VO artist-director-writer, you know the all around multi-hyphenate “maker" type. Erin’s favorite phrase is "Imperfect Action beats Perfect Inaction every time.” She has a background in PR and Marketing and has worked with non-profits like The Humane Society and Project Angel Food, fundraising, running events and managing communication. She is also the Communications Director of Connect Film Festival. Her training began in theatre and improv and she’s a graduate of the Second City Conservatory in Chicago as well as iO Chicago and iO west. She is a proud member of Women In Film, Women in Animation and is a huge fan of Seed and Spark, Film Powered and of course, Ms. in the Biz. Living in LA she feels at home and loves the creative energy. She has two children who she adores and who also work in the entertainment industry and her adorable Siberian Husky, Thunder, has been called in to audition from time to time. Erin is currently filming a web series with her kids called Your Neighbors The Neumeyer’s, in pre-production on a social activism themed short film that she wrote and regularly works on projects at HitRECORD. Keep up with Erin: Entertainment: ErinNeumeyer.com Instagram: @ErinLeighNeumeyer Twitter: @ErinNeumeyer Photography: ErinLeighPhotography.com & ePhotoLA.com Instagram: @ephotla Twitter @erinLEIGHphotog