WHILE PREGNANT WITH triplets I was already thinking about how we were possibly going to afford college. In brainstorming options I looked into 529 college savings plans and show business. One was definitely more grounded in thought than the other. A 529 plan, with reoccurring contributions, would grow at a steady pace with limited risk. However, exploring the world of entertainment could be lucrative, like winning the lottery, and fun!
I started researching what Hollywood agents were looking for and found agencies specializing in working with children. I contacted one agency that advised me to contact her once they were born and email photos. I did as advised and our children had their first gig on the ABC television show, “Brothers and Sisters,” when they were just seven weeks old. Since that time our kids have gone on to do several other jobs ranging from a Microsoft commercial, to other television shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Rizzoli & Isles,” “Up All Night” and reoccurring roles on “Chuck” and “House.” They also did two movies; “This is 40” with Paul Rudd and “Jobs” with Ashton Kutcher.
Looking back, I see that our kids were fortunate to work as much as they did. I think this was primarily due to having identical daughters and a son that were agreeable to being held by strangers. I also now have a greater respect for the industry and how they accommodate child actors. Children are only able to work a limited number of hours by law and must have a studio-supplied teacher on set and a baby nurse, depending on their age.
Although it is easier to book jobs having an agent, it is not absolutely necessary in the beginning. Casting Networks, home.lacasting.com, is a website where you can submit your child’s photo with description and receive email notifications of possible auditions. Initial account setup and maintenance require a minimum monthly fee. Another casting website is Casting Frontier at castingfrontier.com.
Only when you are available to work steadily should you then seek out an agent. Once your child has an agent you must be willing to attend an audition with limited notice, usually receiving a call or text the evening before. Before selecting an agent you will need to ensure they are SAG or AFTRA franchised at sagaftra.org. It is also important to note that agents are only paid if your child works, which is 10 percent of earnings. Most agencies have websites where you can submit photos of your kids for possible representation.
Also to get started, you will need an entertainment work permit and Coogan account. Entertainment work permits are necessary for any reputable job and should be applied for as soon as possible. Fortunately, you can now apply for them online through the Department of Industrial Relations at
dir.ca.gov. They are free and you will receive a permit making your child eligible to work.
A Coogan account, requiring employers to set aside 15 percent in a trust, is also a necessary piece of paperwork. This account can be setup through your bank or credit union and can be accessed by your child at the age of eighteen.
Beyond having your paperwork in order you will also need a lot of luck! You may find yourself driving in endless traffic at countless auditions with no callbacks. However, if you enter this business in the right frame of mind, with limited expectations, you may end up on the set of your favorite TV show. Also, most likely you won’t be able to fund your child’s college education, but you will have fun in the process.
Nicole Aptekar is a parent, advocate and founder of Advocacy For Autism and is a Group Facilitator and Board Member for Autism Society of Inland Empire. She is active in her temple community, Temple Beth Israel Pomona, where she serves on the Board of Trustees as Treasurer. Nicole, her husband, Jeff, and their triplets live in Chino Hills, Calif. For a calendar of upcoming meetings and workshops, please visit www.advocacyforautism.com.