The casting call

I took my daughters on a casting call last week.

(Now there’s a sentence with the potential to fan the flames of internet controversy like no other! Oh wait…maybe if I wrote “I took my daughters on a casting call last week and rewarded them with a gift card for a boob job.”)

Of course I had to turn it over in my mind six hundred ways, and over-analyze it to death. A casting director friend asked me to bring the girls by for five minutes to get their photos taken, and I finally concluded, eh, no big deal. The photos alone sound like a dream experience to them.

We didn’t really discuss what it was for. We didn’t really talk about what casting is, or what it means to book a job. They didn’t know that I caught one look at some of the stage moms there–especially the one sporting the track suit with the crystal beaded fabric that somehow got lost on the way from LAX to Halle Berry’s next Oscar dress–and thought, we soooo don’t belong here.

They just knew that they were going to meet my friend Julia and smile for the camera. And that there were a huge packet of DumDums on the table, one for each kid.

On reflection, I think maybe the reason I didn’t mind bringing them is not because of the likelihood that would book a catalog job and land a few hundred bucks towards college–but because of the likelihood that they won’t.

I cast actors for a living. This is my world. I can say honestly (and not without much reflection) that while my girls are the two most awesome kids in the entire world, modeling is probably not their calling.

I can live with that. Big time.

That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there is this little twinge of “what if…” somewhere inside me. Who doesn’t want to hear that their kids could be…something, anything, even if you don’t choose that path. I would imagine that most parents find a certain level of satisfaction in hearing their kids that are the prettiest/smartest/kindest/most talented in the whole wide world. It makes me see how the pageant circuit can be alluring to some parents; who doesn’t want to have raised a winner?

Even if what the kid is winning at is wearing false eyelashes and wiggling to All The Single Ladies.

Okay, yeah. So maybe not.

We’ll stick with ballet and soccer.

We left the studio holding hands, and waited for the elevator. I turned to Thalia and Sage and asked, “Did you have fun?”

The answer: a resounding YES!

“Because having fun is the most important part,” I told them.

‘Yes,” Sage said with remarkable seriousness.  “It’s not just about the lollipops.”


42 thoughts on “The casting call”

  1. Kids love to try new stuff. You never know what will go into their memory banks. Like the first time they went to the Empire State building or their first stuffed animal. Sounds like you were daring to take them. That’s moming 101, no?

  2. My daughter has been to casting calls. She has been in print magazines and flyers and up on posters in Walmart. She is ten…and wants to be on Broadway. These are her dreams. I spent days and months and years trying to convince her (and myself) that I don’t want this for her…but she wants it.
    So, we are taking baby steps.
    Little teeny tiny baby steps. And as long as she wants it this badly, I will support her. AND GUIDE HER.

  3. Having fun is what’s important. And lollipops. Sounds like my nearly 4 year old. 🙂

    I totally agree that it doesn’t hurt to do something like that if its fun for them. As long as you always keep them as the priority then it will work out.

    I also have that twinge about my girls – the what if… because my oldest really could shine in that arena I think. But I hate that most things require you to beg friends to vote, or pay money, etc. If she can’t be judged on herself and how she shines, not worth it. The only time I will now ask friends for votes is if its for charity. And even then I’m going to be more selective.

    Anyway glad the girls had fun!

  4. Context is everything. If it was YOU wearing the sequins and pushing, it’d be an entirely different affair. But just taking them to get their picture taken and to meet a friend…. nothing to worry about there. And it sounds like they came out of it with the right priorities: lollipops and fun!

  5. I look at things like this in the same way I look at buying a lottery ticket. The fun that you get out of it is the imagining of “what if”? Because it *is* fun to think about what might happen, to pretend it for a little while. It is always possible, even if it’s a long shot. I think it’s great that you took them, and gave them that experience. All of you obviously have your priorities – the lollipop quote is PRICELESS.

  6. I don’t think the auditions and casting calls are inherently bad, but they can be handled badly. It takes a certain kind of mom to manuever through that world gracefully and with sanity and values intact. I have a feeling, though, that if anyone could do it, you could. You do a pretty good job of calling people on their bulls**t and cutting right to the heart of the matter. And stage moms would provide you with an awful lot of great material 🙂

  7. The casting calls aren’t evil in and of themselves, how some parents handle them and their children is what makes it so. If you didn’t dress them up like tiny hookers and pimp them to the industry I see nothing wrong in taking them. Can’t let the bedazzled stage moms have all the fun, can we?

  8. Wouldn’t it be nice if it *was* all about the lollipops?? I just love that!

  9. A casting call does not the pageant life make. Even if they did get chosen, you wouldn’t let that stop them from having a real childhood.

    And I absolutely love the people watching aspect of the whole thing.

  10. I agree with others here that a casting call is MILES away from “T0ddlers & Tiara$”-level nonsense. I would do one with my girls (and, heck, my boy — he’s fricking ADORABALE) but never, ever, in one hundred thousand years the other. I think that “what if…” tickles us parents whether we’re at a parent-teacher conference and hear our child is good at science (what if she wins a Nobel Prize for discovering life on another planet), if we’re at soccer and the coach says she’s really fast (what if she breaks Olympic records — sans steroids, of course), or a casting call (what if she is America’s next top kid model). We are there to guide and encourage our children in their dreams. Dreams, regardless, are healthy fantasy. It takes a good parent to let our kids dream while also keeping them grounded. You’re a good mom.

  11. I think it is great that you gave them and you that experience. I would do it with my kiddos if I didn’t live in a small mid-western city where there are very few casting calls or things that don’t require upfront fees. Growing up is all about experiences and chances and let’s be honest, lollipops.

    It’s good to be open to all things, because who knows what our children will excel at and we need to be open to the endless possibilities out there. Good job mama. Sequin mom is another story.

  12. My 9 YO has been acting and modelling professionally since he was 5 YO. Yes, I initiated it when he was 5, and asked him if he wanted to do it, and I put him in an acting class and I found him his talent agent, but now, it’s all him – and has been since he got his first booking. He LOVES it. He loves the experience, he loves the friends he makes at auditions, he loves the attention he gets on set, and he loves seeing himself on TV and in movies. He has booked numerous commercials and a few small film spots.

    My daughter, who is now 6 YO, is also signed with our agent but she rarely gets called for auditions. People ask me “How come you don’t have her acting too?” Uh – well, cuz acting and modelling just don’t seem to be her “thing”. She doesn’t get excited when she gets called for an audition, she doesn’t seem to book anything and truthfully, she’s absolutely adorable and full of charisma, but doesn’t seem all that photogenic. But, she’s a fantastic swimmer, and she LOVES her singing lessons and soccer, and she’s got more kids who say she’s their best friend than I can count. I think she’s doing just fine. And that’s why “I” don’t “put her” in acting.

    We are fortunate to live in a big city where this opportunity exists for my son, and as long as he’s enjoying himself, I’ll keep supporting him. In this business, I do see some “stage Moms” – who seem to be mostly the Moms of daughters, I’ve noticed – and I turn a blind eye to them. The key is balance – my son also plays hockey (typically 3-4 times a week) and takes guitar lessons. I don’t push him, and with every audition, I ask him if he wants to go before I accept it. I guess it may be different for girls in this business, but as far as I can tell, my son enjoys it and says he wants to be an actor (or an NHL player – lol!) – I just keep telling him to “Dream big, my little dude” and as long as it works for our family, it’s an extra-curricular activity I’m happy to support. And hey, you never know.

    1. That’s so great Angela. You should never have to defend that choice. And speaking from someone in advertising, we need more good child actors! Not sure about more good NHL players? Maybe in Vancouver. Heh.

      1. This Canucks fan just wept at that comment, Liz. Booo!! 🙂

        1. This one too – boo is right! I’m not sure how Presidents Cup winner + Stanley Cup finalist = crappy, but hey, whatever.

      2. Thansk for the support everyone (for some reason I can’t post under your last comment in this string?) And funny coincidence – we DO live in Vancouver! We are huge Canucks fans too and watched Game 7 with a group of 20 friends. Given the riots have left such a blackmark and I’ve had a little too much riot news of late, I thought you might enjoy these true fan letters I saw yesterday….Go Canucks Go (and especially Daniel Sedin…. 🙂

        1. Angela – that elementary school is the one I went to! My parents still live there. Sorry for getting defensive…I think we are all just hurting in multiple ways in Vancouver right now. 🙁

  13. Sounds like it was a fun, slice-of-life outing. They got to try something new, you got to expose them to an interesting part of your world and there were DumDums on the table. All good.
    I think it’s only really the DumDums in sparkly track suits with double-dyed hair and Svengali aspirations that should be cast in Mommy Rehab. The ones who book appointments to have their four-year-olds’ eyebrows waxed? Yep. Them.
    If kids want to be in commercials or ads – and it’s enjoyable for them, that’s great.
    Your girls had the opportunity to experience a casting call and go back to being beautiful and amazing in their own unique ways. No pressure. That’s the real win.

  14. I had the opportunity a few times with my oldest when we lived in LA. I grew up around that life though and didn’t want it for my daughter. Really, I think I was afraid she’d like it. Ha.

    Your girls have the right attitude, as do you. I hope you get a copy of the photos for yourself.

  15. I have an old friend from high school on Facebook, who lives in LA and is your typical “stage mom.” We get daily play by play of her one daughter’s auditions and successes and acting lessons and singing lessons and infinity. Every time I read her posts I think, “don’t you have another daughter?” She never, ever writes about non-actor daughter. It’s sad.

    And I love Sage’s quote about the lollipops. I’m going to use it in every day life. Washing dishes – it’s not just about the lollipops. Cleaning up cat puke – it’s not just about the lollipops. Yep, works for everything!

  16. My fear about such things is more along neurotic lines: what if “they” like one of my kids better than the other? What if both my sons want the job/part/role/shoot and only one is chosen/deemed handsome enough/impressive enough? I love them both the same and the world should too, dammit.

    (Ahh, Dum Dums. My kids love them and I’ve always hated them. There is such much better candy out there!)

  17. Mmmm… lollipops…
    as long as they’re not watermelon or sour apple.

    Now I’m trying to think where I could go to get some free lollipops.
    Do they give them to you at the bank if you’re a grown-up?

  18. Sounds like you handled this just right. My second was typical toddler cute with the big blue eyes and blonde curls that provoked comments from strangers about how she should model. I was tempted but her challenging (some would say contrary) personality led me to believe it was not the right choice for her. I am not in the business and figured casting directors would be unlikely to choose a child whose favorite word was “noey” Glad you and Thalia and Sage had a good day and I will also be using the mantra that it is not just about the lollipops.

  19. My mom actually did the same thing with my sister and I when we were little – a friend from church was casting kids for the covers of toy boxes and needed small blond children. I have nothing but pleasant memories from the whole experience (I was 5 or 6). At some point we also had headshots and went on a few casting calls where sometimes the other little kids didn’t want to play with me, but mostly I remember getting to ride the LIRR and having McDonald’s for lunch afterwards. It was a great experience with absolutely no pressure and no heartbreak.

    And sometimes I still brag I was a child model. It sounds fancy.

  20. I can definitely see the allure of wanting your kids to “be something,” but the truth is, they ARE something. They don’t have to be popular, rich, or beautiful in the eyes of others to be important and have worth. Kids are beautiful the way they are, and they will have important careers no matter what they do (as long as we don’t mess them up too bad).

    Sounds like your kids had fun! Who doesn’t like lollipops?

  21. as an actor, i just want to say that it’s very sad grown-up actors don’t get lollipops at auditions… it would seriously help to get over the rejection.
    ; )

  22. I’ve been thinking on this since yesterday, and I’m actually surprised that nobody else has voiced the same thought I had, which is that even ballet and soccer and a whole host of other activities fall under this same umbrella of “what if?” Stage parents are on the soccer sidelines, on the pool deck, in the ballet recital audience. Factors that are within our kids’ control (genuine interest, practice schedule) and without (natural talent, physical attributes) are at play whether they’re on the field, in the pool, on the stage, or in front of a camera.

    I think that taking your kids to a casting call is simply a matter of exposing them to yet another opportunity. We never know where our kids are going to shine!

  23. Getting picked isn’t always so great either. My son was chosen to be the back up model for a photo shoot when he was 3 y.o. We were told it would be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. By 2:30 p.m. they were still photographing a dog. I asked when they thought the kid shoot would begin and they said they needed to take a break to eat, then set up the shot — so maybe around 5!! I promptly left before we both had meltdowns. I never answered another casting call. It would have been nice to make some money for college, but I don’t want to put my son through that.

      1. I’ve been in the marketing business for 12 years and if I book a photo shoot with talent, child or otherwise, I make sure we are on schedule out of courtesy. I find it keeps everyone happier! Especially the paying client.

  24. I answered a casting call for triplets on a whim when my girls were six months old. They got the part playing the baby of a murder victim and we spent four days on a location shoot for an episode of Body of Proof last summer. It was a great experience, and one that will make a great story for them to tell when they are older which is the main reason we did it. That and so I can give them an example of how sometimes you should just say “what the heck” and try the fun sounding impractical thing.

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