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A few years ago I took my daughter to a commercial audition in Dallas, but I didn’t tell her it was an audition. I told her we were going in to tell a nice lady about our favorite Christmas memories and traditions. Once the audition was over, we never talked about it again. For her, the audition was the job.

My daughter was five at the time, but even if you’re son or daughter is older, it’s still beneficial to not think past the actual audition before it happens. Then, once it’s done, it’s helpful to show your young actor how to move on to the next thing quickly. You don’t want them—or yourself—lingering on the maybes.

Maybe she will get a callback.

Maybe he will get the role. 

Maybe she will get the attention of an agent.

Instead of wasting time with wondering and what-ifs, let’s look at some specific things you, as the parent, can do in the time leading up to the audition. I’ll also share some tips for audition day. We’ll wrap it up with some thoughts on how to follow up the audition.

Preparing for the Audition

1. Read all instructions carefully. This includes where the audition takes place, when it takes place, and what your child should be wearing. If the audition asks you to bring a headshot and resume and you don’t have them yet, don’t rush out to get professional headshots done until you know what you need. A recent candid photo or school photo should be sufficient for now, especially if you have the 8×10 version of it.

2. If you don’t already own the ideal wardrobe items, find what’s most suitable in your child’s closet or dresser. Avoid spending money to buy new items for a first audition or any audition.

3. Help your child learn the lines, if any, by practicing them daily. If you have a camera at home, set it up to simulate an audition setting.

4. If the audition involves improvisation, your child will need to perform a short scene that he or she creates. Remind them improv is a form of storytelling and every story needs a beginning, middle, and end.

5. Your child will likely be interviewed by a casting director for a commercial audition so help them think in advance about their interests. Remember specific details are better than vague references. For example, your son has a Chihuahua named Petey, not just a “dog.” Experiences connected to the actual audition are helpful to talk about it in advance. If the commercial audition has your child camping, the interview questions may be  aimed at getting her to talk about her favorite camping memories.

Audition Day

1. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before your child’s scheduled time. Early is on time, always.

2. Bring a snack or beverage, in case there is a longer-than-expected wait time. Make sure your child doesn’t spill anything on himself.

3. Follow protocol for signing in and where to sit or stand. If you’re part of a large crowd, stay close enough to hear any announcements being made by a casting director or assistant.

4. Avoid asking unnecessary questions that slow down or disrupt the process. A poorly-timed question might be, “When will be hear if she got the role?” A relevant question might be, “Is the shoot date set in stone?”

5. Avoid marketing or overselling your child to the casting director or anyone else at the audition. Also, avoid attempting to do business at an audition. Handing out business cards for your tax services is strongly discouraged.

Following Up an Audition

1. Celebrate the success. Completing an audition should be viewed as a positive thing, regardless of what the outcome may be later. Creating rituals can be a fun way to bond and give your child an uplifting experience immediately following the audition.

2. If your child gets a callback or gets offered the role, someone will contact you. The only reason you need to get in touch with the casting contact person is if your cell phone number has changed and you didn’t provide a work or home number. Otherwise, leave the casting people alone.

3. Take time to explain to your child, especially younger children, how the process works. Even if casting likes your son’s look and audition, it doesn’t guarantee anything. Decisions being made are outside of your control. Even the casting director doesn’t have the final say about who gets picked. Typically the person or people making that decision won’t meet the child who gets the role until the shoot day.

4. Take time to discuss what your child enjoyed about the audition and what she learned. Every audition is a learning experience for new actors and experienced ones.

5. Be skills-focused and not audition-focused with your child. Rather than getting your child excited about future auditions, help them better prepare for acting opportunities. This can involve reminding them about the importance of reading daily, working hard during piano lessons, or learning to ride a bike.

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If your child is unfamiliar with the audition process, a little coaching from a professional is a great way to increase comfort level.