Sunday was a nice, blustery day so we decided to get out of the house and do a little bit of shopping – mostly window-wishing – at the local outlet.
As is the case with most outlets these days, the walkways are riddled with independent vendors trying to push their wares to anybody that passes. I had heard it said that these guys are the modern-day equivalent of pop-up ads and it’s true: they just keep pestering you.
But one booth wasn’t selling tennis shoe polish, laser-etched iPhone cases or fidget spinners (and I swear if I hear my kid say that one more time, I’ll scream). And unlike most of the booths, it was unmanned when we passed it.
What they were selling was a Hollywood dream to make it big in television and movies. It was a casting agency that specialized in recruiting children and teens for studios like Nickelodeon, Disney, etc. or so they say.
And it wasn’t until we were ready to leave when we were approached by the person who was running the booth. Apparently she thought we looked like a bunch of pigeons as she walked up to us, taking particular interest in Anthony.
She first asked if we were local. I confirmed her suspicion. Then the spiel began about how she was looking for teens age whatever-to-whatever to cast for shows on the aforementioned networks. That’s when I started to grin and then dropped the mic on her.
“Nah, that’s okay. I used to do background acting and…”
At the mention of “background acting” I swear that woman left a puff of smoke behind her and disappeared faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m dash.
Why is that?
There are a few reasons for her to not take interest in me or Anthony.
First, casting agencies in general. When you’re selling Hollywood to some slack-jawed yokel that doesn’t know any better, they will of course shovel out whatever it takes to make their kid a star. And that’s the problem: legit agencies will NEVER ask for money up front, and you can bet that this one was going to ask me for my wallet in order to get Anthony a few headshots that would be stuffed into an album of hundreds of others that already got bilked and still haven’t been cast for anything. For my casting file, my headshot was taken with a digital camera at the agency. That’s all they need especially if it’s only non-union background work. Speaking parts require SAG-AFTRA union membership and that costs money, something that you pay directly to the union and not the agency. Only then will you make decent money. Until then it’s minimum wage, baby. Except may for the monetary bumps for exposure to smoke, water, or the studio using your car in the background as well. Living the Hollywood dream? Hardly.
Second, I’ve seen what kids have to go through in this industry. For adults, it’s no big deal other than hustling for more jobs during your downtime between shots and there is a lot of downtime. For kids, however, it means having their parents on location with them, going to the on-set “school” between shots, and just long days that nobody that young should be put through. There’s never guarantee of when the production will wrap and if they have another shoot the next morning or get a callback for the current one, it’s a lot of stress for parents and kids. Kids also get hungry and antsy. This is why they are so hard to work with. It’s a miserable existence and a life I would never wish on any child. Believe me, it’s nothing like what you see on the screen or social media.
I can say quite confidently that those last two paragraphs are exactly what went through the mind of this woman as she ran away from me. She knew I had an inside track about the industry and didn’t even want to mess with me.
So sorry, kid. You’re not going to be the next big thing.
But you’ll always be our star.