8 Pilot Season Prep Tips for Young Performers

From a recent article I co-wrote with coach Denise Simon for Backstage.

Hear that? That’s the sound of pilot season coming with all of the last-minute auditions, cold-reads, memorizing pages of lines, frantic racing around, and late night self-taping, all in the hopes of landing that big TV role. It’s that time of year, between December and April, when kids and teens are expected to memorize 12 pages of Disney dialogue at 10 p.m. the night before, in addition to school work, lessons, sports, commercial and voiceover auditions, never mind trying to squeeze in a social life. It’s a crazy, crazy season where everyone hopes to land that one role that could get picked up to series and change everything on a dime.

When that audition comes you have to be ready, whether you have five minutes or five days to prepare. It starts now, getting yourself into the right mindset to be prepared when an opportunity comes your way. Our job as coaches for kids and teens is to help them give the best audition possible, win over the room, feel empowered and confident in their choices, learn how to bring the script to life, and hopefully book the job. Being prepared means working on your audition and memorization skills, on-camera technique, staying healthy, feeling rested and focused, choosing the right clothes, understanding the character, and being relaxed enough to bring your personality to the script, without carrying all the stress into the room with you.  

So how do you walk into all of these auditions equipped and ready? How do you juggle life and schoolwork with all of these last minute appointments? And most importantly, how do you make it fun when you can barely stay awake? 

Here are our eight pilot season prep tips for 2015.

1. Make sure your headshot and résumé are updated. Although most submissions are digital, make sure your agents have your most current pics, both as JPEGs and hard copies. If you need new pictures, now is the time to do it. Make sure your résumé has all of your current credits and stats such as height, as well as your contact info. 

2. Take time to learn lines each night. Be prepared! No excuses here. There is always someone more memorized than you. You want to know these lines so well that you aren’t even thinking about them, and you can just listen and respond in the moment. Run the lines many times, many different ways. It should feel conversational and real. 

3. Pass on auditions when necessary. Sometimes it’s just too much. It’s much better to give two great auditions than three mediocre ones. Be honest with yourself, and pass if you need to. There will always be more auditions.

4. Have proper equipment for self-taping. Self-taping is so common now. You don’t want to panic and call your coach at 10 p.m. at night. Carve out a quiet place in your home with good lighting, good sound, and a blank wall or pop-up screen. Make sure your iPhone or video camera is working properly, and use a tripod. Learn how to edit, format, and email a file quickly. 

5. Stop by your agency and make sure they know what you look like. Kids grow by leaps and bounds in just a few months. Make sure your rep knows your age range so you are not going out on auditions you may not be right for. If you haven’t been to your agency in six months or more, it’s time to do a walk-through and say hello.

6. Be prepared to fly out to L.A. on a moment’s notice. Make sure you have working papers in order and are up to date with school work. Parents, have a plan for your other kids at home and work obligations. 

7. Put together a short demo reel. A reel can get a casting director excited about bringing you in for an audition, especially if they don’t know you. If you have good footage, now is the time to edit a small reel together so it will be easier for your agents to pitch you.

8. Put your coach on speed dial. Now more than ever you need to keep your acting skills sharp and ready. Take classes, see yourself back on camera, hone your audition skills, keep your technique sharp. Working with your coach the night before an audition can help you make stronger choices, get comfortable with the lines, and feel confident when walking into the audition. 

With the proper preparation, support and attitude you can have the best season ever!

Want to get more advice on navigating the business for Kids and Teens?  Check out the Advice for Kids and Teens chapter in Matt's book "10 Steps to Breaking into Acting: Second Edition" on Amazon.