Why put your baby in the biz? Because it is fun! You might make a little bit of money. If you are successful, you will have some really cool photos and mementos of your child’s early years. It’s a good place to learn about the set and about how Hollywood works.
But, babies are a tough sell in Hollywood, and they have special “rules” that no other age group has. If you are realistic about your expectations though, it can be a great time to learn the ropes and maybe have a little fun.
Before you even begin, we suggest you analyze your life and think about how this might fit in. Showbiz isn’t for everyone! Are you considering this because “everyone tells you” the baby is gorgeous? Because you want to save up some college money? Just think it might be fun? Is your natural personality going to work in Hollywood? By that we mean, are you going to be able to let your baby go to a stranger? Are you organized enough to keep up with constant updating of pictures and paperwork? Is your life flexible enough to drop everything and run into the city with an hour’s notice? Can you get your child to do exactly what you want them to, the first time, without major bribery or pressure?
Next, consider your child’s personality. Do they adjust to changing environments with ease? Are they happy and smiling constantly? Do they enjoy crowds, and getting their picture taken? Can they go to a stranger without crying? Are they independent, and not clingy? Do they like long car rides? By age 3 or so, they will be expected to go into an audition room without you—can they do that? By age 4 they will be expected to memorize lines and speak them clearly.
If you can honestly answer all those questions, and you still think you want to pursue this, great…keep reading. If you find yourself with some hesitant feelings, don’t worry—give it a couple of months and come back to the idea. Your life, and your child’s personality may have changed by then. There’s no rush. Hollywood will always be here!
Being realistic: there just isn’t that much work for little ones. Here’s why:
Baby products do not change very often, so there aren’t new campaigns created. That means less opportunity than you might imagine. You might see a baby on that diaper package, but that baby could very well be 15 years old by now!
Where you live is a big deal. Most of the work is in LA and NY. Babies just can’t handle long car rides and be expected to perform on cue when they get there. Commuting to LA or NY is not cost effective for most people (and baby work will never be enough to pay for a trip), so you will need to bloom where you are planted. Seek out what you can in your own region.
Auditions (or “go-sees” as they are called in the modeling world) will be sporadic. You might have no auditions for a month, and then 3 in one week!
Babies are often hired as extras on tv/film, since they can’t say lines yet. That means pay of $170 per day or so. You aren’t going to get rich. For print work, babies tend to get between $75 and $150 per hour, hired in blocks of just an hour or two.
There are expenses in this game. Gas, internet access, putting pictures on legitimate websites that agents or managers use to submit, such as Casting Networks or Actors Access. You might also have to pay babysitters for other children (not allowed on set and shouldn’t be brought to auditions), or take time off work. It is FAR more likely that you will spend money on this hobby, rather than make it!
Multiples get a large share of jobs. In California, and on most SAGAFTRA related projects, kids aged 2-5 can only work 3 hours. For this reason, producers prefer to hire twins so that they can get almost a full work day out of them (3 hours each, would be 6 hours of camera time). Healthy, identical multiples are in demand! At age 6, the labor law allows a few more hours, and most kids can read by then, so 6 year olds that are small for their age or appear younger tend to work more. Babies do quite a bit of print (magazines, ads) modeling, since the work hours are not so much of an issue in that world. In film television and commercials, babies are most often hired in groups as a back up, and they are hired as extras (since they can’t talk) which doesn’t pay much. See what we mean about being realistic? Not a lot of jobs are available, and you aren’t going to get rich from your child’s modeling career as a toddler.
Make sure you understand: YOU are making this decision. Your child is not. When they get a little bit older (around 4-7), they will need to make the decision to be in show business on their own. And you will need to honor their desires when the time comes. It is an absolute NECESSITY that children CHOOSE to do this. It is a hard industry and the risks get bigger as the child gets older. Plan now for the day when your sweet little one wants out, and let them know it will be fine if that is their choice!
Everyone is not going to love you for this. There will be judgments. Don’t expect your friends and family to support you. Many, many people (including many IN the industry) will feel that you are cashing in on your beautiful baby. This is where the term “stagemom” comes from. It will help you if you are discreet, smart about the biz, obedient of laws and safety, and sensitive to your child.
HOW TO GET STARTED IN THE BABY BIZ
Get a work permit for the state you will be working in. In CA and NY, the entertainment work permit is free, but requires a doctor’s signature and a birth certificate. It can take up to a month to receive it thanks to a current backlog at the state office that handles them, so start the process now. Here’s the link to the applications:
Both states have functions to issue first time, short term permits, should you get cast in a hurry. That feature buys you a couple of weeks to get the rest of your paperwork together.
- Open a trust (aka Coogan) account. You’ll need this too…it’s a trust account required by law in several states, where 15% of the child’s earnings are held in trust. Every financial institution has different rules for opening one, but we suggest dealing with a credit union that handles actors regularly such as Actors Federal Credit Union, Entertainment First Federal Credit Union or SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union.
- Start reading and learning about the biz. Things like studio teachers, legal work hours, and union rules are a foreign world to most new moms, but you have to learn them if you are going to play on this playground. Luckily, all that info is available for FREE. Spend some real time surfing around this website, and click on every link at the bottom of this page.
- Take your own photos. No professional photos are needed to approach an agent or manager! Do NOT spend money on modeling schools, contests, TFP (time for print) photos or professional headshot photo packages. These are almost all scams! Most parents can take great, usable, photos with their digital camera or even a high quality cell phone camera. Clean simple clothes, natural smiles. No food, no animals, no foofy hairdos. Just a real kid, showing their unique personality. The Bizzy Mama is a great blog from a former agent with some examples of good and bad submission photos.
- Once you sign with an agent or manager, they MAY (depending on your market) suggest inexpensive professional photos. Since they have to be updated so often, you shouldn’t be spending more than $200 each time. There are several headshot photographers in Los Angeles who do “baby days” where they offer an extremely discounted rate for the little guys.
- At age 4 or so, most agents will request professional photos and zed cards (a model’s headshot with several poses). That’s the point when the children’s changes slow down a bit, so professional photos become more cost effective. Headshots should cost $400 or less, plus printing. Do not use “required” photographers (as in I’ll represent you, but you must get new headshots with “our” photographer for $800). Photos are one of the biggest baby scams, so be careful!
- Get representation: Email or snail mail the photos with a cover letter to baby managers in your area to see if they are interested. Make sure to do your research on registration fees! You shouldn’t pay in advance for representation, but it is acceptable in the baby world to charge a very SMALL registration fee up front. Babies just don’t work enough for reps to survive on commissions only, and baby clients take a lot of time to manage.
Agents make 10% – 20%, and managers generally make 15%. NOTE: if you choose a manager, you will have to pay an ADDITIONAL commission when you book. In other words, it will be 25%. Think carefully about this decision because your child will also be paying taxes and Coogan. The percentages can add up.
In Los Angeles and New York , most talent agencies will not represent babies directly. That magical 6th year is the age when most talent agencies will consider representation. Up until that point, the agencies rely on “baby managers” who are better equipped to keep track of growing babies. These managers tend to freelance the kids to a variety of agencies acting as manager AND they may have agency licenses themselves so they can submit to casting directly. In smaller markets, talent agents typically represent babies directly.
We found no reputable source for “baby agent lists”, and Google searches were littered with scams. This is a list of baby representatives suggested by our Bizparentz members. It is not an endorsement, but a place to start:
Los Angeles Area
Managers: Baby Talent Network
Agencies: There are a very few youth agents that occasionally deal with toddlers directly, so you can inquire about their current policies as well: Paloma Model and Talent, Osbrink Talent Agency, Youth Talent Connection, Zuri Model and Talent.
New York / New Jersey
Managers: Green Room Management, Teri B Talent,
MidWest / New York City
Agent: Ohlsson Agency
New England / Boston
Managers: Green Room Management, Teri B Talent,
Florida / North Carolina
Agent: Puddletown Talent
Agent: Signature Models and Talent
OTHER MISC. TIDBITS
Unions: There is no union for modeling. TV/film/commercials are handled by SAGAFTRA. You might be fortunate enough to work on a SAGAFTRA job, but they don’t require membership until age 4.
Auditions or “go-sees” happen on short notice. You might get one day’s notice, or a few hours. They don’t work around nap times, and they expect you to adhere to the one-parent-one-child rule. If you have other children, you will need to have a plan for babysitters to cover on auditions and work days.
There is no need for training! Don’t spend money on acting or modeling classes for babies and toddlers. It’s just not necessary and can actually hurt a child’s career, since Hollywood tends to hire “real” kids (not showbizzy, too-perfect kids).
In California, studio teachers are required by law to be on set with children. 24/7. No exceptions. For babies under 6 months, a studio nurse is also required. Your baby will be WELL taken care of!
In California there are two other laws that you should be aware of. The Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, which requires representatives to work only on commission, and more importantly, the Child Performer Protection Act that requires fingerprint clearance for anyone working with children. You should only work with people who either have an talent agency license or who have a Child Performer Services Permit (which requires fingerprints). Do not compromise on this.
NEW LAW ABOUT BABIES AND REALITY TV / INFLUENCERS
California AB 267 (Chu) was signed into law on 9/12//2019. This law clarified the current regulation that babies under one month old need a physician’s clearance to work and, more importantly, it clarifies the definition of “entertainment industry” to include ALL forms. The old California law used the outdated term “motion picture set or location”, but has always been interpreted to include all employment for babies. This bill changes the words to “in the entertainment industry” so that it is clearly intended for all types of work, and specifies that a board certified pediatrician must be the physician to sign for a work permit. According to the author, “In this era of online, streaming video and mobile entertainment content the infant stars of Youtube, Netflix and Instagram must be brought under the protection of law.” Bizparentz supported this bill, and parents should understand that even if they use their babies as “influencers”, they still need to abide by work permits, work hours, and other California safety protections.
New moms are one of the most scammed populations in Hollywood. Con artists and entrepreneurs know that by nature of your age, new moms don’t have a lot of experience. They also know that emotions tend to run high, and they prey on your love for your child. That means you need to develop your momma bear instincts and learn how to spot the real deal from the things that are just for fun, or a waste of time.
The real entertainment industry has no relation to pageants or to pay-to-play runway modeling. Enter if you wish, have fun, but don’t expect it to get you anywhere in Hollywood.
The real entertainment industry has no relation to internet photo contests. These might be fun, but they can also be dangerous, since you are sharing your child’s image and name with strangers. Really do your research, and don’t expect contests to make any impact on a professional career. A certificate to show grandma, maybe. A career, no.
Beware of online databases and self-submit casting. Read here to understand the casting process, NEVER use craigslist, onemodelplace,kidscasting or exploretalent for baby modeling jobs. We highly advise leaving submissions to the professionals (agents and managers) in the world of babydom…they have all the paying jobs anyway.
Safety first. Even babies can be the target of predators and pedophiles. If your child is successful and grows into a professional acting career, they will thank you for keeping them safe. Read more about predators in the entertainment industry here.
Radio Times: Where Do Babies Come From on Television (UK info, and animatronic babies) by Thomas Ling
Parents Magazine: Could My Baby Be In Pictures?