Most actors and directors would agree that training is an essential part of being a great actor. After that one point of agreement, there can be a lot of divergent opinions. How much training? What kind? And what even constitutes training?

For many people the definition of a properly trained actor is one who has a BFA or even an MFA in acting. But that’s out of reach for the child actor, or one who wants to be professional before the age of say, twenty. What does that leave a parent who wants to help their kid be successful?

Just about any town of a decent size has acting classes for children. Often run through the local community theatre, they can be a good introduction to the basics and are available to anyone who signs up, regardless of experience or talent level. This is an easy place to start, though the quality of instruction can be unpredictable. It’s also a good way to see if your kid likes the idea of acting more than the process itself.

Many regional or professional theatres have special training classes for young actors. These are more likely to require auditions and have a higher caliber of both teacher and student. And some towns are fortunate enough to have dedicated acting studios with a range of instruction: Acting Technique, Comedy, Improv, Voice and Movement, Acting for the Camera, even private coaching. Los Angeles, of course, is groaning with acting schools and private coaches. A Google search on Los Angeles acting schools for kids turns up pages of dizzying choices.

Perhaps most important of all, encourage your child to audition for everything. It turns out that the majority of “work” for actors of any age is just auditioning! And the more you do it, the better you get. Not only that, but there are some overlooked opportunities for young actors in fantastic places—including professional Equity theatres, which may produce plays that include roles for children.

Have you noticed that I’ve mentioned a lot of theatre training?

This is because many directors believe it is the best foundation for actor training. Luckily, outside of Hollywood it is also easier to find plays to audition for than movies and television!

What should you do? I think the answer is different for everyone, and that fact is illustrated over and over in the incredibly different paths of every successful young actor. Each kid is unique and shows up with their own strengths and gifts. And every kid has access to different opportunities. Few of the most successful ones come from Los Angeles originally, but most arrive with enough training and/or raw talent that they attract an agent or manager and find work.

If you decide to look for an acting coach or school, do your research.

Look online to see who has been nominated or voted best acting coach/ school in your area. If you live near LA, I recommend the annual Backstage Readers Choice Awards, which you can find online. Yelp is often helpful too, and successful actors will sometimes mention their coaches in interviews. Word of mouth can be a good source, but consider who is giving the recommendation: are they getting work, or are they another hopeful with no track record? This may go without saying, but you want to take the advice of people who are actually successful, not just someone you know who likes the person they are taking classes with.

In our case, Dove was the kind of kid who learned best by doing. She had next to no formal acting training, instead learning by auditioning and getting roles, and then learning with each successive role, starting with community theatre at the age of eight. She did sign up for classes with a well-known acting school for kids when we arrived in LA, but dropped out after about two classes when their schedule conflicted with her high school show choir rehearsals! That being said, she did spend three years on formal vocal training before we came to Los Angeles.

If you do pursue training and there is much money involved, beware of the possibilities of scam artists.

NEXT: Avoiding Scams and Rip-Offs

My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey, and will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!

Or book an hour consulting with me to come up with an individualized plan that takes your own unique needs into account. For about the cost of an hour with a professional acting coach, you can get your questions answered and a road map to help you move forward toward your dream.

If your young actor is 12 or older, they will enjoy reading my second book, Young Hollywood Actors, which shares stories and advice from some of their favorite performers.

Invest a little in your kid’s future today.

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