Unfortunately, as we are often very busy in the office dealing with submissions, calls for auditions etc., we sometimes can't find enough time to properly answer inquiries as thoroughly as we'd like. Hopefully these answers to the most commonly asked questions will help out when you just didn't understand over the phone, or we didn't get back to you as quickly as we'd like.

Please keep in mind that many of these questions/answers may be specific to the Vancouver industry or to our agency only, and therefore may not apply for everyone.

"I have the cutest kid. I know you probably hear this everyday, but I get stopped in malls, everywhere, by complete strangers - and they say 'your kid should be in commercials'".

Yes, we do hear it a lot, nearly every day. True this isn't a question, but it's probably the single most commonly heard comment by talent agencies that rep children everywhere. What we'd like to know is: what do all those strangers say when they come across a "not so cute" kid? And who ARE all these people?

How do I know if my child is right for this?

The most important quality is that your CHILD really WANTS to do this and that they are OUTGOING & CONFIDENT but not to the point of being UNRULY. There is a fine line between OUTGOING and a SHOWOFF. SHOWOFFS are best kept at home showing off for the family and grandma & grandpa. If your child isn't comfortable walking into a room with a bunch of adults and carry on a conversation with a complete stranger, know now that you could be wasting everyone's time. Some children may take a few auditions to get the really good at it, but that CONFIDENCE, CURIOSITY and SPARKLE has to be there from the beginning.
The next equally important criteria would be a lengthy attention span and hopefuly, excellent behavior. If your child isn't extremely well behaved and a good listener when you as a parent asks him/her to do something, how is the child going to follow a director's request on set? Don't think the the casting assistant at the front desk doesn't notice and note the UNRULY kid tearing around in the waiting room... (and Parent that is not doing anything about it...) Unfortunately in the audition room, a child's outgoing nature can easily mask poor behavior. It's not until the little actor is on set that production realizes that they better call in a back-up or they'll be stuck with an unruly child for the duration of the shoot.
Because of this, it is YOUR responsibility as a parent to know what is expected of a child in this business before you get involved, and to make an objective call on whether or not your child is suitable. If your child isn't consistantly well behaved and passionate, as a courtesy to everyone involved, this is not the place for either of you.
Lastly, believe it or not, you do not have to have a 'beautiful/picture perfect' child to have them in acting. While LOOKS are important it doesn't matter as much as you'd think! True some looks are more in demand than others but as this is not modeling, nor is it the Little-Miss-Teen-Queen pageant; kids of varied shapes and sizes have a place somewhere in the industry too. Confidence, personality and passion rule.

How much does it cost?

Legitimate Talent Agencies in BC (and anywhere really) work on a commission basis only. There are no up front fees. However, this doesn't mean you don't need to invest in the proper tools to give your child an equal footing to have a chance to succeed.. When getting started at our agency - if your child is over 3 - headshots are usually required. It is also mandatory for all our clients to be on the Casting Workbook (one of two online casting services that it is virtually impossible to work in the business without).

What is the standard agency commission?

15% is the standard commission on Film/TV and Commercials.

How long have you been in business?

Since 1990.

How do I know if you are a legitimate/reputable agency? Where can I find a list of these?

Feel free to check us out with the Employment Standards of BC branch at BC Licenced Agents , (under 'Garry Derksen' as RKT), with the Union of BC Performers at www.ubcp.com, or with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbbvan.org.

How do I know which Agency to go with?

An impossible question to answer. As long as the talent agency has a good rapport with any or all of the above organizations, you are pretty safe. Not all agencies may be taking on new clients - so that might limit your options right there. Another good thing to do is check out how different agencies work. For example, at our agency, we do not interview babies/toddlers under three. Representation is fairly simple, and we don't bind these clients to any length of contract. As long as we are updated with new pictures and height/weight stats every three months, the child's file remains active. But I am sure if you ask around, different agencies have different procedures - so it all depends on what suits you best. I always recommend going with the agency that you get the best feeling from. If you click - go with it. We get a lot of inquiries from referrals as well, so asking around can be insightful too.

Can two or more agencies represent my child?

NO, this is really not a good idea - the reason is this: as long as the agency you work with is legitimate, there is absolutely no need to work with more than one. We all get the same opportunities for work, and you'll just end up ticking off both the agents and the casting directors. Why? Because when your child gets submitted for a job by more than one agency, Casting doesn't have the time to waste deciding who to call sorting it out. Nor do we have the time to decide who should get the booking should the good fortune arise. Even worse - both your agents might drop you and the casting director may not want to work with you either. I am not sure about other agencies, but we make sure parents are aware up front that this is not good work/business ethic in this industry. If any - it's the quickest way to make it out the door! With that said, YES, you may have different agents to represent your child for different areas of media- for example: a theatrical agent, a voice over agent, an extra/background agent etc.

My child didn't get called for an audition, but I know someone with a little boy/girl the same age/ethnicity/gender etc. as mine and they got to go. Does this mean my agent isn't doing his/her job?

No. Chances are there's a good reason. Remember that talent agencies work off commission, so why would we deliberately forfeit an opportunity to book a job? If your child is a baby/toddler and your agency requires current photos at all times like we do, make sure you've updated recently otherwise you might be eating your foot. We've had parents call in and say "we haven't heard from you in forever so what's happening?" Upon viewing their profile, I see that we haven't heard from THEM in 9 months. Agencies have dozens of kids to keep track of; parents have one - their own. Be a responsible client and keep track of updating. Another useful bit of info to be aware of is the fact that ultimately, it is the CASTING DIRECTOR who calls who in for what auditions. We submit names of children suitable for the roles, and the Casting Director calls the agents with the kids they'd like to bring in. Maybe your agent submitted your child, and it was the CD who didn't want to see them; it's rarely, if ever, our choice who gets the audition.

How do I get my 'kid' in modeling?

We are a theatrical agency speciallizing in Film, Television and Commercials so don't really go after modeling jobs at our agency, however our clients do modeling photo shoots and a fair amount of Print work attached to TV Commercials.

Do you do extra work?

No we don't. Check for local extras agencies with the UBCP at 604.689.0727 or at www.ubcp.com

What's ACTRA and/or UBCP?

ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, TV and Radio Artists) is the actors' union for all of Canada. UBCP (Union of British Columbia Performers) is the BC branch of ACTRA. * These unions are the Canadian equivalent of the American SAG: Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA: American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Details please...?

ACTRA/UBCP is a union for actors just like the union for ironworkers, mills etc. To become a full union member, one must have worked on 3 union jobs to acquire 3 union credits (not counting extra jobs). After an actor has acquired one union credit, he/she can apply to be an apprentice - which according to the union you must do within 6 weeks, otherwise you forfeit your credit. Each time a non-union actor works on a Union job, they must pay for work permits. The deal is after you've paid your 3permits, you can apply to be a member and therefore no longer have to pay permit fees to work and pay working dues instead.. For more details and 'The Top Ten Reasons Not to Work Non-Union' go to www.ubcp.com and check them out.

Can I work on Union jobs if I am Non Union, and vice versa?

Non-Union actors can work on Non-Union AND Union jobs. Union actors can work on Union jobs ONLY. If you are contemplating on whether or not your child should apply for apprenticeship have a chat with your agent.

What's the difference between Union & Non Union Productions?

It's simply a different way that productions have chosen to run their show so to speak. Almost all Feature Films and TV Series are union. These days, most commercials are union, but there are still some non-union jobs that come to town. Most low budget productions are non-union. The commercials usually pay a flat session fee and a buyout/use fee for a designated type of exposure for a negotiated length of time. Eg. $500- session, $2000- buyout for 2 years, North America only. Non-union Film/TV productions can be freebies (no pay, just experience); sometimes pay minimum wage, extra rates or by defferral.
There are also union deferrals: you'll get paid if it makes money, and since the union is supporting the production, you also have the option of purchasing a union credit(s) toward your membership.
There are other variations that productions will detail their contracts; these are just the basics. The rest you'll learn as you go.

What is Breakdown Express/Actors Access?

Breakdown Express is a restricted access, online database of actor profiles that enables an agent to submit their clients electronically to Casting Directors. It's a similar idea to the Casting Workbook, however it's provided by an American company called Breakdown Services Inc. Actors Access is literally the actors access to their side of the system. It is available to actors free of charge. The majority of online casting for Vancouver work is done through Casting Workbook, however several film/tv Casting Directors utilize Breakdown Express as well, and all LA/NY casting is done through Breakdown Express, so film actors must be on both.
*Above listed systems are all closed to the public and contain privlidged information.

What is the Child Employment Work Legislation all about?

The regulations provided by the Employment Standards Act vary slightly from than those listed in the Collective Agreement by the BC Actors' Union/UBCP. To read more about it go to the Employment Standards of BC branch at www.labour.gov.bc.ca/talent/,with the Union of BC Performers at www.ubcp.com, - click here - this article was published in the Hollywood Reporter in November 2001. You'll be proud to discover that British Columbia is the only province in Canada that has designated a specific set of provincially goverened regulations for children on set aside from the union!

What types of Commercials etc. have you done...?

Usually when parents ask this, they mean what types of shows etc. have our CLIENTS done or had the chance to work on. I think they ask this as a sly way of determining whether or not we get opportunities for our clients to work with what they consider to be glamorous and impressive companies etc. If this is you, although the list is endless, here goes a few:
Advil, Alberta Tourism, A & W, AT & T, Barbie, Bayer, BC Lotto, BC Hydro, Boston Market, Budweiser, Burger King, Cheerios, Chevy, Clairol Herbal Essences, Coca Cola, Coffee Mate, Crest, Culligan H2O, Degree, Desitin, Dirt Devil, E Bay, Elections Canada, eMachines, Excedrin, Ford, Harry Potter, Hasbro, Hersheys, Honda, Hoover, Huggies, ICBC, Icehouse Beer, IKON, KFC, Kit Kat, Kokanee, Labatt Blue, Lens Express, Lexus, Luvs, Mattel, McDonalds, Michelob Light, Molson, Motts, Old El Paso, Orajel, Oscar Mayer, Pampers, Pearle Vision, Pedialyte, Pepsi, Pet Smart, Peugeot, Pfiezer, Pharmasave, Pokemon, Polident, Polly Pocket, Polygrip, Pontiac, Pop Tarts, Post Cereal, Power Rangers, Ritz, Rugrats, Sears, Secret, 7 Up, Sprite, Staples, Subaru, Sunrype, Telus, Toyota, Trident, Tylenol, VISA, Volkswagon, Zellers, the list is endless and accumulating every day. For film and TV shows, past and present, once again refer to www.ubcp.com and check out the production lists/archives.

Where are the auditions usually held?

All the audition locations are in the general area of downtown Vancouver. Some in Burnaby, some in North Vancouver - and sometimes baby auditions are held in various Hotels in the Vancouver area. Most commercial auditions are in an area 6-10 blocks south, west and southwest of Science World in Vancouver.

How does the whole process of a movie or commercial production work?

There are often dozens of people and hundreds of decisions involved, and everyone plays an equally important role - from the star of the show to the dolly grip who pushes the camera. Basically the whole process is as follows:
MOVIE/MOW/TV Series - someone writes a script/screenplay or a concept for a series, and gets a company to support/acquire it for filming. They employ lots of people for different things and then they need actors to play the roles! The production hires a casting director to help them get some actors together that they can choose from. The casting director sends all the agencies a description of all the characters they need; this is called a 'breakdown'. The agencies look at it and decide which clients they have that would be suitable for the various roles, and they submit a photo list (on the Casting Workbook or Breakdown Services) of their appropriate clients for the corresponding roles to casting. Casting looks them all over, (on someoccasion - hundreds of actor submissions for one role) and decides which actors they'd like to bring in for an audition. They call/send these names to the agents. The agents call their clients and the actors go audition! One lucky actor books the part!
TV Commercials - a company decides they need to do some advertising (for most an ongoing process) and they hire an ad agency to help them out. The ad agency determines what the company is looking for, target audience etc, and comes up with various campaigns etc. When the ad agency and company decide on a commercial idea, they set about casting it (when it involves people) much the same way movies or TV shows cast. Casting sends out a breakdown (all commercials in Vancouver are released through the Casting Workbook) and talent agencies all submit their most suitable clients for the various roles, and so on and so on!
* Remember - this industry is incredibly spontaneous, things are constantly changing minute to minute and nothing is EVER written in stone.... and when it is ... it is only until it changes! There are many variations of the above process, but in a nutshell, that's the way it works.

What is a "flipper"?

Often children's missing teeth or an imperfect smile (it's the nature of the business) will take them out of the running for a toy commercial. A flipper is a little fake tooth (or teeth) that comes in handy for toothless grins; for about $200.00-$300.00, a great flipper will fit into the child's mouth, creating the appearance of a full set of perfect baby teeth. It is made with a mould, and because a child's mouth is changing rapidly at this age - with new teeth growing in - a flipper may only fit for a week before it has to be re-adjusted. It is for this reason that we usually recommend investing in a flipper only if a child is booked on a job; however, some parents go for full time flipper use if their child is going through a really busy booking period, and it certainly doesn't seem to hurt a bit.

What does "BOOKING OFF" mean?

This applies to Parents of clients... Remember to book off any dates that your child is not available (or you are unable to get your child to an audition). We cannot stress this enough! THIS INCLUDES, BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO: APPOINTMENTS, SCHOOL FIELD TRIPS & FAMILY HOLIDAYS! Please try and book off dates as soon as you know them - emailed 'book offs' are fine. We do often receive breakdowns to submit on well before the audition (sometimes a week or two in advance) and the sooner we know your unavail. dates, the better. Unless your child is booked off, we assume that they are available and excited to audition. - a few exceptions are sickness, injury, family emergency etc. We should not have to 'regret' audition requests . When we submit your child for auditions, the first thing we check is their availability. If your child is booked off for the audition, call back or shoot dates on a project then naturally they will not be submitted for the job. Casting Directors have to go through hundreds of agent's submissions to select the kids that they would like to see in person. It is frustrating, and a waste of everyone's time to be submitted by us, selected by casting for an audition, only to have you turn it down because you're child is not available and you didn't "book off". You also risk ending up on Casting's "Don't call them for an audition, they can never come anyways..." list. Please keep in mind that this is a business and we do have a reputation to sustain. It is your responsibility to book off when you and/or your child are not available. Thank you! .

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