As the filmmaking fool, I love sharing my experiences diving into the filmmaking world. I thought it would also be great to share some other start-up stories of filmmakers, writers, cinematographers, festival programmers, actors, and anyone else involved in the film world with you all. I hope to include artists at all stages of their careers, from hobbyists to professionals, who can share their perspectives on taking the first steps toward making films.
I am thrilled to present our first look at breaking into acting. Rachel Eddey (full disclosure: she also happens to be my sister) has had great success breaking her children into television, film, and commercial acting (as well as modeling), and I convinced her to share a little bit about her experiences with all of you! She has also written a great guide to getting started (and getting started is what we’re all about here at Filmmaking Fool).
Rachel Eddey is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Vancouver Sun, the Huffington Post, the Tampa Bay Times, and Writer’s Digest, among several other outlets. She has published two books: a wedding memoir entitled Running of the Bride and a how-to on getting kids into acting entitled Baby for Hire: 55 Tips for Breaking Your Child into Acting and Modeling…Without an Agent.
What inspired you to get your children into acting?
I begin Baby for Hire with a response to this:
“It all started as a joke. When I was pregnant with my first child, friends and strangers alike would ask if I was going to stay home after my son’s birth or go back to my full-time job at a major research university. I got bored explaining why I needed to go back to work (paycheck! health insurance! retirement fund!) so instead I concocted a good-natured but completely made-up story about how I intended to push my son into acting and modeling so that I could quit and become a full-time “momager” (a portmanteau of “mom” and “manager,” a term popularized by Kris Jenner’s oversight of all those Kardashians). I meant it in jest. I mean, my son wasn’t even born yet, right? Why was I talking about his career possibilities? And why did I think babies had career possibilities, anyway?”
Over time, that joking turned semi-serious which then turned totally serious. I was fully committed to the idea by the time Grayson was born and he booked his first movie at 15 days old.
What types of productions have they done?
Grayson, who’s 3, and Thea, who’s 1, have done dozens of projects including television (The Blacklist, The Affair, Red Oaks, Sneaky Pete, Evil Lives Here, The OA), commercials (Dannon, Tribeca Shortlist, Montefiore Hospital), music videos (Beyoncé, Cash Cash, Loudon Wainwright III), modeling (Babies”R”Us, Nuby, Gotham Properties), internet spots (Dove, Culturelle Probiotics, Klipsch), and many more. Many times we’ll be on set and the adult actors will joke that my kids have better resumes than they do.
See Grayson as a young Donald Trump:
How did you find your first gigs?
The always dependable, never shady, highly virtuous Craigslist! Honestly, I had no idea where to look when I first started. I’d gotten freelance writing jobs off Craigslist in the past, so I figured I’d begin there. I submitted Grayson for one gig and he booked it immediately.
While I use more traditional methods (like ActorsAccess) to find work for him and Thea now, I do still keep Craigslist near and dear. They’ve both booked solid gigs from there for brands like Nuby and Warner Bros. Music. I also bought my house off Craigslist because that seemed like a sane, smart choice.
Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently at the start?
I was a hot mess when I first started. I was Googling my life away and not coming up with reliable answers. What was legitimate? What was a scam? What was worth investing in? What was a money suck? There wasn’t one dependable resource that laid it all out. That’s why I wrote Baby for Hire.
My biggest regret is not getting Grayson listed on casting websites like ActorsAccess sooner. (I knew better by the time Thea was born!) There are so so so many opportunities for newborns through six months, and I simply didn’t know about these resources. While I got Grayson a lot of work through other avenues, I feel like I cheated him out of additional opportunities because I didn’t do my homework better.
What was your child’s favorite role?
Thea had a blast at a recent Babies”R”Us shoot. She was supposed to shoot for two hours but was so sweet and giggly that they got the shots they needed in 15 minutes.
I just asked Grayson to answer this for himself and he said “Sneaky Pete,” which is a new Sony television show shooting for Amazon starring Giovanni Ribisi. He’s done the show several times and, while he loves the cast (and gets along famously with the writer-director, Bryan Cranston!), I suspect he also chose Sneaky Pete largely because the studio gave him a huge car-racing set. Toys will always rule the world.
What are a few of your favorite of the 55 tips?
I break the tips down into six sections: The Prep, Locating Gigs, Applying for Gigs, The Go-See (aka the audition), While on Set, and After the Job. My favorite tips are all in the “Applying for Gigs” section because those allow for the most creativity on the part of the parent. Tip #21 on “How to Read a Casting” is one of the most important because it really shows how fluid some casting notices are and how a parent can maximize the chance of getting her child booked by highlighting the right attributes at the right time. I also love Tip #32 on “Apply for non-paying gigs…and then negotiate pay” because who doesn’t love a little bargaining power?
Any cool celebrity stories?
Grayson was hired to do a music video for a little-known artist named Beyoncé. It was beyond amazing. When the production booked him, it was so top secret that they wouldn’t say who it was beyond a “famous performing artist.” They sent a car to get us and take us to this beautiful mansion in New Jersey. There was a decked-out food truck making custom meals for everyone on set. They banned phones and computers. It was fun to be wrapped up in the mystery of it all. And then finding out it was Beyoncé was an OMIGOD moment!
Beyond that, the kids have gotten to work with amazing people like Jennifer Grey, Bryan Cranston, Famke Janssen, Joshua Jackson, Katherine Waterston, Margaret Colin, Evanna Lynch, Ian Harding, and Ben Vereen.
Thea Eddey in Montefiore commercial: