A top children’s commercial agent on what it takes to get into and prosper in showbiz
For the past five years, Kristin Malecki has seen thousands of hopefuls at L.A. Talent—looking for representation. The statuesque talent agent sits down with Ventura Blvd editor-in-chief Linda Grasso to spell out what she looks for and the qualities that have skyrocketed some of her young clients from TV commercials to feature films.
What are the qualities that make a child a good actor for TV commercials?
Personable and outgoing. There’s a lot that goes into a commercial production, so shy or timid kids can easily get overwhelmed. If they can’t answer a question without help from parents during the meeting, it’s usually a sign they’re not ready.
And besides personality?
We keep our client list fairly small, so I look for kids who have a unique characteristic or trait about them. For example, if they speak a different language or can skateboard, etc.
What, if any, experience should a kid have?
Depends on age. I don’t expect younger kids to have acting classes or workshops on their resumes, but if they do, it shows me that they’re committed. Kids who have been in the business for a few years or are older (ages 7 to 9) should have at least a commercial acting workshop under their belt.
What else does a child need to succeed?
A parent who can shuttle a kid across town at a moment’s notice. In many cases my clients get the call and have to audition that very same day. So if they live outside of LA or both parents work full-time, it can be difficult.
Can kids have other interests/commitments?
I don’t expect children to have acting as their only passion, but kids who have something like sports practices every day with little to no flexibility can’t do both.
Don’t you think acting also takes a thick skin?
Yes. Commercials are a lot of times about a look. It doesn’t mean a kid didn’t do a good job at the audition; it’s just not what the client was looking for. The constant disappointment can take a toll.
Give some tips on what makes a good headshot and a price one should expect to pay.
$150 is very reasonable. Typically you can do a couple of different looks. Headshots should be fresh, natural and capture personality without taking away from their face. Accessories such as bows, hats and/or big jewelry should be kept to a minimum. Also stay away from loud prints and logos and keep colors neutral. I prefer indoor shots with a solid background, but outdoors can work too if kept simple.
How much can a child make with a principal role in a commercial?
It depends on how much the commercials runs, where it runs, the time of day it runs, the number of spots, edits, the amount of shoot days, etc. The ad agencies decide on all these factors and pay actors according to SAG guidelines. Also, there’s no guarantee a spot will even air.
What does it take to get a theatrical agent?
Theatrical productions are creating a character and contributing to a storyline and can be a much bigger commitment. It’s a lot harder to break into film and TV projects, since a different level of acting is required. Many theatrical agents would want to see some sort of tape or footage on a kid. So getting involved in acting classes and/or individual coaching sessions are important.
Is it exciting to watch your young clients progress?
Yes, it is one of my favorite parts of my job! It is such a rewarding feeling when I see them on the big or little screen. I’ve had kids on Mad Men, True Blood, Grey’s Anatomy and many others. One of my most memorable moments was booking my client Seth Carr in Her with Joaquin Phoenix and finding out another client, Mace Coronel, booked a series regular on Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn.