By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Region – Many parents have watched a child actor on TV or in a movie and said, “My child could do that!” But breaking into the acting industry, particularly outside of Hollywood and New York City, is a complicated and confusing process. And often it's not any easier for the writers and directors looking for child actors from the local area.
Last November, when Rhode Island-based actor and writer Rosemary Pacheco was trying to help a director find the perfect 8-year-old boy from New England for a role in an independent film, she found that there was no easy way to find him.
She put out a call to the Hollywood East Actors (HEA) Group on Facebook. Natasha Colonero of Shrewsbury, mother of two aspiring actors Dante, 11, and Gianni, 9, responded, thinking that Gianni might be a good fit. The two met while filming and started talking about ways to make it easier for casting directors to find local child actors and performers.
“Natasha really came up with the idea,” Pacheco said, “for a spin-off of the HEA Group that focused solely on child actors.”
The New England Kids Actors Group is “a place to learn and be cognizant of the industry and etiquette,” Pacheco explained. “We provide information for newbies, as well as a forum for new parents and veterans alike.”
“It is basically a place that consolidates all the information out there related to kids acting and modeling,” Colonero said, “because there are so many costly scams.”
Pacheco said there should never be any cost associated with auditions. “That's not the way casting calls work, but scammers try to take advantage of starry-eyed parents,” she said. “We try to help them get into the business the right way.”
The Facebook group provides a place to post legitimate casting calls and for industry professionals to look for actors. Colonero pointed out that top modeling agencies and casting directors in the area have also joined and give pointers from time to time.
“We knew nothing about film work or how to find casting notices,” said Neith Juch, a group volunteer and mother of 14-year-old twins Nekhebet and Uatchet from the North Shore. “Everyone in N.E. Kids shared the resources that they used to search and my daughters have since been able to land roles in a number of independent and student films as well as venturing into commercial and print work.”
The group has created a real community. Since it began a year ago, the page has grown to 300 to 400 members from babies to teenagers. It is free and run by the parents in the group. Each member provides a short bio and photos.
“Breaking into the industry is confusing and competitive, but now all [of us] that actively participate in the group and post will run into each other at auditions, movie sets, or modeling jobs and we are all friendly and cheering each other on, even if we are going for the same part,” Colonero said. “It remains tough to get jobs, but we are all there to encourage each other to keep trying.”
“I like seeing how I have helped people; it brings a smile to see their accomplishments because of the group and the advice of the parents in the group,” she added.
The group had its first “New England Kids Networking Event” in April in Whitman which featured industry professionals sharing their knowledge and advice.
“People drove over an hour to attend and the industry pros were happy to volunteer their time to educate the parents,” Colonero remarked.
Everyone contributed: Dance Dimensions volunteered their studio, one member brought a specially decorated cake, others brought snacks, and the older children volunteered to chaperone. Each person left with a folder full of useful information.
The group is already benefitting aspiring actors. Recently some of them worked on movies with John Travolta and Cameron Diaz. Eleven-year-old Nicholas Talbot of North Grafton along with Dante Colonero will be making their big screen debuts as extras in “Labor Day” with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, due to be released in January.
In less than a year as members of the group, Westborough sisters Deirdre and Kyra Robins have been cast in numerous roles. Deirdre, 15, was cast as lead in a four-episode web series and three short films, as well as in principal roles in several others. Kyra, 16, was cast as a lead in a local soap opera and a featured role in a web series. Kyra's twin sister Emily is also an actress. The three sisters portrayed zombies in a movie filmed this summer in Maine.
According to the girls” mother Mary Robins, the Facebook group was instrumental in their success. She “'sirtually” met many supportive and helpful parents who helped navigate a path,” she said.
Visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/Newenglandkids/ to join.