Film industry: Agent consultant for child performers
What do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I find tutors for child performers who work on film sets in studios or locations. I have approximately 100 tutors on my books in all areas of UK, covering most of the film and TV production catchment areas.
When a company contacts me, I need to know how many children are involved, their ages and key stage of development. Secondary school children often need specialist subject teachers so I need to find the right tutor for the job. If time allows I try to contact the child’s school to and pass on a tailored programme of to the tutor. If the assignment is only for a few days, we usually rely on the child to bring work from school and the tutor will oversee and help where necessary. If the assignment is over a period of weeks, the tutor will write a report of work done with the child and it is sent to the school at the end of the shoot. I also try to find a tutor who lives not too far from the studios or location, but this isn’t always possible, especially if a specialist tutor is required.
What were you doing before you became an agent consultant?
I began my career as a music and general subjects teacher. I taught first in secondary then in primary, which I preferred. My music skills took me into show business and for several years I was a singer and cabaret artiste and travelled the world. I returned to part-time teaching when my son was young in the mid-80s. I then started doing walk-on work as well. In 1996 my agent noticed that on my CV I had mentioned that I was a qualified teacher, so he sent me on a few location tutoring jobs, and eventually suggested that I set myself up in business as a tutor agency, which I prefer to call a ‘consultancy’.
What skills are needed for the job?
A massive contacts book! My time in the film industry has helped me to build up a list of directors and producers working in the field. They know about my work, so when they need location tutors, I’m usually their first port of call, especially if they are looking for several tutors for crowd extras such as in the earlier ‘Harry Potter’ films.
You also need to be able to think quickly, be a good problem solver and be very resourceful. For instance, you might be asked to find an American tutor who is Californian State registered for an American child and that takes a bit of ‘networking’. You need to be fully aware of the legislation surrounding the education and welfare of child actors, which I send out to tutors. Child actors/performers should get three hours of tuition per day, but this can be aggregated over a four week period
What’s best about the job?
Although I can never guarantee work because of the unpredictable nature of the work, most tutors find it interesting, and gain satisfaction from working on a one-to-one basis, because even the most ‘difficult’ child can respond well to this kind of tutoring and feel that he has achieved something, which he would never do in a class of 30 kids.
Last-minute calls for a tutor for ‘tomorrow’! Some companies seem to think they can pick up tutors like crowd extras, and it’s quite stressful having to phone round to see who’s available, especially if the tutors don’t pick up messages straight away. But I work this on a first-come-first-served basis.
Some companies ‘chop and change’ their schedules so much and think they can cancel tutors at short notice. To counteract this I remind them of the rules which means that if they cancel with less than 12 hours notice, the tutor will be paid a full day’s fee. This usually concentrates their minds
Sometimes film companies appear unaware that they are not working to the guidelines so have to be reminded. For example, the rules state that the minimum time for tutor/child contact is 30 minutes, so anything less than that will not be counted towards the regulation three hours` tuition. If the child is in the care of a professional chaperone, she will know what the rules and regulations are, but very often it may only be a parent who doesn’t know what the procedures are.
Have you worked with any famous child actors?
Keira Knightley, when she was 13. I think it was her first professional acting engagement in Coming Home (adapted from Rosamund Pilcher`s book) starring Joanna Lumley and Peter 0`Toole. I thought then that this girl would go far! I went down to Cornwall to tutor her. I have supplied other tutors who have worked with Daniel Radcliffe (star of Harry Potter films), Rupert Grint, Dakota Blue Richards (Golden Compass) and I currently have tutors working with George Sampson (Britain’s Got Talent).