Coaching Primer

Dear Parents,

Today, I had a parent who was discussing getting coaching for their child, and they didn’t know about my “preparing your child for coaching” messages…This is important!

This message is so important to ALL PARENTS so if you know of parents in the business who don’t get our 04-IMG_4993_ppmessages, find a way to get them to read this. I first sent a version of this message out in the year 1998, and it’s been rebroadcast and copied and stolen by just about every acting program in Hollywood, so that flatters me that it’s been copied so much! Just with the Actorsite, over 100 series regulars have used these preparation techniques to book a series regular role!

Remember this: Parents who “overcoach” their kids hurt all parents in the industry. What is overcoaching? It’s when a parent says “DO IT LIKE THIS” and the child cannot then take direction…a career killer!

It makes Casting suspect that parents are in this for the wrong reasons, so if you can somehow help educateIMG_3287 others about how parents can help their child succeed, then we have made a little difference!

Here’s the message: If you have suggestions for this message, then send to


Do you think parents should coach their own child?

Well, yes and no…since you are in HOLLYWOOD and the stakes are so high for every audition…and auditions are difficult to come by— and callbacks are even more difficult to come by— and bookings are even MORE difficult…Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 11.40.35 AM

If you are reading this, then you NEED to make sure your child gets outside coaching…and here’s some info on how to prepare…

Yes, I am recommending coaching with an audition coach. And LIVE coaching is FAR SUPERIOR to SKYPE COACHING, so if you can arrange it, then get your coaching LIVE. Plus a coach can make an audition tape for you and do KILLER JOB. At the Actorsite Awesome Acting Club, we do daily tapings and have a room dedicated to GREAT VIDEO and GREAT SOUND!

Prior to any acting, actors should warm up the instrument with voice and diction exercises and physical preparation.  So get out the voice and diction practice and do a few stretches and warm ups.

If your child fails to prepare, then they are preparing to fail! AND, prior to coaching, actors need to be in CLASSES REGULARLY, so they are SHARP and READY TO BOOK!

Now here is a primer on how to prepare for coaching.

How to prepare your child for coaching…

I want to encourage parents to be a “practice partner” with their child, who can help them go over their scenes A beautiful group!MANY TIMES, since repetition makes the material familiar.

When doing that process, I caution parents to make sure the child is CONSTANTLY CHANGING their practice, so they don’t settle into a “groove” which makes them undirectable.

Parents can read the sides, breakdown and analyze the  script, but unless a parent has been coaching for MANY YEARS, the parent should stick to being a “practice partner” rather than trying to coach the emotional aspects of the audition material.

As I have stated for years, and now ALL GOOD COACHES AGREE, I encourage parents to have their kids do the scene DIFFERENTLY each time, practicing it LOUDER, SOFTER–even whispering, HIGHER—in the higher range of their voice, LOWER—in the lower range of their voice, FASTER—even TOO FAST, SLOWER— even ridiculously slow and with different emphasis each time. Make sure they speak clearly and are easy to understand. If they can’t understand you, they can’t book you!


20, 30 to 50 (or more) times repeating the scene…is not a lot, in fact, it’s just a warm up…

Remember, if it’s for a PILOT audition, then you auditioning against many actors who KNOW what it takes, so if you are lazy and don’t put in the time, then you will fail over and over. The stakes are high, because a Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 12.01.35 PMPILOT will many times “make” a career. Those who KNOW that it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake, maybe millions, will put in the time. The rest will be lax and just do an “OK” job at best.

Are you going to leave a HUGE CAREER on the table, when someone else’s child will put in the work to book it!

Many times kids have an “attitude” when the practice with a parent where they want to do their “silly” voices or do it odd and weird ways.

GREAT! This way they can MAKE THE DIALOGUE THEIR OWN! By trying it different ways, they OWN the dialogue! It’s part of the learning process. Let them PLAY with the dialogue…make it funny or weird!

In fact, if a child practices a scene 30 or more times and does it the “SAME” everytime, I would encourage that parent to find a Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 4.49.46 PMdifferent career for that child…that child is not directable and isn’t going to “OWN” the material at ANY time in the future. No casting director can give them a direction if they are so locked in that they are inflexible.


So parents, encourage your child to do all of their cartoon voices, animal voices, other weird voices, etc., when working on the material, so they can “MAKE IT THEIR OWN”.

And if you follow these practice techniques prior to going to your coach, your child will have sufficiently repeated the material– I recommend 30 to 50 times(or more), without settling into a “set” rythm or pattern — your child is ready for coaching.

At that point, the coach can give suggestions and make EMOTIONAL adjustments to the performance so they are properly tweaked to go into the audition.

The Casting Director then can give them additional tweaking for the callback…it’s called BEING DIRECTABLE!

What is OVERCOACHING? Overcoaching is when a child is told there is a “RIGHT” way to perform the material and they work on being “RIGHT” rather than owning the material and being natural and effortless!

If you hear that your child was “overcoached”, then that  means your child CANNOT TAKE DIRECTION!

Any coach who teaches your child a “RIGHT” way to do the scene is a bad coach! Any parent who does the same is JUST PLAIN WRONG!!!—A child should practice being flexible with the material…NOT BEING RIGID!

Some kids want to know a “right” way to perform a scene. If you have that kind of child, then get EXTRA coaching so the child knows THREE different “right” ways to do the scene. If you have to, go to several different coaches so the child can learn choices. IF they”LOCK IN” to one way of doing their character, it means they are guaranteed to fail.

IMG_3509They can then pick A, B or C when they are redirected…simple!

So parents, to properly help your child, MAKE SURE YOU NEVER TEACH THEM TO DO IT “YOUR” WAY…but give them some choices!

And ALWAYS work with coaches that teach kids what is going on in a scene, rather than doing “line readings” and telling them to “SAY IT LIKE THIS”.


Some of our most successful kids out there are coached by their parents…

That’s not a surprise…many times the “coaches kid” becomes the star of FOOTBALL or BASKETBALL, or BASEBALL…why not acting?

I’ve been talking with some of the Parents who do a KILLER JOB of coaching their kids and from that I’ve learnedScreen Shot 2014-03-28 at 10.23.19 AM that parents who do a good job NEVER let their child find a “RIGHT” way to perform the scene, and ALWAYS encourage their child to have “CHOICES” so they are directable.

For best results, though, unless you are an accomplished actor in your own right, or have directed theater or film, use a  qualified coach from an industry referral, rather than trying to coach your child yourself…Your child will thank you with much bigger success!


  • 1.  Repetition makes the material familiar!
  • 2. Young actors should try different approaches to the material!
  • 3. Working OUT LOUD is the ONLY way to “own” the material.
  • 4. Always get coaching for larger roles.
  • 5. A good coach explains the emotional aspects of a scene.
  • 6. A good coach always gives a young actor choices.
  • 7. Parents can coach their own child if they are a qualified coach.
    Otherwise, just be a “practice partner” and let a coach do the tough stuff!

Jack Turnbull