Roman philosopher Seneca is credited with saying “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” While this holds true in many walks of life, it is perhaps most important when applied to careers in the performing arts. And for young performers, preparation involves more than running lines and rehearsing songs; it also means taking education seriously.
It seems like every week a child-actor-gone-wrong is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. And while these stories may titillate readers, young actors should see them as cautionary tales. But for every unfortunate young performer who suffers professional and personal collapse, there are a host of those who enjoy long-term success and who remain in the limelight because they choose to be there. How do they pull it off?
Simply meeting the legal requirements that govern young performers’ schooling isn’t enough. With the support of parents and guardians, child actors must come to understand that continued learning is just plain good for them. While rigorous academic study instills knowledge in a given subject, it also teaches the student/actor the value of hard work and commitment, qualities that are essential to the professional actor. Education not only informs students about the world around them, it can influence actors’ choices and performances throughout their careers.
Jodie Foster, for example, began her acting career at age 3, working in commercials and TV before making the transition to film as a teenager, acting alongside Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver; her performance earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. All this success did not distract her from her studies at a French-language prep school in Los Angeles, where she graduated as class valedictorian. Ever the overachiever, she went on to earn a degree in literature from Yale, eventually returning to film and becoming a producer, director, and award-winning actress.
For an actor who began his career as the good-looking lunkhead “Kelso” from That 70s Show, Ashton Kutcher might seem like an unlikely posterboy for education. But thanks to hard work in his high school years, Ashton was on track for scholarships to several prestigious engineering schools. Involvement in a high school prank sank those plans, and he later dropped out of the University of Iowa to pursue modeling and eventual success in acting. Despite his college experience, Ashton famously stated at Nickelodeon’s 2013 Teen Choice Awards that "the sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart." He now enjoys two successful careers: acting and investing in tech companies.
So while it is important to follow one’s dreams, it’s equally important to understand that acting and schooling are not “either/or” propositions. A solid education arms young performers with tools that will help them work successfully for many years to come.
For more information on how on-set teachers and studio teachers can help maintain stellar grades for your young performer, contact us here.