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What It Costs to Create a Child Star

All parents want to see their children succeed.

But some have a burning desire to break their son or daughter into the crazy world of show business.

While parents and children alike enter the acting world because it is what they love to do, they are many times driven by the idea that hitting it big can also come with a huge financial payout.

But is that really the case? Could a child's acting career pay for college tuition or, better yet, his or her parent's retirement?

Some families, like the Olsens, get lucky. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who became two of the world's wealthiest children, started their careers when they were just 6 months old on the series Full House. From there, the girls continued acting and also established their company, Dualstar Entertainment, which has landed them on Forbes' "Celebrity 100" list since 2002. But for most child stars, success isn't quite as simple and takes a large financial and time investment before any profit rolls in.

Most babies and toddlers can go to their first auditions without professional training and with just a few simple snapshots in hand. However, as the children start to grow and begin booking jobs, parents should think about some money on head shots and classes.

"It is better to first go on auditions and see what happens. You can use snapshots when first starting out and then once you start booking jobs you can get professional pictures taken," said Alison Swift, the agent for the Children and Teen Division of Gilla Roos Ltd., a model and talent agency in New York City. "Pictures are a good investment in this business, because it is very looks-based."

But those pictures can turn out to be quite the investment. Swift says the pictures can often run parents up to $500. For that, they generally receive a disc of about 100 photos. A talent agency would then look through them and choose which ones should be printed.

Acting class is generally about the same. James Jontz, who runs the Film and Television Workshop in Wilton, Conn., with his wife, Joanne Jontz, says an average acting class costs about $50 per class, whether it be improv, commercial or film instruction. He suggests attending a series of about 10 classes for the best results.

The classes teach children presentation skills, presence, how to speak up, how to look the camera in the eye, how to speak without "ums" and how to think on their feet. And the experts agree that investing in classes may be the best thing a parent can do for a child who wants to act.

"Training! Training! Training!" said Marki Costello, owner of Creative Management Entertainment Group in Los Angeles and granddaughter of Hollywood legend Lou Costello. "Training is what you should spend your money on. You have to invest in your child's career just as you would with college."

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