Entertaining an infant during the freezing cold winter can be challenging, especially on the days when it’s too cold to go outside. When our baby girl was 6 months old, we found a new form of entertainment: Going to baby casting calls. It started out by submitting photos in response to a talent agent’s Facebook post. There was a casting call for a diaper company print ad. Since my husband is an actor, we knew that the chances of anything happening would be slim.
Our daughter, Ellie, was selected to attend a “go-see” or the “cattle call” as this part of the process is called. A bunch of bouncing babies, all between newborns and walking toddlers were there and got their picture taken for a few minutes. It was overwhelming, exhausting and somewhat amusing. Casting calls became free baby entertainment and were followed by a long, blissful nap (for both the baby and the adult!). Ellie got a callback and there was another round of sitting in a waiting room with beautiful babies and anxious parents surrounding us. We observed many of the same behaviors at the callbacks by competitive parents and were shocked at how some of them acted. You can be sure that at every large casting call, you’ll definitely run into the following parents:
1. The “I Think My Baby is a Gift to the Universe so I’ll Prance Him Around so Others can Admire Him, too” Parent
The baby is adorable. But guess what? So is every baby! This person is usually a mom who proudly places the baby on her hip, faces the baby outward and looks to see everyone’s reaction when she walks the baby by. If you don’t smile at her baby or pay her a compliment, she’s insulted.
2. The Over-accessorizing, Inexperienced Parent
Baby girl arrives to a diaper print ad casting call wearing a tremendous headband with a sequined bow that covers her entire head. She’s got her ears pierced and is wearing bright pink hoop earrings that match her hair bow. Her outfit is a sparkly, sequin ensemble that includes a 3-tiered tutu over neon pink leggings and sequin shoes to match. She’s got bracelets and necklaces that are meant for older children and which you suspect may be a choking hazard. The mom has no idea that for most diaper ad castings, the producers have the babies strip down for the photographer in (shocking as it may sound) their diaper.
3. The No Boundaries Mom
This parent has let her darling daughter go wild through the waiting room area. Darling Daughter has already gone up to a half a dozen babies and stuck her dirty hands onto their faces, tried to lick their toys and pull their hair. No Boundaries Mom thinks this is adorable because she thinks everything her daughter does is adorable. She’s also fine with Darling Daughter going up to everyone’s strollers and putting her hands all over the wheels. On some of the strollers, Darling Daughter wastes no time and just licks the wheels.
4. The Mom-model Wannabe
Mom arrives in an outfit that indicates that she’s hoping to be casted along with her baby or on a random audition being held at the same studio. Her hair is perfectly styled and she applies make up several times while in the waiting area. She gives a huge smile any time one of the assistants or suspected photographers/directors walks by to use the bathroom. She may also be living vicariously through the baby and actually feels extremely nervous before her baby’s turn to be photographed.
5. The “Why are we here?” Dad
If the dad is accompanying his wife and their baby, you will often find the dad sitting alone in a corner, headphones in or making calls on his cell phone. He’s usually just there to help with transportation of the baby (car seats in and out of cabs and stroller maneuvering). His wife is the one who found out about the casting call and insisted on attending. He’s annoyed to be dragged out of his otherwise calm Saturday morning to go through the logistical nightmare of transporting a baby to a casting call in such shape that the baby is well rested, fed, changed and ready to be on his or her best baby behavior. He’s also probably been up several times during the night (or his wife has) dealing with the baby.
6. The Competitive Parent
Beware the handful of moms who stare down the competition and try to intimidate. She will tell you in the waiting area that her darling baby has already been in Similac, two Pampers, Babies R’ Us, Fisher Price and Baby Gap photo shoots all before she was 6 months. She’ll ask you who your agent is, as if this information will be useful to her for any reason. She’ll also ask you how many auditions you’ve been to and if you booked anything, trying to size your baby up. Pay her no attention.
7. The “Insider” Mom
Sometimes one of the casting assistants or photographers knows one of the parents attending the casting call personally. You’ll recognize if this is the case if a woman with a baby suddenly enters, kisses her friend (the “director”) hello and then cuts the entire line of 50 moms/babies. It’s frustrating and annoying but don’t you dare complain if you want your baby to have a chance at booking the job.
8. The “My Other Kid Has Far More Issues Than Your Other Kid” Mom
Casting calls can take a long time. You could sit for a couple hours trying to entertain a baby long enough for him or her to hold it together for a 30 second photo shoot. Killing time is an art form and many moms will end up chatting and commiserating. Inevitably, the conversation focuses on the kids and many second time moms will start telling war stories about their older kids (the ones not at the casting call). You’ll start to hear things like, “My older son, Joshua, made himself gag every day from 10 months to 3 years. He could vomit on command.” The mother sitting next to her will say, “Well, my older daughter Sheila got a fever of 104 at least once a week for 2 years. The doctor said it was viral and there was nothing to do but put cold wash cloths under her armpits.” Your mind will start to go numb with the amount of anecdotes that total strangers are willing to share.
9. The “Willing to Take Your Kid Down if Her Kid is Going Down” Mom
This only happened once so far, but it was traumatic. We were sitting around at a crowded casting call for a different diaper print job. Our agent had written in the email that the diaper company was looking for size 2 or 4 diaper models only. My baby was size 2 at the time. I sat next to a mother that had driven in with her twins and brought her own mother along as a second set of hands. They had come in from another state and spent almost an hour and a half getting to the casting call. I noticed that the twins seemed on the small side to be in size 2 or 4 diapers, but didn’t think twice about it and certainly never said anything. Then one of the casting assistants came by our table and asked everyone what size diapers the babies all were. The mom of the twins said, “size 1.” The assistant immediately told the woman that they were “dismissed.” She didn’t want to waste their time, as she knew they weren’t looking for size 1 babies and the agent should have told them that. The mom went on the offensive. First, she said that the twins could fit into a size 2 and asked around if anyone had any extra size 2 diapers. I had one extra diaper, which I was fully willing to part with, but it was for the wrong diaper company so, unusable in this situation. I’m not sure whether the twins’ mom didn’t believe me or was just annoyed that she had traveled so far for no reason, but she blurted out to me, “What diaper size is YOUR baby? She doesn’t look like a size 2, she’s a size 1, right?”
I thought about ignoring her, which might have been the appropriate thing to do in such a situation, but something about her accusatory tone got to me. Or maybe it was that we were sitting for too long and I was getting hungry and tired myself. Also, I felt that I had to be my baby’s advocate in this situation and I wasn’t about to let this woman hurt her chances.
“My baby is a size 2 and has been for some time,” I said. “She’s 15 pounds, so is actually exactly in the range for that diaper.” I realized as I was saying these words that I had officially become an enraged stage mom.
10. “The Completely Unprepared” Mom
She arrives 15 minutes after her call time. She’s frantic, sweating and her cell phone won’t stop ringing. Her kid’s got food all over his face. She forgot wipes and a pacifier. No change of clothes for the baby either. She’s frantically trying to find diapers in her diaper bag while digging around for something to entertain him with. The baby is screaming because he never got a nap. She can’t find her wallet and realizes that while she packed a jar of baby food, she didn’t forgot the plastic spoon that the baby likes and she doesn’t have a sippy cup. I equate these moms to the people who show up late for movies at the theater. They are frantically searching for a seat and to get a lay of the theater, but can never quite catch up.
Ellie did end up booking that initial diaper print ad job. She had a diaper stylist and a baby handler nurse waiting on her. She’ll never remember this insanity, but it will certainly help pay for her college education.
A few casting calls in and we’re by no means experts. We’ll keep doing this while Ellie enjoys it and as long as it doesn’t interfere with anything else she has going on. We have, however, observed that the parents attending these events range from laid back and seemingly normal to completely off the deep end. The trick is to enjoy the experience and not expect anything in return.