For parents of working actors, the entertainment industry may seem like a lot of smoke and mirrors. While there are plenty of mirrors in show business, your child’s legal rights should not be one of them. Parents often ask me when, if at all, is there a right time to hire an entertainment attorney. I have plenty of students who have entertainment attorneys, and plenty who do not. Let’s discuss the right times to hire an attorney to protect your young performer.
Getting representation. Your child has caught the attention of an agent or manager. Congratulations! As an acting coach and career consultant, I have clients from all over work with well-respected and vastly talented agents and managers. I have also had clients approached by talent reps that I would not recommend. Although they may present a legal document, the contract may embroil your child into years of their representation and could potentially freeze or ruin your child’s career if they decide to pursue other options. Any time your child enters a contractual agreement, I would advise an entertainment lawyer to look over the legal obligations and wording of the agreement.
Once you are signed. Once you have a trusting relationship with a talent agency or manager, it is not necessary to use an entertainment lawyer for every contract your child enters. A good agency will negotiate contracts and have your child’s back in all stages of production. Almost every large talent agency has an in-house legal department that handles contracts and the negotiation process. You are not charged for these services because the legal team is there to represent the agency-specific deals—which include actors’ contracts. Even smaller agencies and managers have regular contact with entertainment attorneys, so you can be well assured that your child’s contracts are fair and legal.
Working in the business. Once your child begins to work in bigger productions and gain recognition, you may want to think about an entertainment attorney as a part of your child’s team. They will give personalized attention and negotiate contracts that best serve their clients. They will also inform you of industry norms and make sure your child is protected on set. When your child is constantly working, it is crucial for parents to understand your child’s working conditions. Skilled in the nuances of performers’ rights, an entertainment attorney will advise you of your child’s legal rights regarding their pay, education, and labor laws. They will inform you of your rights as a parent, including sight and sounds laws, hiring a “responsible person,” and money questions. Entertainment attorneys explain, in layman’s terms, rules that can have potentially monumental costs and consequences to a family if enforced. When handling long production periods and large sums of money, an entertainment attorney can inform you of the legal benefits and drawbacks to such big decisions.
Deciding when to hire an entertainment attorney is a complex question, with no one right answer for everyone. Ultimately, the best decision is what makes financial and legal sense for your child and family. It is important to find an attorney whom you respect and trust. Your entertainment attorney is there to protect the interests of your child in an unbiased setting, as they do not fill the shoes of an agent/manager. For more information on the legality of show business, check out Sally R. Gaglini’s book, “Young Performers at Work.” As a top entertainment attorney for young performers, Gaglini’s book provides a deep knowledge of entertainment law to inform and protect you and your family.