The interview is the time to personally interact and see if you and the agency or management company are the right fit for each other. It’s kind of like a first date. Sure, you may be nervous. You may be thinking, “If I am just plain old me, will I make enough of an impression?" Your best bet is to be prepared, but also be yourself. Look your best without trying too hard. Relax and have a good time. This is supposed to be fun, remember?
Right now, the news and social media are full of reports about sexual harassment and abuse in the entertainment industry. Last week, the teens in my acting classes were discussing the news and what they would do in uncomfortable situations. It can be a scary issue, both for young actors and their parents.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse is a real issue, primarily when people in power use their authority to prey on the young or less powerful. Predators can lurk in all settings so it’s wise for parents to help their children—male and female—know how to recognize and respond to unwanted advances.
When I was a new talent rep in my twenties, I had a parent of an important client who consistently made lewd and inappropriate comments. I told my boss, my husband, and even talked to the parent, but the abuse continued. My choices were to endure his bad behavior or fire his talented son. I didn’t want to lose my job, so I sacrificed my self-esteem and tried to ignore his behavior. That was more than twenty years ago when sexual abuse was not discussed, and few options for help existed.
Thankfully, children today have an environment where speaking up against abuse is encouraged. The Casting Society of America put out a public statement condemning harassment in all forms with the slogan, “If you see something, say something.” SAG- AFTRA urges members who experience or observe harassing or discriminatory behavior to call a 24-hour hotline at (844) 723-3773 or (323) 549-6644. Women in Film has a useful resource for female entertainment professionals.
It is essential for parents to teach and model healthy personal boundaries at home. Begin by explaining what sexual harassment and abuse are, especially these key points.
Sexual harassment and abuse can:
be physical, verbal, or emotional.
happen to boys and girls.
be committed by an adult or peer.
Teach your child to always come to you if they feel uncomfortable or harassed. Their bodies are their own and no one should touch them without consent.
If your child experiences harassment or sexual advances, they should go to someone in charge, such as the studio teacher/child welfare worker, director or assistant director, child wrangler or guardian, stage manager, or their agent or manager. Offer to help your child make this call and participate in any meetings. You can also ask to sit in on any private acting lessons or casting calls if your child feels uncomfortable.
Have a frank discussion with your young actor about the importance of self-respect and personal boundaries. Remind them that no role is more important than their safety. Teach them about manipulation and threats used to keep things secret so they can feel safe speaking up and reporting abusive behavior.
Watch for these red flags:
Your intuition telling you that something isn’t right.
An adult who seems too interested in your child, gives inappropriate gifts, or wants time alone with them.
Threats of blacklisting for lack of cooperation made to either you or your young actor.
Unwillingness to attend callbacks or acting classes without explanation or saying that they don’t want to talk about it.
Parents, take this opportunity to teach your young actors that they don’t need to compromise their boundaries to be successful in acting or any endeavor. It’s never a bad time to talk with your child about safety, boundaries, and how to report any unwanted behavior. Your goal is not to frighten your child, but to educate and pledge your support should they ever need help.
The things you teach your child today about sexual harassment and abuse can offer them protection for their entire lifetimes.
Today, I am busy organizing my financial records to prepare for taxes and the upcoming year. As I add up my mileage log and collect my receipts, I can’t help but reflect on the many young actors and parents I advise about the business of show business. They too are collecting receipts and keeping mileage logs. What starts out simply as a child’s drive and passion to act quickly becomes a business with financial, legal, and organizational responsibilities well beyond acting in the school play.
Many parents feel overwhelmed as they struggle to prioritize and stay organized. My advice is: don’t do it alone. You have the perfect resource to help keep it all successfully together—your child. No, a 10-year-old will not be able to help with the carpool. Nor is it likely that your child will immediately make things easier; however, involving a young actor with many of the day-to-day details of managing their own career can result in a tremendous growth in maturity and many other benefits.
Sound like more trouble than it’s worth? Here are seven reasons to get your preteen and older actor involved in the management of their own career:
1. Empower your child. Young actors who understand the decision making, diligence, and sacrifice necessary to pursue an acting career on both their own part and the part of their families are often completely invested. Teens and pre-teens thrive when parents nurture their adolescent development rather than control it. An inclusive approach to career decision making with real and understandable expectations and responsibilities for your young actor often leaves them feeling in control, focused, and determined.
2. Get better results. Families who involve their young actors in the nuts and bolts of running their acting careers spend more time planning and weighing their options in terms of craft development, audition opportunities, financial commitment, and family conflicts. It helps the actor make good career choices and the family unit function better.
3. Learn to budget. Pursuing an acting career is a significant financial investment. It presents a wonderful opportunity for parents to give their children a hands-on understanding of budgeting and financial decision making. A young actor can learn a lot from helping you spend their “acting allowance” wisely.
4. Keep their feet on the ground. Success can be tough to handle gracefully. Two of the best ways to keep things in perspective is for your child to experience the hard work it takes to meet their goals and recognize the contributions and sacrifices of those supporting them.
5. Put that smartphone to good use. Tech savvy teens are a great resource to help organize the paperwork functions of an acting career. A teen with a smartphone can log mileage, receipts, and appointments. They can upload sides, keep an audition log, and create an online acting notebook. In addition, they can regularly look for new audition and training opportunities. It is truly amazing what a young actor can get done in the car with their smartphone on the way home from an audition.
6. Develop life skills. Scheduling, budgeting, goal setting, and personal and family decision making develops important life skills. The consistent effort to stay organized teaches children how to focus effectively to get things done. Involvement on this level with proper parental guidance also develops communication and critical reasoning skills. These life skills show up in the audition too. Casting directors look for young actors who focus and communicate well.
7. It’s their dream. The child that is truly invested and passionate about pursuing an acting career will often appreciate the rewards of involvement and accept the responsibility to do their part. While it is not necessarily the ultimate sign of disinterest, children who are resistant may be sending you a message about their commitment or maturity. It is certainly not an all or nothing proposition. Parents who take this approach generally match the level of responsibility to the stage of their young actor’s development.
Parents write to me all the time asking advice on how their child can get noticed in the business. One mom writes, “I have sent my child’s photos around and have gotten no response.” Another asks, “How do I get an audition for my child if he has no representation?” Much has been written on this subject, and after many years in the business working with child performers and their families, I am happy to weigh in with my six tips on increasing your child’s chances of getting representation and auditions.
A great headshot. This is an actor’s calling card and may be the single most important tool in your young performer’s kit. Unless you or grandma can take a really great snapshot, spend a little money on a professional headshot. Even if a rep has a lot of clients, a great headshot will win attention. Be sure to read my article on how to choose a photographer for some additional tips.
Mailings. Send your child’s fabulous photo to agents and managers who represent children and teens. If you subscribe to Backstage, you can access a full list of agents and managers on Backstage.com. Put together a simple resume with pertinent info such as height, weight, and hair/eye color. List any experience, training, and special skills such as a language, instrument or sport your child plays or excels in. For an example of a good resume format, visit my website. Don’t forget to attach a short, simple cover letter with your contact information asking for an opportunity to set up a meeting.
Demo reel. Did you remember to get a copy of the commercial your child shot? How about the film footage the student director promised you? Now is a good time to put a short (2-3 minute) reel together. There are professional companies that specialize in this, or you can save a few bucks by asking a savvy teenager. Since he probably gets a lot of practice making and uploading YouTube videos, you may be pleasantly surprised at the results. A demo reel is a great way for a potential rep to see what your child looks like on film.
Hire a coach or consultant. You think your child has talent but don’t know what to do next. How do you know if you are targeting the best manager or agent for your child? Hiring a professional industry coach or consultant to assess your child’s talent and readiness can offer a lot of advantages. A good coach or consultant has spent years in the business and knows exactly what industry reps are looking for. He or she can point you in the right direction and may really help open doors for you.
Workshops. Casting directors, agents, and managers are always teaching and attending workshops. Not only will your young performer benefit from the teaching, but he also will have the opportunity to be seen where he can show off his talent and personality.
Networking. My best business connections have come from people I talk to. Be sure to connect with other actors and parents of kids in the biz. Most folks are happy to share their contacts with you. Consider getting involved with networking groups like STAR Parent Network. They share audition notices and information, organize workshops, pursue opportunities for education and performing for all ages and abilities and it is completely free to join.
Following these six steps can really give your child a boost when it comes to getting attention in this business. Even if you have already done some of these things, go back over them from time to time, refresh and update things as needed, and keep putting the effort in.
fortunate enough to sign with an agent or manager. Fostering a healthy, long-lasting relationship with them takes work just like any other partnership. Here are some helpful tips to follow if you are serious about keeping your rep on your side and working hard on your behalf.
Be honest. Establish a habit of honest communication from the beginning of your relationship. If you feel like you are not getting what you need, speak up. I had a client who was upset that she wasn’t getting feedback on her auditions. Instead of letting her manager know this was important for her, she became angry and resentful. Another client came to me asking if my other students had been auditioning for roles she was not getting appointments for. When I asked her to confront her agent, she said she was afraid to for fear of sounding like a nudge. You can’t expect people to know what you are thinking. Resentment will feed on your negativity and become stronger the longer it is ignored. Don’t let it fester – ask your rep for a meeting or a lunch date to talk face-to-face if something is bothering you.
Be reliable. Are you turning down auditions or are you late for appointments? Are you following up on suggestions from your rep to get back to acting class, get new headshots, and put together a new reel? Make sure your headshots and resume are up to date. If you are going to be out of town or unavailable for auditions “book out,” meaning let your rep know the dates you are not free to audition. Clear your voicemail if it is full so you will always get your messages. Check your e-mail and voicemail several times throughout the day so you don’t miss an important call from your rep. You are an integral part of the team, so do your part. Don’t expect your career to magically take off just because you now have representation. Woody Allen said it well: “Ninety percent of life is just showing up!” Show up, take action, and be reliable.
Be respectful. You’ve heard it said and read it here on Backstage many times. Your agent is busy getting you auditions. He is in meetings and on the phone all day working for you. Find out how he wants you to communicate with him and respect that. Not every office has an open door policy. Be courteous. Make an appointment before just dropping by the office.
Following these tips will go a long way towards keeping both you and your rep happy so you can work as a team and focus on the important task of moving your career forward. By the way, honesty, reliability, and respect are all important ingredients in any relationship. What other keys to developing good relationships can you suggest? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!
My 13-year-old client Samantha called me this week crying, “It feels like my boyfriend just dumped me!” Her agent had just dropped her. Whether you are in a romantic relationship or a business arrangement, it hurts when the other party moves on. You may be thinking, “I’ll never work again!” or “Will another agent or manager ever sign me?”
Don't fret! Here are some tips to handle your situation.
1. Find out why you are being dropped. Some common reasons include: your rep can’t get you appointments for auditions, you’re too tall for your age, or you’re in the dry teenage years.
2. Find out why you can’t get appointments. It is often for a specific reason: your cold reading skills, acting ability, or vocal qualities are suffering. If this is the case, beef up your training before approaching another industry rep. Maybe your look no longer works and it’s time for an image reassessment. One client was dropped by her agent and came to me for a consultation. I immediately advised her to cut her hair before seeking new representation. It was down to her knees and made her completely unmarketable.
3. Adopt a new attitude. Adolescence isn't a curse, but I am not saying it's easy either! Yes, the hard truth is that there are many actors over the age of 18 who can play teenagers. It is cheaper for production to hire them because these actors can work longer hours and don’t incur tutoring costs. Even though it is tough to get work in the teen years, many reps may be willing to take a chance on you for the long haul. Remember, you won’t be a teen forever. Focus on another part of the business like commercials. Take the time to study, hone your craft, and come back with a bang!
4. Take control of your career. Believe that things happen for a reason and take more control of your career by finding work yourself. You can get a fresh start by using resources such as Backstage to find your own auditions. Many agents and managers will not bother pursuing these leads for you.
5. Don't lose all hope! If you have worked before and have talent, it is time to reassess your assets with a trusted professional. Get an opinion of your strengths, repackage your portfolio, and shop till you drop. I'm not talking Macy's! Agents and managers need talent. Just because your current representation is unwilling to handle you, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. What may not be in vogue for one rep, may be just the thing another is looking for.
6. Make sure you exit with dignity even though you are the one being dropped.This is a tiny industry and what goes around comes around. Don't harbor anger and resentment; you will be the only one losing sleep over it.
Take the time to master your craft, empower yourself and enjoy the journey...
Q: What’s the difference between an agent and a manager?
A: Here’s the basic breakdown:
Helps to cultivate a career. Does not just book a job.
Generally has fewer clients than an agent.
Gives more individual attention.
While working with a manager, you can freelance with several agents, thereby having access to more auditions.
Managers generally take a 15% commission off the top.
Agents are state licensed employment agencies.
By law, agents cannot take more than a 10% commission. If you only have an agent, you only pay this one commission.
Can have a small or large number of clients.
Q: How do I write a cover letter?
A: Keep it short and sweet!
Here is an example:
Dear Mr. X,
My son, Brandon is 11 years old and loves acting, singing and dancing. He has appeared in numerous local productions, and we believe he is now ready for more professional work.
We live outside of New York City and are willing to travel in for auditions.
We would love an opportunity to meet with you at your convenience.
Please feel free to contact me by email at sallysimon.org or phone me at 345-555-5555.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sandra Dee (mother of Brandon)
Q: How do I choose an agent or a manager?
A: I tell clients it is like picking a pediatrician!
Send the potential agent or manager a well-lit, casually dressed head and shoulders shot.
Send a cover letter detailing your child’s talents, skills, acting experience, and training.
Make sure the personality of the representative will result in a positive effort for your child, including an ongoing relationship.
Find someone who is excited about your child.
Assess how well the representative communicates with you and your family.