The first year or two we spent in LA was in many ways about building the foundation for the career we envisioned for Dove, rather than the one she actually had. It can be a good idea to have the team in place before you need it, rather than after. What does her full team look like today?
- Manager/s (team of two)
- Music Manager
- Business Manager
- PR company
That is a LOT of people! And each of them takes a cut of the paycheck, though each one is worth it. Looking at that list it becomes apparent why actors frequently get paid what they do—most of it goes straight out to the team, the Coogan Account (if they are under 18), and to taxes! Thankfully, most actors will never need a music manager or a PR company. But even so, can you see why being an active stage parent is essentially a full time job? You are basically the center of a wheel with many spokes.
Until your child is making regular and significant income—say around $200,000 per year—they should not need a business manager. When you are approaching that point—if you are fortunate enough to, and let’s be honest, most actors, child or adult, never do– begin your search by talking to people already on the team and see whom they recommend. You want someone with a sterling reputation who specializes in entertainment business management, as this is a very specialized field with complex tax rules. Ideally you can find someone who not only will manage your kid’s financial assets and taxes, but they will also eventually be able to advise them on investments and career strategies.
A music manager made sense for us because Dove is as much a singer as an actor, and we knew that she would eventually be recording, as well as writing and co-writing songs. Music is a very different business than acting, and few regular talent agents or managers are really equipped to deal with it properly. We were very fortunate to find a great one. She has been invaluable in bringing Dove together with experienced songwriters for co-writing sessions as well as finding top-notch producers for her to work with.
Signing with a record label is another high-stakes process you would need a music manager for – it can be a much rougher business than even the acting world, and it is changing so rapidly that there is little money in it for the artist unless their contracts are very carefully written. In fact it can resemble indentured servitude if you are not careful.
Each time you add a member to the team you change its dynamics. It is critical that everyone has complete trust and very clear communication. It’s amazing to me how frequently the team consults in conference calls and emails. So building the team one member at a time is a process you want to take some time doing. Make sure that the existing team approves and is comfortable with every new team member. They will be working very closely together, hopefully for years, and ideally will be able to step in and take over your role of mission control completely at some point if your child continues their acting career into adulthood.
A Public Relations (PR) company is another member of the team that is only necessary after a certain point is reached in a career. Don’t waste your money thinking that one will catapult your kid to the front of magazine covers before they have the roles or success to warrant that attention. Fame does not make a career—rather it’s the other way round! If your child is getting lead roles in film and/or television, and routinely being interviewed, and making regular red carpet appearances—then it may be time to invest in a PR company to help shape their image and get them the kind of press that will support their career growth. Good PR people are like gold. No one knows how to manage an image like they do. But until that time, should it come—save your money.
The best lawyers are more involved with your child’s career than merely reviewing contracts at your request. The ideal lawyer works synergistically with the rest of the team to protect and support your kid. We had an experience at one point where our lawyer stepped up and drew a line in the sand for us that we would not have had the courage to do ourselves. It was hard, and scary– and frankly the right thing to do. Were some good people upset? Yes, unfortunately. It felt awful. But not as awful as watching my child’s health and joy compromised because she didn’t get the break she needed. And that is why I love this attorney. She fights for the best interests of my kid.
This takes us to the hard subject of what to do if it becomes apparent that someone on your team is NOT most driven by your child’s best interests. Maybe they were originally, and something changed over time. Maybe they got lost as the stakes got more promising. Good people can lose their way and lose their judgment. If everything else feels right and there is simply a question of a single decision or two, then obviously a conversation is in order. Hopefully that sets things straight. But if it becomes a matter of lost trust, or that the driver of their decisions has consistently become their own best interests (usually finances or power) rather than your child’s, then you will have to fire them from the team.
Firing someone is painful, but not as painful as operating in an environment that is potentially unsafe for your child, or that doesn’t feel safe for the team. Before you set changes into motion, consult with your lawyer to make sure you are proceeding appropriately in terms of your actions. And know that unless something truly egregious occurred, your child will still be paying commissions to their previous agent/manager etc for some period of time—usually until the money stops coming in for any projects that team member was around for at inception. And that can be quite a while in some cases!
Since firing someone from the team is so difficult—emotionally as well as financially—it makes all the more sense to proceed slowly and thoughtfully as you build your child’s team. Listen to your gut instinct, but go beyond that and ask everyone you know what they feel or have heard about someone you are considering bringing on to represent your child. Don’t be swayed by a big name or flashy office. Most of all be sure that every person on the team feels comfortable with your choice, starting with your child. Ultimately, the results belong to them.
My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey, and will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!
Or book an hour consulting with me to come up with an individualized plan that takes your own unique needs into account. For about the cost of an hour with a professional acting coach, you can get your questions answered and a road map to help you move forward toward your dream.
Invest a little in your kid’s future today.
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