But even if you aren’t willing-or able-to usher your child into the professional arena, there will be contractual and financial issues that will require your full attention, since your child cannot enter into employment contracts without your approval.
If you do want to manage your child’s career, however, you should consider very carefully how that professional arrangement may affect your relationship with him. The business is full of well-publicized stories of stars-Gary Coleman, Brooke Shields and Macaulay Culkin, just to name a few-whose relationships with their manager-parents were soured or severed after their parents allegedly mismanaged their careers.
Learning the business as you go is practically a rite of passage for new stage parents. But some mistakes are too costly to make. Here’s how to get prepared to make sound decisions regarding your future child star’s career and finances.
A STAR IS BORN?
So what exactly do you need to know to grow your child’s career and protect his interests? To start, realize that while you may find your little angel entertaining, it doesn’t mean they have what it takes to be a professional.
“Parents really have to see something in their child. A lot of [kids] go through dance classes and school plays, but what a parent really needs to see in a child is an ability to take their imaginary friends and make them into characters,” says Kelvin Reece, a California-based acting coach who has worked with child actors Megan Good (Eve’s Bayou), Gary Gray (The Tiger Woods Story and star of the International House of Pancakes’ current TV advertising campaign), Arjay Smith (Nickelodeon’s The Journey of Allen Strange) and Jake Lloyd (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace).
“You’re looking for a child to [make a character] jump off the page,” adds casting director Kimberly Hardin, whose credits include UPN’s series Moesha and the films Higher Learning and Deep Cover.
Similarly, because your child is truly talented doesn’t mean that he’ll want to work professionally. “If he’d rather go to the movies or the mall than rehearsal and auditions, then it’s not for him,” says Floria Smith, mother and manager of 16-year-old Arjay. Also, parents need to be clear that they’re working to fulfill their child’s dream, not their own.
Your child, however, is not the only one who will have to make personal sacrifices. Launching your child’s career will demand a lot of your time. “Parents spend a lot of time driving around to auditions,” says Kel Mitchell, 21. At 15, he became the star of Nickelodeon’s All That and The Kenan & Kel Show-after his parents spent many years shuttling him all over Chicago for amateur and semiprofessional auditions.
Once you’ve assessed your child’s ability, interest and your own level of commitment, start slowly. “I will tell parents, ‘I don’t think your kid needs to be in my [acting] class right now. He needs to get out and do some auditions, get his feet wet,'” says Reece. Not only are nonprofessional activities such as school plays, after-school arts programs and church choirs great