or semiprofessional production, send postcards inviting agents to attend the performance. Ask them to R.S.V.P. so you can give them complimentary tickets. Be certain your child’s performance and the quality of the production are up to standard before inviting agents; you’ll only have one opportunity to impress them.
Once you secure a meeting with an agent, be clear and honest about your child’s goals and concerns. “Parents shouldn’t feel they can’t interview an agent, because they’re going to interview you and your child,” says Phyllis Larrymore Kelly, mother and manager of 14-year-old actress RaéVen Larrymore Kelly. “Ask them how they would handle it if your daughter got sick and was unable to make a booking. Find out how often they want your child to audition.”
An agent is responsible for booking auditions, and for negotiating payment and contracts should your child land the part. He will earn 10% of whatever bookings he secures for your child. Floria Smith warns parents to watch out for agencies that ask for money to represent your child. “I actually got ripped off when [Arjay] first started,” Smith admits. “We went to an agency that charged us just to get started, then wanted us to pay more money for [acting] workshops.” Smith advises parents to check with the Screen Actors Guild before signing on with any agency that is not well known.
Modeling is another way you can break your child into the entertainment business and help her gain the experience that might attract a film and television agent. Although most of your child’s initial bookings are likely to be for low-budget print ads paying between $40 and $75 an hour, the work will help build her résumé. It’s important, however, that you make sure your child is represented by an agent who can screen for legitimate bookings. There are people-including pornographers-who prey on unsuspecting parents and children.
Modeling is what Janet Smollett used to get all six of her children, including actress Jurnee Smollett (Eve’s Bayou and the current CBS sitcom Cosby), into the professional arena. Smollett sent her own photos of her children out to agencies. “One sent me a letter saying that my oldest son, JoJo, didn’t have ‘the look.’ They said [to] cut his hair and send us another picture,” she explains. But JoJo didn’t want to get his hair cut, and Smollett honored his wish. While another agency eventually signed him, Smollett said she learned an important lesson about being true to her children’s identity and helping them manage rejection. “I’ve had to run [the business] in a way that wouldn’t be harmful to my children,” she says.
Norwood echoes Smollett’s belief. Kids who really want to be in the business will be hard enough on themselves when they don’t get a job; parents shouldn’t contribute to their stress. All in all, your job is to support your child’s endeavors and protect his interests. Whether you decide to manage your child’s career-or hire someone else to do it for you-never be afraid to say