I think a good rule as to when it’s time to find a lawyer is when a project comes up that involves a serious time commitment or serious money (or both). If your kid is working as an extra, or getting guest star roles for one or just a few episodes, or cast in a small role in a movie, your agent should be able to take care of making sure the contract is appropriate.
But if your child has been offered a series regular role, or a larger role in a film, I would engage an entertainment attorney to review the contract and represent you in negotiations. There are SO many aspects to a contract that even an intelligent, educated parent cannot manage. A good contract is fair to everyone and will not leave a bitter taste in your mouth over time. A bad one can be a nightmare.
Frequently, a good lawyer can negotiate small things that make a big difference to your kid’s happiness, in addition to a better financial deal. Moreover, it’s a very good idea to have a lawyer review a contract you are considering signing with an agent, or a manager.
In my opinion, they are worth every penny of the 5% they typically charge when you engage one on retainer. And if your kid is fortunate enough to be moving into the levels where a lawyer is a good addition to the team, having them available for advice is another blessing. It probably should go without saying, but what you want is an entertainment lawyer, not a general practitioner.
A Business Manager is generally not needed until your child is making fairly serious money on a regular basis. But at that point they can be crucial, as the fine points of taxation for actors can get quite complicated when multiple commissions, residuals, and even multiple state taxes get involved. For example, in her first year shooting Liv and Maddie, Dove did projects in California, Utah and Georgia within one calendar year. The next year she shot a film in Canada, adding more complexity to her taxes.
Until recently, the conventional wisdom was that when an actor was making around $200k a year (not many actors at any age do this, but if you are a regular in a series it can happen) then incorporation made sense financially. The new tax law that took effect in 2019 has made that figure MUCH lower. You should talk with your accountant to see when it might make sense to incorporate under the new tax law; in many cases, creating a simple LLC can make sense around the $20k/year mark. A business manager as well as a lawyer can help with this process.
It’s critical that your business manager have an impeccable reputation, as your child’s earnings will be in their hands. Make sure you get recommendations and do real research before signing on with one, if you ever get to that point.
Public Relations Team (PR)
Another group of people who are central to the workings of the industry, but not necessary (or even appropriate) until your child reaches a certain level in their career, are PR, or Public Relations. These are the folks who can secure your kid a meeting with the editor of a leading fashion or entertainment magazine, hook them up with designers to borrow fabulous clothes for red carpet appearances, or book them a spot on a news or talk show.
Clearly this will only make sense if your child’s work warrants that level of interest! And this is just as well—the services of a good PR team do not come cheaply. Unlike everyone else on the team (agent, manager, lawyer, business manager) they do not work on a commission basis, but on a fixed monthly fee. And it can be breathtaking.
Ideally, your child’s PR team works seamlessly with the rest of their team to promote and protect your child. Great PR is not just “promotion”– it is also about the big picture, and long term good choices and strategy.
So if your kid is lucky enough to need a PR team, hopefully they are also lucky enough to be able to afford one! That said, if you can sign on with a great team, they can be invaluable to building your child’s public image, and thereby their perceived value and career opportunities.
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.
If your young actor is 12 or older, they will enjoy reading my second book, Young Hollywood Actors, which shares stories and advice from some of their favorite performers.
Invest a little in your kid’s future today.
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