The relationship between a parent and young actor’s agent is important, and can be challenging to navigate. Communication is clearly part of the key to a successful partnership, but exactly what kind of communication and how much are open to debate! Moreover, the agent typically wants control over aspects of a child actor’s career that a parent is accustomed to having. These two issues can sometimes make the parent-agent relationship confusing.
Good agents are extremely busy, and so when they say they want great communication it often means they want fast responses to communication that THEY initiate. They are frequently less available for communication initiated by the parent (especially if it involves wondering why their kid hasn’t been sent out enough).
On the other hand, the definition of good communication for most parents looks like easy access when they call, and friendly responses to all questions. The short and sometimes curt responses they may get in return can leave parents feeling uncertain at best. It can help to remember it truly isn’t personal!
Most agents either genuinely support, or are at least agnostic about parents who continue to pursue opportunities for their young actor via self-submission, casting boards, etc., after their child signs with an agency, as long as the submissions are communicated so there is no double-submission.
While an actor is just starting out, it’s more difficult to get them cast due to their lack of credits and experience, and important to give them as many opportunities to audition as possible, and for this reason most agents will support a parent’s independent efforts to get their child auditions. The more auditions a child has, the better they become at them.
Interestingly, it’s not unusual for a parent’s submission efforts to yield more results for their young actor while their kid is just starting out, because the kinds of roles a parent can submit their kid for are typically less competitive. The roles that are only available for submission through an agent are fewer, and harder to win.
This is of course why your child signed with an agent in the first place: to have access to roles that they could not possibly be considered for otherwise. And to have someone who will push to get them into those casting rooms. Simply having an agent doesn’t mean they will suddenly get incredible opportunities; they have to be ready, and the agent has to be connected and influential enough to get the young actor into the casting room when the role is right.
Once a child signs with an agent, the agent generally expects to be involved with decisions affecting the child’s career, like recommending the headshot photographer and then choosing which final shots to use (most will NOT want to see the whole collection of photos, just the top 10 or so to help choose from); recommending a particular acting school or coach, etc. These are choices that directly affect an actor’s casting chances.
This is where a parent can get tripped up. All their children’s lives, THEY are the ones to make all the decisions for their kid. Suddenly someone else—that they don’t know well—has strong opinions about what their kid should and should not do, and expects to be in the driver’s seat for those choices, or at least consulted before those decisions are made.
For parents this can be and feel weird. They are being asked to give up some areas of control where they may well have been in charge for years. It doesn’t feel natural.
It’s important to remember that the agent and parent are truly on the same team: they want the young actor to get the best, and most, opportunities. What this looks like in real life however can vary according to both the parent and the agent! At the beginning of a new agent relationship, try to get the agent’s philosophy/ ground rules about decisions where your efforts might overlap to make sure everyone is one the same page.
- Is it OK with them if you continue to submit your kid for opportunities?
- Do they want to help choose an acting school, and/or an acting coach?
- Do they have a headshot photographer they recommend? *
- How many photos (top 10? top 20?) do they want to see to help make the final choices (ultimately generally one for theatrical, one for commercial).
*If there is only ONE photographer they recommend, that can be a red flag as it often means there is a kickback involved. Ideally your agent has several that they recommend for their clients.
If you have already signed with an agent but aren’t sure if you are on the same page about these issues, send them a short email asking what they prefer regarding possible areas of overlap when it comes to making certain decisions about your child’s acting career. See where they want to keep all the control and where they feel OK about sharing it.
Then as a parent you can decide how you feel about the agent’s preferences, because you need to feel comfortable with where those lines are. Remember that your child’s agent is a professional whose success and reputation depends on the success of their clients; in decisions regarding professional matters their opinions are based on experience and industry knowledge, and it’s likely that they know what they’re talking about!
While you want to always trust your instincts as a parent, and never give up your responsibility to make sure your child is safe, adding an agent to the mix means sharing some of the control, and making decisions as a team. How that looks will depend on the individual parent, agent, and child actor. And it can change over time as the young actors’ star rises and they get access to different levels of opportunity. But the more you understand about what an agent needs and expects, the more likely you will be to get a relationship that serves your child.
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.
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