WARNING PARENTS: Don't let your show biz kids suffer from THIS!
As a Talent Manager in Hollywood, I get the privilege of working with super talented people, helping them realize their dreams. It is one of the greatest jobs in the world and I love it every day. One of the downfalls of my job is dealing with parents who are overly biased about their children. These parents often feel their kids should be able to walk right in the door and get the job because their kids are so special. I have to get brutally honest here. Yes, of course your kids are "special." I personally love kids which is why I represent them. However, parents you need to understand a very basic fact. Your kids are special to you because you raised them. You see them through different eyes than we do. I did not bring "little Johnny" his 1st Christmas present and watch as he squeeled with delight in his eyes and opened it. I did not cheer "sweet adorable Cindy" on when she kicked her 1st goal in the AYSO Soccer match in 4th grade. I don't know your kid. Neither does anyone else. All we know is we have 300 kids in front of us and they either stand out to us, or they don't.
We have no personal history with your child. We can only gauge what we see or feel in that moment. If they are poorly trained we will see that. If they are shy and holding back we will see that. If their have very few professional skills we will definitely see that. If they are there because you want them to be there, we will see that too. We are comparing them to others and we can see who is further behind or further ahead than your child. This is the objectivity you do not have.
In order for your kid to stand out, they really need to be exceptional to us, and to our standards! Not yours. We need to see well trained kids who have been taught by top teachers who know this business and can bring out your child's full talents and skills. We need to see kids that do not hold back. And importantly, we need to see gratitude and not a sense of entitlement that trickles down from your over biasedness. Yes, they pick that up. We don't like to work with kids like that.
So with all due respect, overly biased parents, YOU are child's worst enemy in terms of their career. Recently, a mother from Texas contacted me about her 12 year old daughter that sings. She sent me several links of her child's tube videos the mother shot. I watched them all. I came to see that, yes, her daughter has an amazing voice! A unique style and a great sound. But, she is a very boring performer. She doesn't sing with emotion. She performs with her eyes wide open most of time, looking like a deer in headlights. She doesn't get lost in the music. She rarely changes her emotions or her expressions. Her videos stay the same all the way through. No interesting changes, no smiling, no emotion. Yikes!
I explained to her mother kids that can sing are a dime a dozen. Great artists are great performers. Stars are always great performers. They express the lyrics of the song from the depths of their soul (even covers) in a way that moves people to the core. Her daughter has not learned to do that yet. That will take time and so much practice and live performance. She is not competitive yet with the kids who already can.
Yes that is hard for any parent to hear. But in order to help her child move to the next level, she needs to hear it, take that information and act upon it by getting her daughter performance coaching and several other things I told her to do. You get the jist. The end result needs to be a child that sings and performs in away that gets people talking, brings tears to people eyes, and makes us feel like we just witnessed something amazing. Until her daughter is able to do that, her mother can continue to post her boring videos with only 56 views on You Tube, while bragging about how great her daughter is. Justin Bieber had 10 million views on the You Tube videos his mother posted of him singing BEFORE he was discovered by his manager Scooter Braun.
I believe most parents are very well intentioned. But, overly biased or know-it-all attitudes will prevent a parent from taking direction from professional representatives who know more than they do, have seen it all, and have been in the business for years.
Here is a resume of a 16 year old in Kentucky. She is serious about becoming an actor and her resume PROVES it. Look at the training she has had and the theater she has done. How does yours compare? Click on this link to see Alicen's resume. This is what you need to start building your child's resume into.
Currently, I have a 15 year old client who just signed a record deal with EMI and is going in the studio to work with Diane Warren on 2 songs. He has one of those mothers that is a blessing to us managers. She listens, takes direction, calls for advice and allows me to guide her. I love these kinds of parents. She has become a wonderful friend and her son is about to go on tour next year! Wow!
I am thrilled when people contact me with talented kids. I get so excited and can't wait to help them take the steps that will bring them closer and closer to their dreams. But if I have to fight with a parent who has a false sense of reality about their kids, I have to decline my involvement. I hate to see that happen, especially when the kids are really talented. Agents, Managers and Casting Directors can see these nightmare parents a mile away. We avoid them like the plague.
Recently, I met a 17 year old singer at an audition for NBC. I looked at his headshot and resume and asked if he had representation. He said, "Yes, he is with Media Artists Group." I said,"why isn't their logo on your resume?" He looked at his mother who answered, "when we do music things I don't put it on." Confused, I asked why? She said, "They have nothing to do with his music so I choose not to." I informed her that she was wrong and she should absolutely add any representation he has to his resume. Listen, if other people believe in you, we may too, or at least give you a chance. By not putting his representation on his resume he appears like an amateur and a beginner. That is not the image this mother should be giving off. Her son should have his agent logo for acting, music management logo, print agent logo and commercial agent logo all on his resume, whatever representation he has. Remember, there are thousands and thousands of wannabes in this business, So if you can establish your self as reputable and ahead of them, you should. By not putting the representation on his resume, this mother is in fact, reducing the competition for the prepared people.
Gently, I asked the mom, "Are you in the business?" She stated, "I am an actress and had been doing this a long time, I am his manager. I am not putting his agent on his resume." Oh geeez. I cringe. I hate when parents think they know how to manage. 99% of the time they don't. They are like people who stand over surgeons and tell the surgeon know how to operate with out any schooling or training. Yikes! These well meaning parents, but just by sheer fact that they are the parent, they believe they know what they are doing. So many talented kids get lost in this problem. I never take on kids with parents like this and neither do most managers or agents I know.
Once I found a singer on you tube that I just loved. She was a 13 year old bi-racial girl with an amazing voice. I contacted he parents on twitter and told them I wanted to meet them and talk about representing their talented daughter. A few months later she was signed to my company and I was so excited about her. I had huge plans for her. I started to notice an attitude of entitlement in the child and an argumentativeness and arrogance in the mother, but I proceeded. I took her to a huge agency and she was turned down. For the next 6 months, I worked with this teenager on her cold reading, improv, audition and interview skills. I took her back to the agency and they signed her on the spot.
However, I was still seeing red flags along the way. Prior to meeting with her new agent to discuss headshots, her mother showed me a headshot she had of her daughter and it was horrible. I said, "do not take that one out during the meeting, only show her the ones I have selected." Sounds simple right? Needless to say, during the meeting the mother handed the agent the lousy headshot asked "what do you think about this one?" The agent said, "we won't be needing that one." I looked at the mother in disbelief. Afterwards, mom said, "I just wanted to see what the agent thought." I was not happy about it, but I thought that would be the end of it. Later that evening, I get a phone call from an irate agent saying, "what the hell is that awful picture on her LA Casting site? She looks like a monkey. Get it down, now." The mother had uploaded this picture to her daughter's online casting websites. Geeez!
When a parent does things like this it just shows the agent and casting directors that they don't have any idea what a good headshot is, and have no idea how to best represent their child. It makes them look like amateurs. Of course, we know parents don't know much. But that is why people hire managers to help navigate the business and prevent them from coming off like idiots. This is a very competitive business, you don't want to give anyone reasons not to work with you. Smart parents hire managers, even smarter ones let the manager do their job. After many incidents like this I had to drop this fantasticly talented kid. I was very disappointed and sad.
To finish up making this point here is my final example. Another well intentioned mother sent me an email saying, "I would like to submit my son's pictures for possible opportunities to be represented by your establishment." So I thought okay, let's look at the cute little kid and see what he has got. I always like to look for potential stars. I open 3 pictures and I find an 18 year old man! Big guy, looks like he plays football. I asked her why is she sending pictures of her adult son? And she responds, "why shouldn't I?" I could tell right away she was going to be argumentative and not really interested in finding out what she SHOULD be doing.
I explain to the mother that her son is 18, and if this is something he wants to do, he should be doing it HIMSELF. No one will give him the time of day if his "mommy" is doing it for him at this age. I just don't see this as a kid who knows how to work the camera or even looks interested in doing this. I shoot her that email.
He was a handsome boy, looked like a sweet guy, but the pictures showed he had no idea how to work the camera which leads me to believe that his mother has sent some random family pictures of him sitting on the couch and standing in the driveway. If either his mother or the young man had any experience they would have made sure the pictures were worth looking at. Listen up, when you are contacting a manager, what you present shows us how much you understand, or don't understand about the business. And it also tells us how much research you have done on your own before contacting us. With no modeling experience this 18 year old he is not ready for a manager. He needs to get out there and work with some local photographers, practice modeling positions by studying male models in magazines and do his homework. I can open doors, but you have to have the goods for me to sell. Your pics to me don't have to be professional, but if you have done any research you would know we prefer plain backgrounds at the very least!
But that isn't even the biggest read flag. His age is. An 18 year old man with little, or no experience, has a lot of work to do and HE needs to be the one to do it, not his mommy. When we are dealing with adults in this business we want them to be acting like adults, period. We happily deal with parents when their children are underage. But our expectations change when we are dealing with adults. That's just the reality. Listen people, we know what it takes to make it in this business and a man his age has to be the one in charge and making it happen. A parent of an adult can not be in the lead.
Well this "mommy" and I call her that not to be disrespectful, but because she is still being a "mommy" to her grown son and she needs to understand that won't be taken seriously. Of course she did not like what I had to say at all and she replied, "Wow bitch your Really rude !!! And to say he doesn't know how to work the camera it stated to send a close up and full body picture which I read off your blog so MAYBE you need to retract and reword delete my email its people like you that would give young aspiring children to THINK they cant achieve, thank God my child is NOT like that so you can take your criticism and put it on a Plain surface!!!!"
aaaah... I rest my case.
If you are the parent to a talented child, do your child a favor. Remember, you are not a talent agent or a manager. Your career in Accounting or the Military has not given you the experience to direct your child in the entertainment industry. That is what we are here for. Let us do our job. Your job is to be supportive, bring your child to where he or she needs to be, take direction, be humble and grateful. And always be professional. You can be your child's worst enemy in this business. Know-it-all mothers are a dime a dozen. We look for the exception.
There are a lot of opportunities out there for children but remember the work should speak for itself. As my friend and Casting Director Risa Bramon Garcia says, "You must be about the work first, knowing that career will follow and not the other way around. Dedicated work leads to good work. Good work leads to great work. Great work is thrilling. Great work is noticed. Celebrated. Hired. And money follows bliss." Well said Risa!
Parents I encourage you to contact me and send your child's videos to me at email@example.com. I am more than happy to review them. But if you do, be ready for straight talk. If your child is talented and your are willing to work together to advance your child's career, I look forward to doing great things with you!
This is the type of email I get from really supportive parents.
Hi Wendy, Here's an update on Alice.
She started her acting classes at the Margie Haber Studio. It goes for 13 weeks, Sundays from 2-5 pm.
She started rehearsals for Fauntleroy. She was just going to play Tom (a boy), the Fauntleroy imposter. But they love her sooo much that they are giving her other little parts and are putting her in several of the ensemble song performances. I think (not sure yet) that the musical is scheduled for February 8, 9 and 10, at the Santa Monica Playhouse -- I don't see it on the website yet, so I'm inquiring of the director. Thank you for getting her this audition. She loves the people she is working with.
She also started rehearsals for Annie, under the Theatre Experience of Southern California. About 100 girls are in rehearsal. Last Sunday, girls who wanted lead roles, auditioned for them. Alice auditioned for "Annie." She got a callback and is one of the final four for "Annie". I think they may find out this Sunday or next which girls will play which parts. I hope she gets "Annie." If she doesn't get it, she may get one of the other orphan parts. The musical is scheduled for April 11, 12 and 13 at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse.
She signed up for her school's vocal recital on January 31. Many kids sign up each year, but Alice usually stands out. She's going to sing "Greatest Love of All". It's usually limited to 2.5 minutes per person. Per your suggestion Dr. Thelen, who the school's choir master, is also giving Alice voice lessons now.
She is again an American Girl model for the Flintridge Guild. Fittings will start soon. She usually models 3 outfits and does 3 or 4 shows. The American Girl fashion shows are scheduled for March 22, 23 and 24 at the Glendale Hilton.
I started submitting her again this week. She has an audition tomorrow for a print job. We love her agent. I hope she can get Alice some auditions for Tv, Pilots or film. Please let me know if they need anything from me to make their job easier. Thank you for helping me get her demo materials up on her online casting sites.
I revised her resume. I also renewed her work permit this week since it was already expired. It is attached.
We are going back to New York this summer. If you have time, can you please look into some master classes that maybe she can sign up for. Her friend Emma is now on Broadway in Matilda, scheduled to open in April. Alice wants to follow in Emma's footsteps on Broadway, or at least join a Broadway touring company for Annie or Matilda. Emma took master classes -- that's how she connected with the NY CDs. I think she also has an agent in NYC -- maybe that's something we should look into as well.
Let me know if you want to go to any of these events, you will be our guest.
Wow! Now this a parent I love to work with :) Proactive, taking direction, building her daughters resume, experience and just plain working hard. No sense of entitlement and grateful for every opportunity.
That's it for now. Be sure to read other blogs on my site 'Breaking Into Show Business: Secrets Of A Hollywood Talent Manager" If you liked this information and found it helpful leave a comment! I love to hear from new people.
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Wendy Alane Wright Smith