Industry Voices

An Interview with Sally Gaglini, Author of Young Performers at Work

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Sally Gaglini has spent more than twenty-five years as a legal advisor for young performers and the companies for whom they work. Her commitment to child actors runs deep, as founder of the Gaglini Law Group, as an entertainment law teacher at Suffolk University, and in her work with lawmakers in creating the inaugural child performer law in Massachusetts. 

Sally’s book, Young Performers at Work, draws on this wealth of experience, offering practical guidance for launching a successful career through interviews with parents, performers, and other entertainment professionals. In our interview with Sally, she discusses what inspired her to write her book, the value of varied perspectives informed by real-world experiences, and the importance of putting young performers’ best interests (outside of show business) first.

OLE: What motivated you to write your book? 

SG: Over the years, parents have called me to ask the same questions over and over and over again. It did not matter which state or country they lived in. I vowed, over time, that I would write a book and finally did it. The overriding goal is to empower parents to make the right choices for their kids. 

OLE: How is your book different from others on the market that deal with the subject of children in show business? 

SG: The book is different because it blends entertainment law with probate and family law. It not only offers comprehensive information to parents and families but frankly, to their attorneys as well. I’ve had more than a few lawyers call to thank me for writing it. As it is rare to specialize in both areas of law, I felt an obligation to share some of what I know. Empowering parents, irrespective of their zip code, is an overarching theme. Apparently, book fans are "extra primo happy" about real-world examples shared in the book. It allows the book to come alive without exploitation.

OLE: Do you welcome the many different points of view of child performers and their perspectives on the world of entertainment, or do you feel that other authors do not "get" the basic tenets of the industry? 

SG: Varied perspectives, when shared through writing, can be terrific resources for parents and their kids….so long as those perspectives come from experience as opposed to theory. By keeping it real, parents have the best opportunity to help their kids navigate the industry. 

OLE: How should parents define "success" for their children? Is it booking the job? Is it getting a "call back"? Is it the intermingling with adult celebrities? 

SG: Actually, I think a parent defining success for their child can be a slippery slope. Better, in my view, to look at the child’s goals and see if they are attainable. If a child is having fun, learning and working and the work is pleasurable for him or her, then the path he or she is following is healthy.  But as we know, as children grow, they evolve. What felt good at 6 may feel like a constraint at 9. Consequently, ongoing parental assessment of what is and is not working for their son or daughter is key.

OLE: What's one thing about the entertainment industry that you'd change as it concerns the kids, if you could?

SG: A federal law that sets forth minimum standards of protection including mandatory savings that he or she would receive on their 18th birthday.

OLE: How is show business different from, say, the pursuit of team sports, or other after-school activities that children engage in? 

SG: It’s a commercial set of enterprises that generally come without any delete button. A captured humiliation for a Reality Show cannot be undone whereas muffing a play when a starting shortstop for a softball team may fast become a faded memory, especially for those attending the game.

OLE: How do you define a "stage parent"? Are there differences in "stage" fathers and mothers as to how they approach the business on behalf of their children? 

SG: Parents are as varied as their kids. I’d prefer to focus on what parents are doing right, shining a spotlight on those whose overriding goal is to place the best interests of their kids first and foremost.  That way, it would be those parents who lead by example and their working kids who, years later, applaud their parents for insisting on normalcy that come from grounded values.

OLE: What organizations, aside from a family's intra-support team, do you consider essential for the well-being of the children in the entertainment industry?  

SG: Applicable unions are a good starting point for those families whose kids are union members or working in productions that are union signatories. There is a wealth of free information on those sites that are good starting points. Chapter 13 in Young Performers at Work sets forth web site support that are also rich with free information. Young Performers Clubs in a child’s region can also be wonderful resources alongside clubs and groups that support the particular talent e.g., dance, violin, songwriting workshops. Also check out www.denisesimoncoaching.com. Seeing is believing. 

To learn more about Sally Gaglini’s book, visit her website (Young Performers at Work) or go to Amazon