Part Two of an Interview with Steven C. Beer, Entertainment Attorney & Author of “Your Child's Career in Music and Entertainment”
In the first part of our interview with Steven, he discussed the personal challenges he faced when becoming a stage parent, the importance of understanding child labor laws, and why child actors should be the ones who define their success. In part two, Steven debunks the stereotype of the overbearing stage parent and highlights the essential role parents should play as partners in their young performer’s career.
OLE: How is show business different from, say, the pursuit of team sports, or other after-school activities that children engage in?
SCB: There are some overlaps, but show business is different in that there is no one established career path. An athlete doesn't become a professional until they graduate from high school and turn 18; the child actor, on the other hand, can be a professional before they're able to walk. That creates a world filled with risks and opportunities for misjudgment by children and parents lacking in experience, or mentors such as a sports coach.
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?
SCB: I don't see any difference between stage mothers and fathers. "Stage parents" are professional parents. It's a shame that there is a stigma attached to this term based on the regrettable practices of a few overbearing and irresponsible parents. In my experience, however, the vast majority of stage parents are thoughtful, hardworking, and selflessly seeking to facilitate opportunities for their creative child.
OLE: As children work more and more in the industry, what three steps do you see as essential for their support systems? Suggested categories: Legal? Financial? Educational? Family values?
SCB: At the onset, it is essential that parents partner with their child to establish boundaries regarding roles, responsibilities, and education. In this regard, parents should also partner with the rest of the family so that everybody's on the same page. Second, it's important that parents address finances. Setting your child up as an entertainer can be very expensive. As such, parents should make arrangements about their expectations for getting repaid prior to making financial commitments. Such arrangements should be established in writing and handled counsel on behalf of the child. A good model for this is agreements made between parents and children in connection with allowances and responsibilities and expectations for what they do at home.
Finally, the parent should always condition their child's participation on how they handle their school and professional responsibilities. If a child is getting Cs, then his or her involvement in a professional career should be suspended until she brings up her grades. Similarly, if a child does not take her vocal or acting lessons seriously, or is unprepared for auditions, that’s a sure sign your child is not living up to her end of the bargain.
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?
SCB: SAG AFTRA and Actors Equity provide essential information for minor actors and their families.
OLE: If you could approach the industry differently because of what you know now, either as a writer or as a parent, how would you?
SCB: I wish I had had my book to understand the broad scope of the commitment entailed! Now that my book exists, I would recommend that every parent read it, if only to understand the scope and the need to partner with your child and family about goals, expectations and responsibilities.
Steven C. Beer is an entertainment attorney with more than 20 years in the industry working with professionals on both sides of the camera as well a number of pop music superstars. Despite his years of experience as a show business lawyer, Steven found he had still had much to learn when his own son decided to pursue a career as a performer. You can learn more about these experiences in Steven’s book at Amazon or on his website at http://www.stevenbeer.com.