So you want to get your child a talent agent, but you don’t know where to begin? Slow down. Don’t rush into things.
The fact is well meaning parents are often willing to spare no expense to get their kids into show business — without even knowing what they are getting into. Some parents research running shoes more than they research the entertainment business. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting representation for my daughter, but I’m still sitting on the fence. To say that being a “stage parent” is fun is misguided. This is a business. Don’t ever forget that.
Finding a Toronto Talent Agent for Your Child
Full disclosure: I’m a member of Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) and have been working in the entertainment industry for 20 years. (I started when I was a child.) For the uninitiated ACTRA is a national union of professional performers working in English-language recorded media in Canada.
Who is Legit
Agencies that are legitimate and have a proven track record can be found in resource directories like Talent Agents and Managers Association of Canada (TAMAC) and the Entertainment Industry Coalition (EIC). A TAMAC registered agency promotes and maintains ethical practices and standard business procedures for its members. The EIC is similar to TAMAC, and consists of reputable modelling and talent agencies.
Fees and Payment
A reputable talent agency doesn’t charge a registration fee. I’ve noticed that one Toronto-area agency — whose name I won’t mention — charges a $300 registration fee. Agents get paid when a job is booked and they receive this payment in the form of a commission, which typically ranges from 15% to 20% of gross earnings (or net earnings) plus HST. If you’re pressed to pay any fees, always ask why and what exactly you are paying for.
Before you jump in, you should understand the working conditions that your child will be involved in. As I mentioned before, I’m unionized which entitles me to invaluable protections. There are many high-paying non-union jobs in Toronto, however, the caveat is a non-union working environment means there are no rules on set. That being said, if you’re just dabbling in the industry, I wouldn’t rush into getting your child unionized. If you’re serious – have your son or daughter earn the credits and go for it.
Remember, though, it’s you, the parent, who will have to do all the schlepping to auditions, numerous callbacks, go-sees, and hours long shoots. Are you ready for that?
Then there’s the issue of rejection. If your child books his or hers very first audition — congratulations! It’s beginners luck. The reality is the business is full of rejection. It could take 20-40 tries before they book a gig. This industry is as much about looks as it is about talent. Let’s face it: print, television and film are highly visual mediums.
A friend of mine told me about how her seven-year-old daughter’s modelling job overinflated her daughter’s ego. My friend disapproves of how her little girl assesses her worth on the basis of her looks. She’s since halted all modelling pursuits and has enrolled her daughter in gymnastics instead.
The lure of fame and fortune is tempting considering Toronto is making a name for itself in the international world of film and television. As parents, we can be biased about how cute our children look or how talented they are. Even if they’re brimming with both, we should be smart about putting our children in the entertainment industry and how we part with our cash.
One agent I know isn’t a fan of children under five working in the industry; others have built careers on it. Will my daughter build a career in it? Who knows? For now I’m seriously thinking of charging people who want to take her picture. (I’m slightly kidding.)