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Parent Resources for Showbiz Kids

by Shauna Smith Duty

 


Thereís more to showbiz than bright lights and big checks, and the parent of a child actor must research and learn the industry. So where do you start? You may feel overwhelmed with your lack of knowledge. Maybe you think that because you have great photos and inside connections, you have all you need. Whether you know nothing or think you know it all, take a moment to look at the legal and financial side of child acting. As parent and trustee for your child, itís your responsibility to know the ropes.

JJ Minnick, co-owner of Go Talent, a management company in Los Angeles, recommends all parents of child actors visit www.bizparentz.com. This site features articles about important legal information and codes, a state-by-state law search, tips, and resources that can quickly educate you on the ins and outs of child acting. After a few hours of reading, youíll walk away with a firm understanding of the legal and financial aspects of child acting.

ďThe more educated you are, the more excited we are to work with you,Ē says JJ. Think about it: donít you like to work with professionals? If youíre serious about promoting your child in the entertainment industry, understand that the competition is fierce. You must self-educate if youíre going to give your child a fair chance of success.

Some laws, such as work permits, educational requirements, and union membership vary from state to state. Learning the laws for the state in which your child will work is imperative. In many states, children cannot work without a work permit that must be ordered prior to employment. Compulsory school attendance is required in all states, but the intricacies vary. In Texas, for instance, homeschooling is unregulated, but many states require lesson plan reporting and state testing for homeschooled children. In California, Coogan accounts must be maintained for working children. Learn more about Coogan accounts at www.aftrasagfcu.org.

Other issues, such as Social Security and income tax are national laws. Parents of wage-earning minors must request an annual Social Security statement for their child; it is not automatically mailed as it is for adults. The SSA may freeze a childís account if a large sum is reported. In this case, the child will receive a letter that you must respond to in order to avoid future problems. You have only three years to correct a Social Security discrepancy. Income taxes are another important federal issue. A minor who earns over $5000 in wages or over $800 in dividends must have their income tax filed. The earnings should be reported for the child, not the parent.

Visit the Screen Actorís Guild website at www.sag.org, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artistsí website at www.aftra.com, and the Actorís Equity Association at www.actorsequity.com to learn more about the unions your child may need to join. Not all states require union membership. Much of the central and southeastern states are Right to Work states, where union membership is not required. The western and northeastern US are primarily union states. Visit www.nrtw.org to learn where your state stands on this issue. Youíll need to follow the laws for the state in which your child works while you are there. For instance, if you live in Louisiana, but your child lands a gig in California, youíll need to join the union so your child can work there.

All of these legal and financial essentials are vital for parents to know and understand, and a manager can provide all the information youíll need. If the thought of learning the information overwhelms you, consider hiring a manager. The financial and legal aspects of child acting are only a small part of the education parents should attain before becoming involved with showbiz. Youíll also have to determine how to get your foot in the door, make time for auditions, balance showbiz with school and family life, and ensure your child hones the craft through acting classes and private coaching.

Parents play a huge role in the careers of child actors, and as trustee, disciplinarian, and cheerleader, youíll probably work harder than your child. The more you know, the better decisions you can make for your family.



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