If you look for me on Twitter then you will see that I am not only a parent that wrote a book, I am a parent that navigates the entertainment business with my two oldest children. I tweet under thesantaclub but also as stagemomlessons. I chose that name because I was so frustrated with having to constantly prove I was not a crazy stagemom. Because of this, I now teach other parents how to navigate the industry without getting caught up and becoming, “crazy”!. Every April I speak in front of new actors and their parents who come out from Atlanta on how to find an agent the right way without getting taken or having your kid getting a terrible reputation because of the parent.
It all started four, almost five years ago. Our boys were asked to work in Los Angeles as actors. Knowing the business was not an easy thing but being the true risk takers we are, we told the guys they could try…for a year, to see if they could succeed.
The world of entertainment is one of the toughest industries to work in so my husband and I set some stipulations before we took on the new adventure. First off, we were in control, they had to listen to us, even when they thought we were being tough. Secondly, we rented a house for our family away from the apartments most families stay at when in LA for pilot season. We wanted our family to have a break from the industry. In our mind, it was a job when you auditioned and worked. Not who you are as a person. The competitive nature of the auditioning was a by product we wanted to stay away from. Last but not least, if our kids did well and made any money, they had to tithe as we call it, or another way to look at it, give back. They had to find a charity they loved and give 10% of what they made to that charity. With giving away your required percentages to taxes, the unions, agents and managers tithing meant you had even less money in your pocket. But for our family it is a given, God gets the first fruits and something very important, our kids had a vested interest in helping others.
Joe and I believed and still do, that when you are involved in helping others or giving back, that you become aware of what is important in life. When someone has a brain tumor, working on a set seems pretty trivial. When someone has no family or a single mom and they are not eating everyday, then seeing a Kraft truck with unlimited food doesn’t seem like a necessity. We wanted the kids to realize acting is a job and that is what you do, how you treat everyone you meet, is who you are.
A few months ago I was reading about Billy Ray Cyrus and how he is blaming Disney for Miley’s craziness. Jameson worked on Hannah Montana. You can see him being the big college student throwing up after Jackson serves bad hamburger. I was with him on set and I have to tell you Miley is very talented. Both her and her dad are really talented actors. She is also beautiful and everyone that worked there was very kind. As I listen to Billy Ray, I get a little frustrated. He is acting like a stage dad who hasn’t taken responsibility for being a dad first and four most. On the other hand, I was on set and I can tell you having a kid with a job like Miley’s would never be an easy thing. It takes a strong parent or set of parents and like anything else, it takes your time.
That day we were on set was very exciting. Jameson had done some things already and was blessed but this was the first sitcom and let me tell you, we were pumped. He had his own dressing room, and was greeted on set by the AD and PAs. AD is Assistant Director and PA is Production Assistant. Everyone was really nice. Jameson and I try very hard to be out of the way when he is working. First off he is a pretty shy guy when he first gets into new situations. Most people find that very funny. Even though he can lip sync to thousands at a Dodger’s game, he is really shy when meeting people for the fist time and as a kid, he was even scared. Today, he still hates to “bother” anyone by calling out of the blue! But get him working and oh boy….
So I am sitting up in the empty audience seats watching. I am there on set but not in the dressing room. Miley and the kids were very polite and nice but they had a ton of work to do. School, work, School, work. It was a pretty busy job. Billy Ray was also working and going back and forth from his star wagon. He also is pretty busy. The one thing I noticed was that everyone was really laid back and cool. The week we were on set, was a blessing and Jameson had a great time.
So how could Disney be the problem? How could Billy Ray not do his duty like so many people think? As a parent who has been on set, I think there is a little bit of both. Parenting is a full-time job….always. I don’t know about you but I am in my kids face all the time. I ask how are you? What is going on? When the guys are on set, I am even more around, not getting in the way or annoying just there, like a beacon of strength. I tease them all the time, that I will kick their butt if they get out of control, that we, Joe and I, will be at their doorstep if they choose to take paths not healthy. Not that our kids don’t party or have fun. Kids are kids and I am just glad they didn’t grow up in the 70’s! But we also tell them things that Billy Ray is talking about.
Agents and Managers make money off your children’s success. They only make money if your kid gets a job. So first and foremost we always remind our kids that they need to take advice not just from the person who makes money off them, but from the people who love them and have no vested interest. Joe, myself, their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends who love them for who they are as a person, not as a success. We continually support the notion that those of us who truly care for their well being are the ones to bounce things off. Most people will say that celebrities change when they become famous. What we find is that not all of the successful people change, that most actually start to slip away from aquaintences and old friends because of this principle. Many great actors have a small group of people they stay close with because they know these people love them for who they are, and want nothing in return.
Since starting this blog, Billy Ray came out and softened his views on Disney. Being a parent is so hard. Being married is hard. I am sure that the added pressures of being successful make that all the more difficult.
When I speak to young actors, I always try to steer them away from the goal of being a star. Celebrity is a funny thing here in America and throughout the world. Just because someone is successful, we follow their every move. People are people and to be honest the more that I meet the amazing actors, politicians and successful people in my travels the ones I am most admire are the ones who give back. The ones who are so busy, yet they take their holiday to build an orphanage in Haiti. Or the ones that mc a gala to save a non-profit money. Like my girlfriend Mindy Sterling. You know Mindy if you have ever seen the Austin Powers movies. She was Frau, Dr. Evil’s love interest. She would yell, BRING IN THE GUARDS. Kids know her as the teacher on ICarly. Mindy is running for the Los Angeles Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man and Woman of the Year program. A ten week program to try and raise money for the society, Mindy is working hard to raise money to help the LLS fund research for cancer patient. Now that is a celebrity to me. She gives back to the world without anything in return.
For all of my aspiring actors, directors, producers, artists and so on….remember that. If you are blessed with success then give back. Or you will find yourself lost in this world.
Have a great Santa Club Day,
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