Overbearing Stage Parents
Whose Audition Is It Anyway?
You’re a parent. You’ve chosen to assist (or coerce) your child to get into the business of acting or modeling. You drive them to classes, workshops, and auditions. You got them an agent. You supervise them on the set of any job they book. You collect the money and file their taxes. You’re a mom and a manager. You’ve become… a “momager.” You’ve spoken to other stage parents, and learned how the business works. You think you have a good handle on it.
Then why is your kid not booking everything they audition for? Why are they not getting called back more often? Why didn’t they recur on that TV series like the casting director said would happen when they booked your kid last season? Why did your agency just drop your child??
The chances are good that it has less to do with how talented your kid might be, and more to do with your behavior in the auditions and on the set. Nobody has had the courage to tell you this yet, but since I don’t know you personally, I’ll just say it. You’ve become a pain in the butt.
In all seriousness, one of the main reasons that a young actors’ career doesn’t progress as smoothly as it should is that there is a parent involved who is overbearing and difficult to work with. This type of parent is a roadblock to success.
Make no mistake, when a parent is in the waiting room in a casting office, they are being observed. They are auditioning as well, only in a different manner than their child is. If a parent is viewed as catty, or unruly, or pushy, or anything other than sweet and easy-going and accommodating, then they could be the only red-flag that the casting department needs to see in order to pass on their child for the role. If a parent becomes a pest on the set of a TV series, and bothers the other parents, cast, or crew, or disturbs the production in any way, the child will most likely not be returning for future episodes. A parent who makes constant on-set requests for supplies for their dressing room, or passes for guests to visit, or insists upon hiring a different studio teacher, will be viewed as a liability. The world of production is stressful enough. A parent who adds to the stress will cause their child to suffer.
I’m not suggesting that a parent should never complain when things aren’t as they should be. If some wardrobe items don’t seem to fit, it’s fine to speak up. If the dressing room is like a sub-zero freezer, it’s okay to mention it to one of the talent coordinators. If you have been waiting longer than an hour past your scheduled audition time, and honestly need to leave soon for another audition, it’s acceptable to politely tell the casting assistant about your situation. These are all perfectly fine. Just be careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings. Trust me. If you piss anyone off, they will talk about you when you are gone, and they will remember you. And not in a good way.
There is another common reason why a talented child might not be getting many callbacks. Some parents are so driven and focused on the business that they neglect to realize that their child doesn’t really want to do this anymore.
One casting director told me that she was auditioning a very talented young boy, without the parent in the room, and the actor started crying. She asked him what was wrong, and he told her that he didn’t really want to be an actor any more, but he was afraid that he would make his mom mad if he told her. The casting director told him it was okay, and that they could just sit and talk for a bit. They chatted about sports and video games, and at the end she told him that she would tell his mom that he did a great job. He left the room a very happy boy. Obviously he didn’t get the job, and the casting director had a heartfelt talk with the boy’s agent, who ultimately had to deal with the situation.
To sum up: Be nice. Make friends. And make sure this is something your child really, really wants to do. No matter what they decide, you should be supportive. Your child will thank you. That’s the deal.
Adam Lieblein is a graduate of the UCLA School of Theatre Film and Television, and spent eight years as a producer of films, commercials and television projects until 1993 when he opened a talent agency. Adam was the president of Acme Talent & Literary for sixteen years, and together with his eighteen agents represented actors for film, television, commercials, print modeling and voiceover work, and writers for film and novels. At the end of 2008, Acme’s several divisions were sold to other agencies, and Adam returned to the business of producing and teaching at UCLA. In 2011 Adam was recruited by Casting Networks to work in Business and Product Development.