Marti Davis knows well what the role of a "momager" entails, having managed her 10-year-old daughter Leila Jean Davis' acting career for the past three years.
"Managing Leila Jean is my second full time job," says Davis. Due to her regular full-time day job, Davis says she's not been able to take Leila Jean to too many daytime auditions or shoots. "I'm fortunate that I don't require a lot of sleep, given the schedule we keep," she says.
One of the biggest mistakes a momager can make is taking the unavoidable rejection too personally, and then transferring that emotional baggage on to the child. "My mother was my manager and when I didn't book a job she always delivered the bad news gently, without making me feel rejected," says Martha Byrne (pictured above), an Emmy Award-winning actress and co-founder of Full Circle Talent Group. "It's extremely important for parents not to put their own nerves or expectations on their child. It will only put pressure on the child, and they won't be able to perform at their highest level and will not book jobs."
Momagers need core communication, organizational, and marketing skills to effectively support their child in the industry. Davis handles every aspect of Leila Jean's acting career, including her finances and publicity. Davis, who works with agents and managers on a freelance basis, highly recommends that parents don't sign anything right off the bat, and that they document everything regarding the roles and payments received.
Networking is a key component to the momager job description, as well. Davis belongs to several social networking groups to help Leila Jean land roles, even without auditions. Byrne tells the parents of her clients to make friends with the other moms on any job to build resources.
But there are many challenges to being a momager. There are unions, work permits, logging school hours, and set conditions that must be met, among others. Another challenge is balancing the household if there are other children or a spouse. According to Byrne, sometimes parents get caught up in the business and the lifestyle, and they leave the rest of the family behind. This isn't good for the child who is the center of attention either. If the child feels they are changing the family dynamic, they will feel guilty and therefore not enjoy performing, and the result will be a very short career.
"One simple rule: When your child says it's not fun anymore, quit," Byrne says.
Considering becoming a momager? "Make a formal decision to either commit to the role or hand it over fully to an established, reputable, honest, and hardworking talent manager," says Davis. "If your child is nonunion, you may be able to land more work for him or her than your manager. However, if you're prepared to step it up and run your child to the city with great frequency and pay the union dues, than by all means, go with a great agent who will help your child land those bigger roles."
With their current schedule, Davis says that Leila Jean prefers having her manage her career path. "These past three years of supporting Leila Jean's rising star have been wonderful," she says. "It’s a very cool outcome of the work she enjoys doing so much."