|Wow. That doesn’t
sound quite so fun, huh? “Excessive”, “bigoted”, “OVER-enthusiastic”,
“violent”? Sometimes we forget that fans, are, by definition, over the
top. And they are strangers. Parents tell their children not
to talk to strangers, but our kids have to do that every day! For that
reason, it is crucial for showbiz families to be realistic about fans
and to MANAGE their contact with them.
Why Answer Fan Mail?
Answering fan mail
makes your child’s fans happy and is good learning experience
(addressing envelopes, thankfulness, appreciating other cultures, etc)
for your child. It also helps to promote your child’s projects and
their career as a whole. Proper management of fan mail means you can
make adults and children around the world happy, at minimal cost to
How Things Have Changed
Like so much else
in our business, the fan factor has changed drastically in the last
five years. If you think back a few years ago, or even back to our
childhood, if we wanted to send someone a fan letter, we would buy a
Tiger Beat Magazine or a book to get contact information. Studios,
agents and publicists submitted addresses to those publications and
controlled where the fan mail went. If you were really a fan, you had
to work pretty hard at it. In those days, fan mail had a true impact on
studios and other employers recognizing that someone had a “fan base”.
are shared over the internet, along with every piece of personal info
they can get from hundreds of sources around the world. Message boards
abound for collectors and fans to compare addresses. People don’t have
work so hard to get the information, and they can contact hundreds of
people in a couple of hours via email for free. So the process is
easier, but the quality is diluted.
Our industry has
changed too. Agent’s job descriptions have changed. In the past, agents
handled all of the child’s business, their fan mail, publicity and
their personal lives. Autograph seekers would send requests to agents.
Today, agents are busy seeking jobs for the thousands of clients they
have, and many kids have multiple agents. Kids don’t stay at one agency
for life anymore—maybe a year or two (which means address lists are
often wrong). Fan mail is not in the agent job description, and they
couldn’t really handle it with the volume of clients anyway. Today,
most working kid actors have managers who handle the personal functions
and the child must pay them extra for these services. Many have
publicists as well.
These changes mean
that stalking is easier than ever before. We’ve of heard of young
actors being stalked in the past such a Jodi Foster, Rebecca Schaeffer,
Britney Spears and Hilary Duff. Sadly, this has become common:
So what is
different in the last 5 years? That it isn’t just big celebrities at
risk. Everyday actor kids are targets as well. The internet has allowed
kids with even minor roles to be in the public eye, and they are most
vulnerable to predators because they don’t have the infrastructure
(gated homes, security teams, studio publicists) to keep stalkers at a
Also, with the
advent of online casting sites, there are thousands of newbie models
and actors who post their pictures on the internet. Many are seeking
fame, and *think* they are celebrities, when they are actually just
bait for predators. They are inadvertently seeking out a false “fan
base” when they don’t have the security structure to handle it.
Identifying Good Fans vs. Bad Fans: 1, 2, 3, 4.
Obviously every fan
is not a stalker! But, as parents, we do need to be mindful of the
worst case scenario. It is our job to keep our kids safe. For most of
the work our kids do, they will draw legitimate fans from those people
who happen to be fans of the show already. While it is impossible to
really judge the intent of every autograph request, it is important to
sort out the good fans vs. the bad fans for anything beyond a simple
autograph. We need to do this, in order to develop personal guidelines
for how close our family will let fans get to us.
- Let’s start with
the best fans…your family and friends. Who loves ya, baby? They do!.
And they are the only ones who do, because they know the real child and
who they are inside. They appreciate their performances, but they would appreciate you whether you were an actor or not.
- Most fans are
fabulous people who just have an interest in something. You can spot
them…they like all the people who are in your show. Or they collect
autographs of many people as a hobby. Or they are a
similar age (ie. teen girls liking teen boys). When they approach you,
they mention your work and express their opinion about it in a positive
way. They are fans because they like your performances. They don’t creep you out, they just express a genuine appreciation. So
far, so good, right? It is really important that parents learn to
separate the above crowd (good fans) from the ones below (bad fans).
This involves some honest self-evaluation. Hopefully all kids have fans
in the 1st. category.
If your child hasn’t yet done anything of note you are probably not
going to have fans in the 2nd category yet. This leaves the
- The people with an
agenda. They want something else. They want “insider info” and to
control the dissemination of your child’s info (bad). They want to
build a website. They are interested in your child only
because they fit their preferred physical profile (Ex. Caucasian 8-12
yr old boys). Some are in it for the money—they want your child to
provide something they can sell (like an autograph). Some are star struck—they
want to be close to child actors because they think it will somehow rub
off on them. In all these cases, they don’t appreciate their
performances or talent, they just like what the child can offer them financially or emotionally. This is where caution should enter the picture.
- The last and
scariest category is the creeps with dangerous potential. At
Bizparentz, we have seen many instances of fans that crossed the line.
Real life stalkers, pedophiles, website designers who hurt
autograph collectors who put kids on “bad signer” websites, IMdb
harassment, fake myspace accounts, prison fan mail, and more. None of
that is good for your child, or good for their career.
What Good Fans Want
Real fans want to
be appreciated and treated with respect. They might ask for an
autograph or a photo, but they wouldn’t think you owe it to them, and
they don’t retaliate if they don’t get it. They want you to be safe,
and successful. Real fans do not threaten children with harm of any
sort---career wise or any other way.
What Autograph Collectors Want –A PRIMER
Most fans just want
a signed 8 x 10 for their collection. Collectors usually specialize in
a particular area such as child stars, soap stars, animation, sports
figures, sci-fi/horror, astronauts, etc. Sometimes collectors buy, sell
and trade their autographs…it is a thriving industry.
A great resource
for learning about this hobby/business is the magazine Autograph
Collector (www.autographcollector.com). Pick up a copy at your local
newsstand for a fun view into the world of celebrity autographs. Where
do collectors get autographs?
- Snail mail -- with
a self-addressed stamped manila envelope (sent directly to the
celebrity, or to the studio or concert venue, etc.)
- In person events such as red carpets, premieres, charity fundraisers, after- show exits
- Charity auctions
- Ebay sellers or
other sellers (ex. www.celebritymerch.com, www.lcgsignatures.com,
- Conventions and
Shows. Established celebrities of certain types can sell their
autographs (usually for $10-$20 a piece) at shows. Some examples:
There is an Autograph “language” too…check out these terms:
- Autopen (AP)
-- mechanical device that “signs” objects. The President of the United
States usually uses an Autopen. The entire signature is exactly the
- Pre-prints – a photographic copy of an original signed photo. Actors do this fairly often, but they are not preferred by collectors.
- Secretarials – When someone else signs the photo (like a secretary, or a mom), also not preferred.
- COA – Certificate of Authenticity . Oh yes, there are people who validate sigs!
- IRC – International Reply Coupon. These are used for postage when requesting autographs from foreign countries.
- SASE – Self-addressed stamped envelope
- VV – via venue. A request that is sent to a celebrity at an event, like a concert of filming location.
- ICS – Index Card Signed
- CSP – Color Signed Photo
A Note to “Good” Fans and Autograph Collectors
We love you, we appreciate you! Please help us by following some simple guidelines:
Correspond with kid actors in a safe way …through an intermediary like a manager, or a post office box.
If you approach a
child actor in person (on a red carpet for example), please be mindful
that they are a child. Look around for their adult handler for
permission, speak appropriately to them, and don’t physically grab them.
Try to avoid
sending requests to agents. For most kid actors, their manager,
publicist or post office box are better options for getting a fast
Please enclose a
SASE. Contrary to popular belief, most child actors do not make a lot
of money. They are footing their own bill for the photos they send, so
a stamped envelope is really nice.
that predators ARE a part of our industry, although we all know that
they are a tiny percentage. As parents, our priority is to keep our
kids safe, and that outranks your need for an autograph. True fans
would not wish heartache or danger on any young actor, so please be
patient as we all adjust to a new era of fan mail—the internet.
DOs of Fan Mail for Families of Young Performers
Do know your place
in the industry. If your child is just starting out, you don’t need to
invite fan mail. Why? Because it can only be the bad kind (categories C
and D above). It isn’t worth it. Understand the type fan mail you are
likely to get at different stages of your child’s career.
conscious choices. Responding to fan mail is a choice. You don’t have
to do it. It is not part of being an actor—it is part of being a
celebrity. You don’t have to be a celebrity. Choose.
Do make a plan.
Learn to recognize the real fans (who have seen your child’s
performance and appreciate their talent) and separate them from the
creeps who want something else (a brush with fame, money, use of your
child’s image, etc). Really be honest with yourself when coming into
contact with a “fan”. If your child hasn’t done anything public (like a
movie or tv show) chances are your “fans” are really creeps. Look at
the list of 1, 2, 3, and 4 fans above and decide how to handle each
Do Screen and
Sort. Always screen the mail before it reaches your child, just in case
there are any letters that you don’t feel comfortable with your child
reading. Many children enjoy fan mail, but you might not want them to
spend hours reading about how great people think they are, lest their
head swells! Sort fan mail: fans who just want an autograph or photo,
suspicious stuff (from other countries where your projects have not
shown for instance), and downright creeps (prison fan mail, etc.).
Retain a file of the suspicious things, just in case you need to show a
pattern of communications from someone later (to get a restraining
order for example)
WHICH photos you choose to give out to fans, or put on the web. No
shirtless, barefoot, etc. See our section on Child Safety on this site
for more details. You are in complete control of which photos are out
there of your child. Use that control.
autographs with the first name of whoever you are sending the photo to.
This makes the photo very difficult to sell for profit, and true fans
like this better anyway. Sign it with whatever message your child like
best such as “thanks for watching”, “best wishes”, “follow your dreams”
or whatever. Just avoid saying things that are too endearing like
If you have the
resume to justify legit fan mail, create an address where fans can ask
for autographs and pictures. This should NEVER be your home (safety),
or your agent (it is not their job, and you might change agents). We
highly suggest getting a P.O. Box in a large town near you for this
purpose. Whatever you decide, make sure you communicate with your
representatives about where you prefer fan mail be sent.
If you have the resume to justify legit fan mail, do list your correct fan mail address:
Do pick up fan
mail regularly from agents/managers, the show you are working for etc.
If you choose to answer, answer fan mail promptly. Collectors keep
track of how long it takes to get an answer, and what was given. It is
just common courtesy to answer as quickly as you can.
Do treat real
fans with respect and appreciation. Do plan for success. Your child
could be very famous some day. When they are, have you protected their
privacy well enough? If you really find yourself buried in fan mail
(lucky you!), do consider hiring a relative or a service to handle it
for you. An example of such as service is Studio Fan Mail: www.studiofanmail.com
generously to charities when you can. Consider the charity factor when
working on high profile projects. Grabbing a piece of wardrobe, a
signed script, or movie poster (with permission, of course) might
benefit a charity down the road. For more on how charities do auctions
with celebrity memorabilia, read here: www.fanmail.biz/mboard/viewtopic.php?t=39633
Let this become a
fun, learning activity for your child! Consider starting a stamp
collection when you get mail from other countries. Enjoy it!
DON’Ts of Fan Mail for Families of Young Performers
create personal relationships with strangers. Fans are strangers. You
can be nice and appreciative without letting them get so close that it
could be dangerous.
fans into your personal life. Keep them at arm’s length. That means
don’t share too many personal details about your life. Do not share
personal email addresses, cell phone numbers, etc. Keep in mind, your
child may want their privacy back some day. Will that be possible if
you have relationships with fans?
fans into your professional life prematurely. Sharing auditions,
bookings, or career plans often backfires when you assume that a fan
understands industry conduct. Ex. Sharing with fans that you are about
to book a big film can alert competitors and producers that you also
aren’t aware of proper industry conduct (confidentiality).
blank cards for autographs. Some entrepreneurs have taken to offering 3
x 5 white cards for a child to sign. DON’T. They are likely planning to
reproduce your child’s signature and make money from it.
Don’t include a return address on photo mailings that might give your location. Use your post office box in another city.
fans on the IMdb message boards. IMdb.com is a fan site. Many of the
posters there meet the definition of fanatic (see definition above!).
Resist the urge to post on the message boards or correspond. It’s
painfully obvious to all when “mom” is there.
fan mail from prison. This is very common (some young actors estimate
that up to a quarter of their fan mail is from prison) and it is almost
always from men. They will tell you stories about how they are giving
the photo to their daughter, or how they are selling it to buy kids’
Christmas presents. DO NOT ANSWER. They are more likely either using it
to add to their pedophilia collection, selling it within the prison
system, or are planning to stalk your child when they are released. You
can spot prison fan mail because there is usually a number next to
their name on the return address. Sometimes there is a stamp on the
envelope, or within the postmark.
fan mail that comes directly to your home address. It is also worth
investigating how your home address was obtained so you can fix your
breach in security for the future.
influenced by people who say you NEED fans for your career, and that
you need to “build a fan base”. There is no relationship between hiring
actors in Hollywood (the casting process) and the number of fans you
have. Anybody can have thousands of myspace friends…no casting director
is impressed. Producers hire children for their talent, their look,
their resume. Not the sheer number of their fans. This is one area
where the adult acting world is different than the kid acting world.
Fans may be a factor for adult actors--sometimes. But consider WHY:
they can bring in the box office cash, and Hollywood is a business. Few
children are really is a box office draw, a household name. So the fan
factor isn’t really an issue in getting hired.
Don’t bow to
internet terrorism. There are those who hassle young actors on Imdb,
create fan mail bashing websites, etc. They feel that you “owe” them.
Those are not real fans. They don’t appreciate your child. Real fans
don’t act like that. So don’t give them a second thought.