By Evi Tsakali,
When producers cast actors for their films, they need to take into consideration a number of factors; especially if they know the actors are minors. Child actors are still children, and need to be legally protected from any kind of mistreatment in the workplace (should it come from the executive producers or even from their parents). For this article and in order to give you a reader-friendly perspective, I have gathered some basic insights into a number of golden rules, which are more or less followed by Hollywood producers:
- Securing child actor permits:
Usually, the minor’s work permit is their parents’ responsibility, however, the production should ensure it, since any individual or business entity in the entertainment industry is required to have a permit in order to employ minors. Also, the permit is only valid as long as the permit holder maintains a valid workers’ compensation insurance policy.
2. Coogan Accounts:
Setting up a Coogan account for the minor is required by the Jackie Coogan Law, whose goal is to protect child actors from financial harm at the hands of producers or their legal guardians. According to the Jackie Coogan Law, a child actor’s employer should set aside 15% of the child’s earnings in the Coogan Trust Account, where it can be monitored – but not withdrawn – by a legal guardian until the child reaches legal maturity.
3. Ensuring safety:
In fact, this is a prerequisite for every workplace, but especially when children are involved, constant supervision and designated spaces separated from the set are required.
4. Hiring a “Studio Teacher”:
A studio teacher (sometimes called a “set teacher”) is intended to serve as an advocate for all minors on a set and, as the name suggests, provide schooling to any of them that are school-aged. In essence, they are supervisors and tutors for child actors.
5. Talent contracts:
Since in the eyes of the law minors are considered incompetent to enter a contract, talent contracts addressed to minors (because they are not exclusive to child actors), those contracts hide a specific feature: the minor can legally walk away from it without any consequences. However, according to child labor laws in California, there is a way to prevent your products from being held hostage by the whims of a single child actor. Sometimes called judicial approval or court approval of contracts, California courts have created a process by which a minor’s right to disaffirm a contract can be suspended.
6. Keeping working hours to the minimum:
Child actors are only allowed to work between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. on school days. On non-school days, the hours stretch from 5:00 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., but only for a certain number of hours, depending on age.
- How to work with child stars in the film. Studiobinder, Available here
- Weisenberger, Loring. Producer’s Guide: Child Actor Laws. Scrapbook, Available here