Child Actors On Set
Child Actors On Set
Gabrielle Schary (Casting Director) gives expert video advice on: What should a child actor bring with them to a set?; What could lead to a child actor being sent home or fired from a role?; How long can a child actor work in a day? and more...
What terms should a child actor and their parents know when theyre on a set?
Call time, for one, means what time they're expecting you to be there. That's up to the parent to be very professional. Call time doesn't mean "run in the door" at that time. Call time means "be ready" - be ready for hair and makeup, or to be on set for lighting. I always recommend that you be no later than twenty minutes before your call time, so that you can get yourself parked, and so that you get yourself comfortable. If you're taking your child to a job, you want your child calm. If you've got a 9 AM call time, you don't want to get there at 8:58. Call time's really a key thing. Quiet on set, obviously. If you're a parent, turn your cell phone off. Try and remember that it's about your child that they've hired. You're there for legal reasons, because you need to be and you want to be, but you shouldn't distract at all in any way from the professionals who are working really hard to get the production done, because they're all on a very specific time frame. You want to make sure that your kid is really comfortable and mellow, and if you're not comfortable and mellow, your child won't be.
Does a child actor always need a parent on the set with them?
In the state of California - I don't know about every state in the United States, but in the state of California, a child actor has to have a guardian on set. If it's not a parent, it has to be somebody that the parent has entrusted. It could be a grandparent, an uncle, it could be a guardian, or what have you. But child actors do have to have somebody on set for legal reasons.
What should a child actor bring with them to a set?
They should definitely bring their work permit. They should bring a backpack with some things to help them stay comfortable, whether it be a jacket, a quiet toy, or homework. If they're school age, they should definitely bring their schoolbooks with them because there will be a specific amount of time on set that they will have to go to school with a teacher, the on set teacher that has been hired. That's essentially what they would need to bring.
What should a child actor wear to the set?
The wardrobe stylist will tell you, as each job is different. They will tell you if they want you to show up dressed, ready to go. Or they might say, "Bring your clothes, we'll dress you when you get here." They may ask you to come with clean hair. Like, you know, "Just shower and wash your hair. We're going to fix it when you get here." Every job is different. Every call-time, every location, and every wardrobe. So it's just really important to get those specifics before you go, but the professional production company is going to tell you. You're not going to have to guess and ask 21 questions. If they book you, they're going to make sure that production manager or first A.D., or first assistant director, or second assistant director, or wardrobe stylist, whoever is contacting you. That is their job to impart that information. Just make sure you write it down so your child is prepared.
What documentation and paperwork does a child actor need to bring to the set?
A lot of parents who are professional have a folder, and in that folder they've got a copy of the Coogan account. This will be a statement from the bank which you will write on the contract where you want the cheque to go. The agents handle a lot of that too, or the managers. With anything, have a folder that has your kids work permit and a copy of the Coogan account. Also, be careful about giving your child's social security number out. You really don't need to ever write it down unless it's on a payment form, which you will get on the set when they're asking you to sign the release and they're asking you to sign for your child to get paid. You then put your social security there. I don't recommend putting your social security number down or your child's number down during the audition process. It's completely unnecessary.
What does a child actor do when they arrive on the set?
Generally, the second assistant director or the talent coordinator whose job it is to organize all the talent on set will usher you or show you where to wait, where they are going to do hair and makeup, where the child can relax, and where the child can put their stuff and wait until they are called to go on set and camera. There is usually a time that the production team figures out when they want to do contracts and they will do contracts. Sometimes they will do it in the beginning, and sometimes they will do it at the end. Different productions are different, but again, they will come to you and say, "Hey, we are going to do contracts now."
What happens during the shoot?
It depends on what they are trying to accomplish. It might be running down the beach, or it might be bouncing a ball on a basketball court. After you've arrived there and you've checked in, and after you've been approved from wardrobe, they'll get you ready. They'll get you looking the way they want you to look. The director and the clients will decide, and then they'll light the set. They may have a stand-in to light, to maximize the time that the principal is there. They may have hired an extra who is the same height and same coloring, because there's a time element. When they call you to set, then you do what you're directed to do.
How should a child actor behave while on the set?
Professionally. A child actor should behave professionally while on the set. A child actor should be comfortable, they should be relaxed. They are doing a job. If they have gotten that far, chances are you don't even need to tell them. They will be just fine, but they need to remember we are not at the park. We are here now and it's a job.
What could lead to a child actor being sent home or fired from a role?
If the child actor is generally disagreeable then can be sent home of fired from a role. If it's a baby, obviously, if it's a four or five year old or younger and they're just not doing it that day and it's not that it's deliberate, they may released because it's not getting anybody anywhere. You know sometimes babies just cry and they can't get anything. So production will go for one of the back ups and just release. If it's a school-aged kid, a kid that knows better, and is just being a general prankster and the director gets sick of it, they could lose their job because they're not paying attention.
How long can a child actor work in a day?
Depending on the age of the child, each state has a different set of regulations. It's important to know which state you're working in; and then you can go online to the Labor Department website and find out. Children under 1 year old have the smallest amount of time, obviously. In California it breaks down to a legal six to legal nine. Nine to seventeen has the highest number of work hours.
Is there overtime for child actors?
There isn't overtime in California for children actors unless you've gotten prior permission from the Department of Labour. Also, children can't work late into the night without prior approval. For night shoots they'll be able to get that. But typically you can't work a child past 8 or 9:00 at night without that permission. It's all about children's safety and children's welfare.