Commercials, TV And Film For Child Actors
Gabrielle Schary (Casting Director) gives expert video advice on: Is it easier for a child actor to get cast for a stage production than a film or TV show?; Can a child actor earn more money in commercials than in film or TV? and more...
Is it easier for a child actor to get cast in a commercial than in a film or TV show?
That depends. Sometimes the process for a commercial is actually more arduous than a theatrical casting. Sometimes the process for an advertiser to approve a child has to go through many more layers than a TV show or a movie. Sometimes the director can just pick somebody to be in an episode of a TV show like that versus you doing a cereal commercial and 45 directors have to sign off on a child. So there's no simple answer to that.
Is it easier for a child actor to get cast for a stage production than a film or TV show?
It depends on the stage production. This business is so different. Every project is so different that parents really have to be comfortable by flying by the seat of their pants with a lot of stuff. The most important thing is to make sure that your child is healthy and happy and secure. Other than that, every experience that you get into is going to be different than the last one. You just don't know.
Can a child actor earn more money in commercials than in film or TV?
If it's a union commercial with residuals, it can very well pay more than one episode on a TV show, because the child gets paid every time the spot runs. If it's a non-union commercial, sometimes not. Every job is negotiated differently. For example, if they do a union commercial, you don't know how much it's going to run. You'll get paid your session fee and that's a standard amount of money, but it may run a 100 times in 13 weeks. It may run 2 times in 13 weeks. It may not run at all. Sometimes, you'll shoot a commercial and for some reason, usually it has nothing to do with talent, the spot will get killed and it won't run at all.
What are 'residuals'?
Residuals are payments made to the talent for the use and reuse of the commercial.
Are residuals different for acting in commercials, TV and film?
With residuals, yes there is different pay schedules for each union and each aspect of the hiring. If it's a commercial, there is a category of annual prices that they get paid. If it's TV it's different, if it's film it's different. So you can go online and find out what you are interviewing for, what contract that they're working under and then you'll be able to download the rates to that entity.
How much money can a child actor make for a part in a commercial?
For a part in a commercial, the standard rate is around 500 dollars, or 560 dollars for the session fee. Then, every time the commercial runs, depending where it runs - if it runs in a major market like a big city, or if it runs in the middle of the night in a small town - there is a schedule of rates for payment. So, a child can make anywhere from the session payment if it never runs again, or into the thousands of dollars if it runs quite a bit.
Do child actors get residuals for TV and film roles?
Yes, but they're under different contracts. They're either under AFTRA or SAG theatrical, and it's a pretty complicated payment process. If your child is hired and shoots a job, the best way to find out and educate yourself on how that child is supposed to be paid is to talk to the paymaster on that job.
Do speaking roles for children pay more than non-speaking roles?
It's not really speaking or non-speaking to think about that, it's more estabilished from being a principle or background performer. You'll make more money as an established principle. If you are the main action in the scene, it could be a non-dialogue role, you could basically not say anything but still be the star of the commercial, you'll make the same money as if you said two words. But if you're an extra you won't make the same money if you're not established as the principle. So that's the difference - on camera principle versus extra.
How do I know if a child actor is being cast as a principal performer or as background?
When they call you for the booking, they'll typically say something like, "Jimmy did really great. We want to hire him for next Tuesday. He's going to be hired as an on camera principle and you're going to be contacted by production with further information." Or the conversation could go, "We really like Jimmy. He came in for a principle, but we went with somebody else for the principle. Would he be okay with doing it as an extra for 'x' amount of dollars?" Generally when you get the first audition, you'll know what you're going for. It's not a good idea to go to castings where they're going to bait and switch you. If you go to interview for a principle, you should expect a call for the booking as a principle. Not to say that sometimes they create another role, it could happen, but they have to be clear with you when they book you and tell you what the offer is, so ultimately the performer reserves the right to make the final negotiation, and whether to accept or turn down the job.
How much money can a child actor make for a part in a movie?
It's completely negotiable. Independent films, maybe not so much. For a major film it depends on how much they want your child. It also depends on how good your management agent is, and depends on what the competition is. It's really negotiable.
Do child actors get paid by the day or for the entire role?
My experience is that actors, children or otherwise get paid by the day, unless it's a weekly rate, you're an established part of an ensemble, you're going to be working every week and they're going to do a contract deal for you. But in the world of commercials and print, it's typically a day rate and then either a buy-out or whatever you can negotiate.
What is a 'buyout'?
A buyout means that they are going to pay you a lump sum of money to use that commercial for a specific period of time and in a specific use. If that were to mean we were going to run it on TV for one year, buyouts would be for non-union productions. For a non-union production, if they were going to do a non-union toy commercial and they were going to say, "We are going to use this commercial for a year, and we are going to pay your child $2000 for that use." These are hypothetical numbers because every job is different. At the end of that year, if they wanted to run the commercial more they would have to contact you and say, "Look, we really like it. We want to run it some more. We will pay you some more money to run it." Buyouts can go for three months if it is a Christmas season commercial, or it can go for a year. Some foreign companies who do their productions here in the States could do a buyout for Japan for five years. You just have to look as a parent, and if your child is being offered a role, look and see what they are offering and see if it makes sense and if it's a value to you.