Monday, June 18, 2007
Slate has a story on the rules governing infant actors in Hollywood. These rules include:
- Unlike several states with no age restrictions, in California "infants can start working when they're 15 days old, provided that they (or their parents) have a work permit and a note from a licensed physician. According to the California labor code, the note must attest that the child was not born prematurely, was of normal birth weight, and is, in the doctor's opinion, 'physically capable of handling the stress of filmmaking.' Also, the child's lungs, eyes, heart, and immune system must be ''sufficiently developed to withstand the potential risks.'"
- "Along with outlawing infants under 2 weeks old, it's also a violation of state law to cast preemies. That practice was outlawed in California in 1998 due to protestations from child-labor advocates and the Screen Actors Guild. According to a 1996 Washington Post story, for example, one child advocate alleged that 1-month-old twins who were born two months premature had been slathered with cream cheese and jelly for a birth scene."
- "Screen Actors Guild guidelines  cover condiment usage. Grape, red currant, and cherry jelly can be used to simulate birth-related fluids. Strawberry, raspberry, and K-Y jellies are a no-no, for fear of allergic reactions."
- "In California, infants under 6 months are allowed on-set for two hours a day, but their actual workday can't exceed 20 minutes. For every three children of ages between 15 days and 6 weeks, there must be one nurse and one studio teacher; California law also requires that a parent or guardian be in attendance. Most productions set up trailers equipped with cribs where babies remain with their parents, guardians, and nurses before their scenes."
One interesting aspect of these rules is that they show the influence of union collective bargaining. Infants are eligble for SAG membership, but "[m]ost parents don't bother signing up their newborns . . . because children under 4 are protected under the same terms as a SAG contract even if they aren't union members." Those terms include a salary scale under which infants are usually classified as "'background actors' and receive a day rate of $126. If an agent or parent bargains for the child to be paid as a principal performer, the rate increases to $737 per day."
When my son was an infant, he cried enough on his own to dissuade me from ever considering putting him in a situation where he would cry even more. Although it would've been nice to get union wages every time the tears flowed.