Listed below is information to assist production in the appropriate dealings with minors. Of course, we welcome you to use the search bar on this site and peruse all the info about working with child actors, such as How to Learn Lines with Kids, or Child Actor Safety. Much of the information on this page is specific to California productions because most of the studios are based in California, and thus their contracts reference California law, even when they are filming elsewhere.
If you have any questions or if we can assist you in making your production run smoothly, please contact us! We’d love to make your job easier!
Pro Tip: Casting a child actor takes TIME. It should be addressed right at the beginning of pre-production. A child’s presence will trigger labor law compliance, and action from many of your departments. Do not wait to have these discussions!
- You have probably already found the advantages of Film Incentives. If you haven’t, here is an Interactive Map from Media Services that will give you the 411. This is important for child actors because you will need to be sure you are actually hiring local. Many parents and kids’ agents are under the mistaken impression that if they can travel, they can be considered local. Please review the requirements for your incentives and communicate the requirements to casting carefully.
- Determine which state labor laws you are working under. You may find that it is both California AND the state you are actually filming in. We have information on this site for New York, Louisiana, Georgia, New Mexico, New Jersey and Pennsylvania because they are the states with extensive child labor laws for entertainment. Also note that reality shows and influencers are expressly covered by law in some states.
- Determine the appropriate union. Yes, child actors must join unions too! Contrary to popular belief, Taft-Hartley fines don’t typically apply to children, since SAG-AFTRA does not claim preference of employment for them. You will still have to follow the rest of SAG-AFTRA’s regulations though. Children get paid exactly the same as adults in SAG-AFTRA projects. A summary of the SAG-AFTRA rates by contract are here at Wrapbook.If you are governed by California law, you will find that the law is more stringent than SAG-AFTRA contracts so you will need to follow the law. For other states, you will find that most contract provisions are aligned with state law. Please note: There IS NO ACCURATE DATABASE of laws for every state. The closest thing is a page at SAG-AFTRA, but even that is not perfect, since many of the links go to state pages for child labor in fast food settings (doesn’t apply). Our suggestion is to check with the local film office.
- Determine how old the child you need really is, not how old the character is. Both laws and union regulations vary by age. Many producers find that they can save significant time and money by hiring children that are slightly older, buying them another hour or two of shooting time each day, or avoiding the required 3 hours of school time by using an actor who qualifies as 18 To Play Younger (18TPY). DO NOT SAY YOU WANT AN EMANCIPATED MINOR. We promise: this isn’t really what you want. For more details on the advantages of hiring an actor who is 18TPY, see our page on Emancipation / CHPSE.
- Plan to get the appropriate permits. In some states, the child work permit and the employer permit are BOTH obtained from the Department of Labor by the employer. In California, the employer must get a Permit to Employ Minors AND the child must have a valid Entertainment Work Permit. These things take time. Do not wait until the day before the child arrives on set to handle it!
- Avoid the temptation to cast based on social media. Kids are not legally even allowed to be on social media until they are 13 (COPPA laws). Social media for young actors is especially dangerous. Please do not be part of this significant industry problem by asking for social media friend/follower counts when casting. Do not use social media as a casting platform — professional film makers use professional casting directors, industry standard sites, and licensed talent agents. Instead, plan to give your actors opportunities for publicity within YOUR professionally managed accounts. Don’t expect children to promo your film on their own accounts.
- Decide who else you need to hire. In California, you may need a uniquely state-licensed studio teacher/welfare worker, but in NY it could only be a wrangler (different qualfications). In some states, a parent is acceptable, but you will need to budget for per diem and travel for them.
- Plan to keep our kids safe, no matter how inconvenient. For example, a parent should ALWAYS be within in sight and sound of their child. Yes, it is an additional warm body on set, but if space is a problem you will need to find a tech answer, such as a live stream nearby. Another non-negotiable? Work hours. Do not exceed work hours for children. Really. These things will protect your insurance and your liability.
- Be aware that the child’s money is protected and check with your payroll company. In most states, and in union projects, a trust account is required for child actors. Sadly, this money often gets “lost” by production and doesn’t get paid to the child. Please don’t let this be your company. Notify your AD and your payroll company that there is a child working on set and that there will be a trust account deposit (we have some tools for this below). In California, the Coogan law requires you to give the parent a receipt showing that you got their Coogan account information. Your payroll company likely has procedures specific to Coogan. As an example, WrapBook has a great Coogan page that covers much fo the history and a producer’s responsibilities.
- Double check the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Bulletins — several are specific to child actors! These are agreed upon safety industry norms in the motion picture industry for physical safety. If you have an on-set accident, or were to get sued later, there is no doubt these bulletins would be brought into evidence. They things things like working with animals, stunts, vehicles, weapons, excessive heat and cold and more. Take minute to review the list and make note of the topics applicable to your project. You can find all the Safety Bulletins at Contract Services.
CA: A Note About Work Permits
California Work Permits
The Department of Labor Standards Enforcement is the entity to obtain a Permit to Employ Minors (the permit productions get) and Entertainment Work Permits (the 6-month permit each child must get). Much of their staff continues to work from home post-COVID, so permit issuance can be sketchy at best. Over-the-counter, same-day permits are (usually a thing of the past). Don’t delay in addressing this. If the child actor you cast has an expired permit, they cannot legally work. If your talent has not received their permit renewal by three days before the shoot date, they may ask you for a letter to expedite their permit process. Please confirm the child’s name, the fact that they are employed, date and name of the job, include a signature on your company letterhead and email it to both emails: Ewpemail@example.com AND firstname.lastname@example.org.
Links and Resources for Producers
Legal Work Hours for Minors in California
Please see our section on State Laws — specific requirements (permits, work hours, etc) exist for MA, PA, GA, NY, NJ, LA, NM in addition to CA. We have summaries for each state in plain English. Note that if you Google for this information, you will likely find child labor laws that are NOT about entertainment.
Receipt of Coogan Sample Form — Please instruct your AD to give this to parent. It is required by law in CA.
Note that Background Actors Do Not Participate in Coogan (AB533, 2014)
18 To Play Younger Info
Note to producers: 99% of the time you do NOT want an emancipated minor. Emancipation will not exempt you from schooling or studio teachers. If you are seeking increased work hours, and budget savings from a minor not attending school within the work day, you really want an actual 18 year old, a high school grad or CHSPE certificate holder. This grid details the benefits of each child status for California. Note that NY has no function for CHSPE or early high school graduation relieving them of child labor law requirements as NY law is based solely on the age of 18.
Emancipation Grid 2020
California Permit Links
Application for a Permit to Employ Minors
Application for a Blanket Permit (defined group of 10 more background actors — think baseball team or marching band)
10 Day Temporary Child Permit Information (last minute hires of first time performers)
Verify a Child’s Work Permit Online
New York Permit Links
California Studio Teachers and IATSE
Search for a Licensed Studio Teacher (union and non-union)
Legitimate producers do not troll social media for actors, and they do not approach child actors directly. Please keep children safe by ONLY using industry-standard websites, by hiring a casting director, and by working through licensed talent agents.
Breakdown Services /The Grid
Casting Networks (CNI)
Casting Society of America
Other California Laws You Need to Know
There are several actor-specific laws that producers need to comply with, outside of union rules:
Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act — you cannot charge actors for parts in a movie, and your casting directors may not charge for auditions.
Child Performer Protection Act — anyone who works with children outside of your on-set crew, will need FBI fingerprint clearance and a permit from the Dept of Labor. Your casting directors are exempt from this as long as they only have “incidental contact” with children, meaning 10 minutes or less (CDs may not teach them in a class without a permit). Licensed studio teachers already get fingerprints so they are also exempt from this law.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
As an employer, you need to know that sexual harassment with a minor is actually child abuse. You could be held liable and criminally prosecuted. A package of laws was passed on September 2020 that requires employers provide sexual harassment training to all employees. It also requires child actors 14 years old and up to take sexual harassment training in order to get their entertainment work permit. The training is 2 hours long and is provided by the state for free here.
**NEW: YOU MUST HAVE MANDATED CHILD ABUSE REPORTERS. AB1963 was passed as part of this package of laws. The specific language is, “A human resource employee of a business that employs minors or a person whose duties require direct contact with and supervision of minors in the performance of the minors’ duties in the workplace.” Click here for more:
Sexual Harassment and Child Abuse Prevention
A Note about Justice When Things Go Wrong — You Have the Power
Many producers understandably roll their eyes at cases of sexual harassment (#MeToo), child sexual abuse (#NoMoreVictims), or workplace accidents (think of the movies Midnight Rider or Rust). We get it — it is tough to understand what victims really want, even if you suspect some wrong-doing might have actually happened. You might even wonder why you have to jump through hoops and censor yourself, when YOU didn’t do anything wrong. Or you might wonder how many victims are “just in it for they money”.
Above, we note that there are laws that require you to care, as a producer/director. It comes with the territory. In addition, we want to share what victims are seeking. Spoiler: it isn’t money. Almost all the time, they want justice, and they want the behavior to stop — they don’t want it to happen to them, or to anyone else. That is completely in YOUR control and it won’t cost you a dime.
What does “justice” look like? It looks like a change in the workplace environment. It means you actually put the “bad guy” on leave until you investigate, and you fire them if you find any evidence (even if they were your college roomate). It means you genuinely pause, and open your mind to the idea that the bad behavior may have occurred. It means you hold bystanders accountable, you train them, and you expect them to do better in the future. It does NOT mean an NDA, no matter what your lawyer says. It does not mean public shaming in any direction. It means allowing victims to recover and thrive. YOU have that ability. We encourage you to read this article (1 min) and consider your power, the power to deliver justice and make our industry a better place for all creatives. What True Justice Looks Like for Sexual Violence Survivors (2023) by Judith Herman, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, for Time Magazine.