What to do when your child works on TV, Stage or Film?
Child Licences – what a minefield to be asked to write about? This subject is one of the biggest problems we agents face, when representing child performers. It is also a big postcode lottery.
My company always licence children for any jobs that come through us. Which is usually hundreds a day. We specialise in Feature Films, Films, TV and Commercials, with a number of our children also playing lead roles in West End Musical Theatre.
This is how it works.
You sign with an agent, you need one fantastic head and shoulders photograph of the child, (which usually agents subsidise – we do) so it would cost you approx £40 for the shoot, and one photo (to use on Spotlight). Then all the leading agents in the whole of the UK are involved in a very safe and secure website and publication, called THE SPOTLIGHT.
You have to be approved as an agent to be included, and the agent has to prove that the child has trained to a certain level. Make no mistake – this is the only way children should work. Agents own casting books are totally out of date almost by the time they are sent out. Teeth drop out, braces are fitted, haircuts etc. Spotlight can change a photo in 1 hour if it is out of date.
When you are with Spotlight it is the whole industry website, 90% of all the major work for main agents from industry professionals comes from Spotlight. It costs a parent approximately £95 a year to go on, in addition to the cost of the photo. No hidden costs.
Once a child is put forward to a client, a client would then select down to a short list and ask to meet the performer. Following the audition hopefully you would be offered the role. That is when the problems start. The turnaround time of a commercial is approximately 2 weeks from start to finish.
Once a child starts to be offered auditions then it is great if the parents could diary and make sure that an up to date medical is always in place. They are valid for approximately 6 months from the date that the medical is signed.
This saves lots of time when the job is offered. You need to supply the council with a copy of Birth Certificate, School letter, Medical, Passport Photos, copy of the Contract, and a large form which is filled in by the parent, client, and agent.
All of this is then taken to your local Council, and starts to be processed.
Once the council are happy with the arrangements for the safety and well being of the child, they are at liberty to grant the licence. The amount of time a child can work depends on the age of the performer. You need a licence even if it is the school holidays and you are only working for an hour! So don’t let anyone tell you anything different!
I feel as an agent that I am looking after your most precious person in the world, and it is my duty to make sure that everything is above board, which would then mean that if the company (i.e. CBBC, Disney plc) is used to licensing, then they have nothing to hide. They have also taken responsibility for Safety and Insurance for the Child, Catering, Rest Breaks, licensed chaperones, Transport and at the end of the day paying the fee for the performer, and giving them wonderful memories of the day.
If you are ever with an agent who does not licence, please think twice?
Although it is not my favorite task it is for the total protection of the child.