Filming with Child Actors

Hai guys ♥

I often talk about my biggest hurdles and worries about making Frozen Lake on this blog  & today is going to be no different – how am I going to film with a child actor?

One of the main protagonist in Frozen Lake is Maya: a troubled and feisty 14 year old of Indian and Welsh descent.

I was trawling through acting agencies’ websites, looking at all the potentially girls who could play Maya, when it finally hit me:

There’s probably laws on child actors, right? 

I wasn’t completely clueless like I was about film insurance (which you can read about here: Film Insurance?) but I wasn’t fully in the know about the ins & outs of filming with under 18s. I thought you’d ask the parents, get consent, keep the kid safe, don’t overwork them and all would be fine – apparently not.

Research needed to be done & I crawled back to my mistress: Google.

You obviously need parental permission. That much was obvious.


Did you know that if your actor is under 16 you need to contact your local authority to apply for a child performance license?
Did you even know child performance licenses existed?
I sure didn’t.

You can only obtain a child performance license from your local authority if you have taken precautions for the child’s mental and physical safety, and if you are in no way effecting the child’s education (which could require hiring a private tutor for the child). You will need to supply a detailed timetable and schedule of the child’s work hours and what exactly they will be doing in those hours.
You may also need to provide a medical report on the child to show that he/she is fit to perform/work as well as legal documents such as the child’s birth certificate, passport photo & of course you will need signed consent from the child’s guardian.

What complicates my situation further is that I plan on doing some of the filming outside the UK, which requires a whole different license :  “Young Persons Employment Abroad” license.
It’s not the authorities who supply this license either, it’s the local Magistrates Courts.
This requires the same information as the other license, but it also requires proof of arrangements such as safe transport, approved accommodation as well as a license from the local authorities of the country the child is to perform in.

There’s more.
If the child is not with his/her guardian or carer then you must apply for someone to be their chaperone and they too must be approved by the parents and the local authority.

Furthermore, child actor can only perform for a certain amount of hours per week, this includes rehearsals, warm-up, wardrobe and make-up. As soon as the child is on set the clock will begin to tick.
It depends on the age, but a child between the age of 9 – 16, can only be on location for 9.5 hours and can only perform for 5 hours and it has to be between 7am and 11pm.
Though they can perform 5 hours a day, they can only perform for 2.5 consecutive hours and require a 45 minute break for lunch, a 15 minute short break and around three hours of education.
Also the child cannot take part in another rehearsal or shoot until 16 hours have passed since the last performance and can only perform for six consecutive days in 8 weeks (and will require a two week break afterwards).

& even after you’ve planned and factored in all these elements, you are still at the risk of being rejected for the license.

There is an awful lot of stuff to consider when working with child actors – and this law has a criminal charge attached to it if you break these regulations.

As filmmakers, we must do our upmost to keep our actors, especially child actors, happy, healthy and safe.

Having said that I may just ditch all this and try to find an 18 year old who looks young to play Maya! ★



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