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A child actor on a film set – fun or hard work?

The history of cinematography has seen many unforgettable creations by child actors. Many stars started their careers as children, like Leonardo DiCaprio in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”, Natalie Portman in the great “Léon: The Professional” or Tatum O’Neal, the youngest person to be awarded an Oscar for “Paper Moon”. Work in the film industry is commonly associated with spotlights, red carpets, fame and success. In practice, however, it can be very stressful, difficult and even dangerous. The final effect we see in cinemas consists of many complex factors. To protect the rights of young actors, the Polish legislature has introduced regulations which control the time and conditions of children’s work on film sets.

What formalities must be met to hire a young actor?

The Ministery of Culture and National Heritage’s Regulation on health and safety in film production states that children taking part in shooting must be accompanied by their guardians or other adults authorised by them. The terms of working or other commercial activities are regulated by the Labour Code.

First of all, a child’s work on set cannot exceed 6 hours (working during the night, or from 8PM to 6AM, is forbidden). The six-hour work day is closely and carefully monitored by The National Labour Inspector. In some cases, the relevant labour inspector was informed about a breach of work hours specified in the Regulation after it occurred, which led to penalties being imposed on the producer of that particular production. The presence of a parent or legal guardian, who has been familiarised with the health and safety rules which apply on set, is also obligatory.

In accordance with art.3045 of the Labour Code, performing work or other commercial activities by a child under the age of 16 is only allowed for entities involved in cultural, artistic, sports or advertising activities and requires the prior consent of the child’s legal representative (parent) or guardian. The written consent of the aforementioned persons, or a court-appointed guardian, in the case of children from orphanages, is necessary for a child to take a job

If the child is subject to compulsory education, the opinion of the Head of the school attended by the child, concerning the possibility of fulfilling his or her school obligations during the period of work on set, is also required.

In addition, you will need an opinion from a psychological and pedagogical counselling centre stating a lack of objections to the child working or performing other commercial activities. The psychologist will examine the child’s emotional development, intelligence and susceptibility to stress in order to check if the child will be able to deal with the process of shooting specific scenes. It is worth noting that this requirement is subject to zoning, which means that you cannot just go to a friendly psychologist who will write a positive opinion without batting an eye. It is important to remember that the child’s welfare is the most important thing, not the parents’ excessive ambitions. In some cases a psychologist is needed on set, like on the set of Martin Scorsese’s cult “Taxi Driver” during difficult scenes with teenage Jodie Foster.

What should the Labour Inspector’s authorisation include?

After gathering the aforementioned documents and opinions, the parent or guardian (or agent, if the child belongs to an actors’ agency which deals with these formalities) reports to the relevant Labour Inspector in order to obtain authorisation, which should include:

-the personal data of the child and their legal representative or guardian,

-the name of the entity performing or operating the business,

-a description of the type of work or commercial activity which may be performed by the child,

-a description of the maximum duration of the child’s work or commercial activity,

-a description of the acceptable work hours of the child’s work or commercial activity,

-other necessary arrangements required for the child’s well being or the type, nature or conditions of the child’s work or commercial activity.

If the parents or guardians do not present this authorisation, the child may not be employed, even with the consent of their parents or legal guardians. The relevant Labour Inspector will refuse to issue an authorisation if the performance of the work or commercial activity poses a threat to the child’s life, health, psychological or physical development or if it risks jeopardising the child’s education. The Inspector may withdraw the authorisation at the request of the parent, or if they decide that the child’s working conditions do not correspond to those described in the authorisation.

According to the National Labour Inspector, these requirements must be respected whether the production is a feature-length film or an advertisement lasting a few seconds. The child’s role is also irrelevant, whether they play a lead role or appear as an extra. While in the case of shooting a two-hour drama film or thriller the legislature’s requirements do not seem to be formalised, this restrictive approach does not seem justified in the case of shooting short advertisements for food chains, especially the necessity of obtaining the opinion of a psychological and pedagogical counselling centre.

Employment contract or specific task contract/mandate?

Under the legislation currently in force, the basis for children’s work in culture and advertising is not clearly regulated. Should it be based on an employment contract or a civil-law agreement? It seems that children should be employed on the basis of other employment agreements, such as law-civil agreements, i.e., specific task contracts or mandates. However, according to the Civil Code, these agreements may be made by the child’s legal representative if the child is under 13, or with their parents’ consent if they are aged between 13 and 18. Regardless of the type of contract you are signing, you are obliged to obtain the aforementioned permits, opinions and the Labour Inspector’s authorisation.

Creativity, new forms of artistic expression and innovation are vital in the film industry. Before a groundbreaking film oeuvre is made, we must remember about imposed requirements. It is the production manager’s task to meet the aforementioned requirements and to look out for the child’s safety on set. Otherwise, the Labour Inspector may be making a guest appearance at the production… 🙂

#actor #advertising #children on the plan #contract of employment #film #producer #production manager

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