All children need encouragement and recognition and to know that they are loved and accepted.
Performing demands focus, determination and hard work. Working on-set involves long hours and sometimes difficult working conditions. Because of these things it is important that children and their parents pursue this career path for the right reasons.
Many children become performers because, from an early age, they are outgoing, confident and want to perform. Under the watchful eye of a responsible, caring parent, these children can have a rewarding experience in film, television or commercials.
Resources for Parents
ACTRA Toronto’s Child Advocate
Christina Collins is ACTRA Toronto’s Advocate for Child Performers, as well as a working performer herself. Contact Christina at 416-928-2278, ext. 6605 or by email.
ACTRA Toronto and Holland Bloorview Parent Session
Watch a recording of an ACTRA Toronto Stage Parent Zoom seminar that was held on January 26, 2021 in conjunction with Holland Bloorview.
The Stage Parent’s Survival Guide
First published in 2002, The Stage Parent Survival Guide by Robyne Baruchel is an invaluable resource for parents and guardians of school-aged children in the Canadian film and TV industry.
The Guide spells out all of the rules negotiated and enforced by ACTRA to protect and support underage performers.
Click here to leaf through or download a pdf version, or come in to the ACTRA Toronto office to pick up your own copy. Either way, you’ll be glad you did.
Four Simple Points for Parents to Remember
1. You are not alone.
As a parent of a child working in film, television and commercials, you want to fully understand your child’s rights and working conditions under ACTRA agreements. Remember to ask questions. A legitimate talent agent will help guide most business decisions and, as always, ACTRA is here to help you.
2. ACTRA Agreements
ACTRA agreements set minimum terms and working conditions for ACTRA members, including your child. ACTRA members are free to negotiate up from these minimums but cannot negotiate below them. Ask your child’s agent which ACTRA agreement applies to the production and get a copy of that agreement from the ACTRA Toronto office or the ACTRA National website (ACTRA Agreements). You’ll have lots of time on set to read the agreement but make sure to familiarize yourself with the minors section before arriving on set.
Regulations in the Independent Production Agreement (IPA) and National Commercial Agreement (NCA) protect child performers. The government has also worked with the industry to set up the Child Performers Guideline to protect child performers as well as the Protecting Child Performers Act.
ACTRA Business Representatives and On-Set Liaison Officers (OSLOs) visit sets often and rely on you to inform them if these terms and conditions are being breached. You are the front line of defense to protect your child and ACTRA is only a phone call away.
3. Safety and Well-Being
You, or a chaperone appointed by you, must accompany your child under the age of 16. A parent/guardian or chaperone must be at the studio or accessible to the child at all times when the child is on set and must go with the child to and from the set or location. Stay with your child.
4. Don’t Forget to Be a Parent
You are the best judge of your child’s capabilities. If a production makes a special request that you are uncomfortable with, or if you believe your child’s health or welfare is being threatened, speak up on behalf of your child. Call your child’s agent. Call ACTRA Toronto (416.928.2278).
When it comes to protecting children – there are no stupid questions. Call ACTRA if you believe your child may be in physical danger or is being worked overtime.
Parents’ Frequently Asked Questions
How long can my child work?
Under the Independent Production Agreement (IPA) covering film and television work, children under the age of 12 may only work 8 hours plus one hour for lunch. Under the Commercial Agreement the same applies to children aged 15 and under. Exceptions are made for children aged 12 to 15 under certain circumstances.
Time spent under hot lights varies according to age. Please check the agreement your child is working under for more details.
How will my child be paid?
Minimum fees are outlined in the various ACTRA agreements. Never let your child work without a signed contract in place. With the completion of a contracted role, payments will flow either to you or your child’s agent. Income tax is not generally deducted at source.
The agent’s commission is based on gross fees. Other deductions will include contributions to the insurance and retirement plan with the Actra Fraternal Benefit Society (AFBS), ACTRA member dues, and the minors’ trust fund.
Under ACTRA agreements, a portion of the income of performers who have not reached the age of 18 is set aside for their use once they reach legal majority. You can learn more about the amounts and procedures for the Minor’s Trust through the ACTRA Performers’ Rights Society site.
What should I know about auditions?
Your child’s agent will call you with the time and place, and details such as the names of the project, director, producer, casting director and ad agency if it’s a commercial audition. Keep a work diary to record this information; this will become very important should your child be booked.
Take special note of shoot dates and inform your agent immediately of any scheduling conflict. Otherwise your child will be expected to be available on the shoot dates.
Auditions must be held a reasonable length of time after school hours. Always arrive 10 to 15 minutes early and make sure you’ve read the breakdowns and scripts that your agent has provided. If you’re attending a commercial audition, remember to fill out the ACTRA sign-in sheets.
What about missing school?
If your child is going to miss at least two (2) school days in a given week or 5 days over the course of the whole production or television episode, the IPA (film, TV, animation, new media) requires that productions provide a qualified on-set tutor for your child. You will be responsible for coordinating work assignments between the school and set. Production is obliged to provide the curriculum outlined by your child’s principal. Please contact the ACTRA Toronto Children’s Advocate for more information.
What about insurance & retirement benefits?
The Actra Fraternal Benefit Society (AFBS) handles insurance and retirement benefits. Please direct your questions about your child’s insurance and retirement benefits to email@example.com. AFBS can also be reached at (416) 967-6600 or toll free at 1-800-387-8897.
Tips for Parents and Children On-Set
Work on a film, television, radio program or commercial is work, so please encourage your child to take it seriously.
- Help your child understand the nature of his or her role and follow instructions if needed. Although a child’s moods can be unpredictable, as an attending parent or chaperone it’s your responsibility to ensure your child cooperates with any reasonable request. Always keep in mind that your child has been hired to perform as instructed, provided these instructions don’t violate ACTRA agreements and are not uncomfortable for either you or your child.
- If your child is asked to do something that feels wrong, trust your instincts. You have a right to say ‘no,’ or call ACTRA Toronto.
- If your child has a potential emotional or physical reaction such as fear of heights, which may affect his or her performance, or an allergy, always tell the producers at the time of booking. ACTRA agreements contain clauses that protect minors from performing subject matter of a psychologically damaging nature.
- It’s your right and responsibility to be near where your child is working and to have contact with him or her between takes. Don’t leave, even if production staff say, “stay clear” on a tight set.
- Make sure your child is well rested and prepared to do his or her best work. Producers rely on you to honestly tell them how your child is feeling and whether this may jeopardize the next day’s shooting schedule. If your child is old enough to be asked to work overtime (ages 12 to 15) but he or she is overtired – just say no!
- The set is not a social club or childcare centre. Siblings, friends and relatives should not be invited to come on set and watch your child perform. Obtain clearances long before the production date if you must bring another individual with you.
- Make sure you know exactly when and where your child should report for work and note this in your diary.
- Make sure you know what you’re expected to provide for your child on the shoot, such as clothing and toys.
- There may be a lot of waiting time on set, so bring books, quiet games and other material to occupy younger children.
- Although you may be told that the shoot may take less time than the maximum allowed for children under ACTRA agreements, you should be prepared to stay until the contracted and allowable time limit for your child is reached. Productions frequently take longer than anticipated, so book babysitters and other activities accordingly.
- Ask if transportation is provided. If it is, make sure you know where to get the bus or van and at what time. Leave yourself lots of time to get there and remember to account for travel time when booking babysitters.
Here’s a one-pager you can print out with Tips for Parents!
Ask Tabby & Tova!
Tabby Johnson is a former ACTRA Toronto Child Advocate. Theresa Tova is the ACTRA National Child Advocate. Together they are Tabby & Tova, a fund of information and a great resource for child performers and their parents.
You’ll find some of their answers to frequently asked questions from parents of children who work as performers below. Or, click on the video link below and get the full Tabby & Tova experience.
Important Info for Parents and/or Guardians
If you’re a parent and/or guardian of a child performer in Ontario, here’s some information you need to know.
CHILDREN HAVE PROPERTY RIGHTS IN ONTARIO.
As a parent and/or guardian who receives money or property on behalf of a minor in Ontario, you may have specific obligations under the law. It’s up to you to know and understand those obligations and to act in accordance with the law.
ACTRA Toronto cannot provide you with legal advice but here are some starting points for learning about your obligations:
Please note the disclaimer: This brochure is not intended as a substitute for legal advice from your lawyer. It has been prepared to assist parents, caregivers of children and members of the legal profession. This brochure describes guardianship of property of minor children in Ontario only; each province of Canada has its own laws about children’s property.
If you have further questions after reviewing the brochure, you may wish to contact: The Office of the Children’s Lawyer
The Office of the Children’s Lawyer is a law office in the Ministry of the Attorney General which delivers programs in the administration of justice on behalf of children under the age of 18 with respect to their personal and property rights.