For all actors, safety on the set should be paramount, but even more so when child actors are performing.
Under no circumstances can a child background actor be asked to do scripted or pre-planned stunts. All scripted stunts must be performed by a stunt performer. For non-scripted stunts, there are limited situations where a child background actor can perform stunts, but there are always special considerations. Every child is different in age, size, levels of physicality, maturity and endurance, and producers need to consider these factors before asking minors to engage in activities that could involve some risk. The most important thing to remember is that the child’s guardian or parent needs to assess each situation and do what is best for the child’s well-being.
Before the action begins at rehearsal, the director or the first assistant director, stunt coordinator and safety professional should talk with the minor, the minor’s guardian and the studio teacher to discuss what the stunt will involve. Once again, the child’s parent or guardian must determine the best course of action and needs to give written permission before the minor performs any stunt work. If the child actor or guardian has any reservations at any point in the process, they can request additional safety accommodations, request a re-evaluation or decline to perform the stunt.
The first A.D., stunt coordinator, studio teacher, medic and guardian should all be present during rehearsals, and if any changes are made, they should be discussed and, if needed, a new rehearsal should be arranged.
If a shoot involving minors includes special effects such as smoke, fire, water or heavy machines, it is critical that qualified technicians and medical personnel be present. In the event animals are on the set, an animal handler must be present, and the child actor should interact with the animal only under the handler’s supervision.
Even when a shoot involves no stunts, safety remains a priority. The guardian should always monitor the child; long hours and extreme conditions can take their toll. Plan ahead: If the time will be spent in a cold environment, bring warm clothes, if it will take place in direct sunlight, bring sunscreen, and always ensure the minor has had enough rest.
Safety on the set depends on preparation, vigilance and a thorough understanding of what is expected. Get informed by reading the latest safety bulletins at csatf.org/bulletintro.shtml, and stay safe. Also, contact SAG-AFTRA at (323) 549-6855 or your local office to let the union know of any hazardous activity involving a young performer. Safety should always be the highest priority.