Summarized guidelines of the State of California and the Screen Actors Guild – AFTRA

The following is a series of questions and answers that filmmakers, who plan on employing minors under the age of 18 years for their production, should familiarize themselves with.

To the point of a cliché, it is often said that our children are our future, and those children who are employed in the film industry are no exception. It goes without saying that we should all participate in ensuring the safety, wellbeing, natural development, and solid education of our youth. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, (the most notable example of this is that of Jackie Coogan whose experience as a child actor gave birth to the Coogan Act which is discussed below). It is therefore absolutely necessary to have legal guidelines dictating the proper care and treatment of minors in the workforce.

What persons are defined as minors?

A minor can be defined as any performer/worker that is under the age of 18 except for those who:

  • Have satisfied the compulsory education laws of the state.
  • Are married.
  • Are in the military.
  • Are legally emancipated (unless specified, educational requirements are still mandatory for 3 Hours per day.

What steps must be taken when hiring a minor?

1) Hiring almost always begins with the audition and the Screen Actors Guild-AFTRA (SAG-AFTRA) has very specific guidelines regarding this event. During an interview/audition, a child’s safety, health, and dignity must be protected by the producer and everyone else involved at all times during the session. It is also a requirement that at least two adults are present during the interview, and that all such appointments are held after school hours and end before 8:00 P.M. The rules above apply also to fittings for a minor working in a production.

2) After the auditions, the next step is to ensure that a parent of a hired minor is given all information possible regarding the production itself, and most specifically the type of work their child will be required to do. This will include, but is not limited to, studio, location, estimated hours, hazardous work, and so forth. To summarize: all known terms and conditions of the employment must be disclosed to the parent at the time of hiring.

3) The last step in hiring a minor is actually the responsibility of the parents, however; it is important that a producer is aware of this duty so as to ensure that all legal aspects of this process are followed correctly. The parents of the minor you are employing must provide you with the appropriate legal documents required by the state and local governments in regards to the employment of this minor. After these documents have been acquired, responsibility once again shifts to the producer who must observe all rules and guidelines detailed in, but not limited to, the proper legal documents.

Do i (as a producer) need any permits to legally hire a minor?

Permits are often viewed as bothersome and pointless bits of paper that exist solely to generate revenue for the government and to annoy the person who must obtain it. This is simply not the case when it comes to hiring minors. To begin, the permit that a producer is required to have is free. The purpose of the production company permit is to ensure that all children are being employed by companies that take child safety seriously, and therefore this existence of such a permit is absolutely vital. This permit can be obtained only through the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), and is valid for up to six months. The only catch is that a producer must have proof of insurance to qualify.

Minors themselves must also have a separate “entertainment” work permit to be properly employed, and it is the responsibility of the parent or guardian to initially obtain this permit on behalf of the minor. This permit must be shown as evidence to the production company that the minor can be legally employed on the production. Minor’s Work Permits can also be obtained through the California DLSE.

What is a Coogan Account?

In 1938, an actor by the name of Jackie Coogan sued his parents for the misuse of his earnings as a child actor. This event lead to the Coogan Act which requires that a production company set aside 15% of a minor’s earnings in a special trust fund called a Coogan Account. It is a parent’s responsibility to set up such an account, and an employer’s responsibility (this is handled by a payroll company if one has been hired) to ensure that the 15% is properly withheld and invested in the account. Since the laws regarding Coogan Accounts are ever changing, it’s always a good idea to keep yourself updated by visiting

Are there any health and/or safety requirements that i should know about?

This is a fairly large section because it really is the heart and soul of all guidelines regarding the proper employment of minors. To begin, a parent must be present with their child at all times and has the right to always be within sight and sound of the child. This includes all dressing room situations. It should be noted that a dressing room must NEVER be occupied simultaneously by a minor and an adult performer and/or minors of the opposite sex. Parents are NOT allowed to bring other children with them to a production; i.e., siblings, classmates, friends, etc. In fact, it is forbidden by SAG-AFTRA for a parent to do so.

It goes without saying that a child should never be placed in a situation that could possibly inflict physical harm upon the child. It must be understood that if a child feels that he or she is in any danger during a work situation, then the minor cannot be required to do the performance. Regardless of the legitimacy of a minor’s perception of a “dangerous” work situation, the child’s wishes must always be respected in this situation.

When a minor is hired, a producer must assign a Studio Teacher (ST) to the minor who will be the considered ultimate authority for the “health, safety, and morals” of the minor. A ST is a person who is a certified teacher and holds valid Elementary and Secondary California teaching credentials and has passed a written exam given by the DLSE. The name of the ST must be given to the parent of the minor, and it is encouraged to have the ST and parent of the child meet before the production begins.

A guardian in the place of a parent on set is allowed, but with the requirement that he/she be of at least 18 years old, and have the written permission to act as guardian by the minor’s parents, including medical authorization. During travel, a producer is required to give the parent/guardian the transportation, lodging, and per diem meal allowance that the minor receives. The producer is also required to supply all equipment needed for safety reasons during the production.

Are there any special working conditions/terms that i need to provide?

As we can all vouch for, play time is extremely important to any child. A producer must provide a safe and secure place for a child to rest and play in between work time. In addition to play, meals must be taken into consideration. A producer is required to give a meal break to a child for every six hours of work peformed. The call time designates the start of this work period. Meal breaks for minor’s working in California have a minimum 2 hours length requirement. If a child finishes their meal within the first hour of the break, the second hour can be used for rest or school when reasonable. Travel is also very important, and it should be understood that the travel between a studio and location and back is part of the child’s work day. Turnaround between a minor’s dismissal on one work day to their call time on the next work day must be at least 12 hours.

Does school need to be considered?

Education is absolutely vital to the employment process with regards to minors. The fact that even work hours are subject to school hours should be proof of this. If a minor is made to work during school hours, three hours of schooling (excluding breaks) must be provided daily between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Increments of less than 20 minutes are not counted towards this three hour period. Year-round schedules must now be taken into consideration as the traditional summer break is no longer the standard. There are certain cases in which a minor has already completed their education and therefore these guidelines do not apply. Proof of the fulfillment of this requirement must be presented to the producer.

What about “extras”?

A minor employed as an extra by a production company is allowed the same rights governed by the laws and regulations of the employment of minors even if they only work for one day. If many minors are being employed at once as groups, a “blanket permit” might be an option for a production company in lieu of individual permits for every minor hired. To find out if you qualify for such a permit, inquire at the California DLSE.

What about babies

When employing a baby for a production, the rules are very specific. It is recommended that you have a crib, sterile garments, blankets, and a quiet area at a comfortable temperature for the child. A baby cannot be exposed to a light of greater than 100 foot candlelight intensity for more than thirty seconds at a time. A separate ST is required for babies under six months of age. For babies 15 days to 6 weeks old, a nurse and ST is required for every three babies, and for babies 6 weeks to 6 months old, there must be a ST and nurse for every ten babies. Work hours are usually between 9:30 – 11:30 AM and 2:30 – 4:30 PM and cannot exceed 2 hours.

Are there any work hour restrictions on employing minors?

The work hour restrictions are detailed in the following two tables. It should be noted that the table for SAG-AFTRA is subject to all state laws regarding Work hours for minors and is therefore subject to the California time table as well.

Age Studio Start no earlier than Location Start no earlier than Day preceding school day, no earlier than Day preceding no-school date, end no earlier than Maximum work time, excl. meal time, incl. 5 min breakes
15 Days – 5 Years 7 AM 6 AM 8 PM 10 PM 8 PM
6-8 years 7 AM 6 AM 8 PM 10 PM 8 PM
9-15 years 7 AM 6 AM 8 PM 10 PM 8 PM
l6-l7years 7 AM 6 AM 8 PM 10 PM 8 PM
Age Time on Set Work Time School R and R Meal Total
15 days-6 mos 2 Hours 20 Minuets   100 Minuets 2 2 1/2 Hours
6 mos.-2 yrs. 4 Hours 2 Hours   2 Hours 2 4 1/2 Hours
2 yrs.-5 yrs. 6 Hours 3 Hours   3 Hours 2 6 1/2 Hours
6 yrs.-8 yrs. 8 Hours 4 Hours 3 Hours 1 Hours 2 8 1/2 Hours
  8 Hours 6 Hours Vacation 2 Hours 2 8 1/2 Hours
9 yrs.-15 yrs. 9 Hours 5 Hours 3 Hours 1 Hours 2 9 1/2 Hours
  9 Hours 7 Hours Vacation 2 Hours 2 9 1/2 Hours
16 yrs.-1 7 yrs. 10 Hours 6 Hours 3 Hours 1 Hours 2 10 1/2 Hours
  10 Hours 8 Hours Vacation 2 Hours 2 10 1/2 Hours

Where can i find more information about this topic?

For more information regarding the employment of minors in California go to, California DLSE.

For more information regarding the employment of minors through the SAG-AFTRA go to, SAG-AFTRA.

To learn more about Coogan Accounts and how to set one up go to,