Considering the welfare of working children
The following CIF articles directly relate to the working minor's safety (physically and emotionally). As industry professionals, we advise you to stay abreast of such topics not only for the protection of the minors with whom you work, but also for your own legal protection. As parents, we encourage you to be informed by soaking up the following information. Doing so will increase your child's success in more ways than one.
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Responsible Producing Articles:
Industry Predators: Where Are They Now?
The Downside of Anonymity
The Reality Behind Reality TV
Creating an Adequate Educational Environment
The Morality Clause
Working with Children in an Adult Environment
Industry Scoundrels: Where Are They Today?
Children In Film followed up on two of 2011/2012's most highly-profiled sexual abuse cases within the entertainment industry. CIF looked in to the details of what these industry professionals were charged with, found out what the outcome of the charges were, and learned where they are now:
Former Title: Talent Manager, Martin Weiss Management
Backstory: Martin Weiss was an established talent manager of Martin Weiss Management in Los Angeles for many years where he worked with a variety of young talent. He also ran Two Weiss Guys Productions. Martin Weiss repped child actors that had landed roles on such series as Nickelodeon's iCarly and Disney's Good Luck Charlie.
The Accusation: In late 2011 a teenager came to the police with the claim that Weiss had molested him from 2005 to 2008 when he was a client. The victim, according to the authorities, was 11 years old when the abuse started and reported that Weiss told him "what they were doing was common practice in the entertainment industry." In December of 2011, The District Attorney's office charged Weiss with three counts of sodomy of a person under 16; two counts each of lewd acts upon a child an continuous sexual abuse: and one count of a forcible lewd act upon a child.
The Outcome: Weiss dissolved his talent management company immediately following his December arrest. In June of 2012, he pleaded no contest to two charges of oral copulation with a child under the age of 14 and was sentenced to a year in jail and five years probation; the sentence was suspended for time served, and he was released. Weiss is required to register as a sex offender and enter a treatment program. He is not permitted to be in the presence of anyone under 18 without another adult present.
Where is He Today?: Martin Weiss is out of jail. He currently resides in North Hollywood, California and is listed as a sex offender in the National Sex Offender Public Website [www.nsopw.org]. He no longer represents children.
Jason James Murphy
Former Title: Casting Associate by the name of Jason James
Backstory: In 1996, Jason James Murphy was convicted and served five years in prison for crimes against a boy whom he had met while working as a camp counselor. After being charged with molesting the child, Murphy abducted him from school and took him to New York where he was later arrested and convicted of kidnapping. After his incarceration, Murphy moved to Los Angeles, changed his name to Jason James, and found work as a Casting Associate on several high-profile projects that included child actors such as Super 8 and The Three Stooges.
The Accusation: Jason James Murphy was accused of, and later charged with, failure to report his address change and his name change to Jason James as is required by the California Megan's law - felonies that together carry a maximum sentence of three years in state prison. He was also accused of being in violation of the California law which prohibits "working directly and in an unaccompanied setting with minor children on more than an incidental and occasional basis or having supervision or disciplinary power of minor children" if the minor is younger than 16.
The Outcome: In May of 2012, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge dismissed the criminal case saying that Murphy consistently provided his real name, driver's license and passport to the movie studios that employed him.
Where is He Today?: Jason James Murphy currently resides in Seattle, Washington where he is registered as a sex offender [NSOPW.org]. His IMDB profile lists no additional film work since his arrest, although two projects he previously worked on are still due to release.
The Downside of Anonymity
In a recent episode of The View (Season 14; Episode 58), the hosts gathered around their table and up popped the topic of internet anonymity.
"I noticed that on Twitter, the ones who are nasty don't have pictures," commented Joy Bahar.
Whoopie Goldberg responded, "You don't have to have proof. You can just say anything you want and not show your face. When someone attacks from behind a "door," or tries to assassinate you emotionally, it's just very peculiar to me."
The women of The View make points which ChildrenInFilm.com was built to address. Since the inception of ChildrenInFilm.com, the focus has been on creating a recommendation system that attaches your profile link to your responses, thus providing a solution to this ongoing spread of misinformation, gossip and even slander.
Have you ever heard the expression, "If you have something to say, say it to my face" or how about, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"?
When it comes to anonymity there are a few things we at CIF aim to address:
Accuracy of Information: Before you go changing your child's headshot because you read on a forum that black and white is in (which it isn't, by the way), know your source. Check, and then double check the facts. Anyone can leave a comment on the internet and they don't need proof to back it up. There are a variety of reasons someone may leave false information. Whether it is malicious intent to sabotage, promotional or marketing efforts for a particular company, or for mere lack of knowledge, false information can hamper your efforts.
Obsessive Behaviors: Stressing about the information you read from anonymous sources on the internet can have a detrimental psychological effect on you and your child performer. Simply put, hearsay is almost always harmful.
Unhealthy Gossip: CIF parents have reported that competitive parents can make the industry challenging. Additionally, the media thrives on perpetuating negative talk about Hollywood stars. The fact is, your children are not immune to this type of detrimental behavior today, and they won't be in the future as their careers progress.
"These unknown people are out there," said Joy Bahar, "who nobody knows who you are and you can write the most vicious things. It's very cowardly in a way."
"That's why Heidi Montag had plastic surgery," said Star Jones. "She'd read these things on forums."
Parents must encourage healthy gossip now and discourage the spread of negative commentary so as to set an example to their children.
Children In Film suggests that if you have something to say, say it outright and sign your name to it. We feel so strongly about this that we have a number of ways you can voice your non-anonymous opinion. They include our Recommendation system which allows parents to let other parents know when they've received a good service, our Facebook page which we monitor regularly and where thoughts can be shared, and our feedback surveys. We highly encourage positive feedback so that we set good examples for healthy gossip for future generations. Had a negative experience? Give the service provider a negative star rating and leave it at that. This allows you to "warn" other parents and voice your opinion efficiently without complicating the matter.
Afraid that speaking the truth will hurt your child's chances of success? We've contacted a number of Industry Pros and asked them just that. What have we found? Some pros report that they often hear incorrect information being spread and that those parents circulating forums and spreading misinformation are frowned upon. A parent who speaks her mind? Most Pros are saying that even if the information isn't in their favor, they respect gained for telling the truth and not hiding behind a computer screen will win out in the end. Some say that if the information is negative, they may change their opinion of the person.
Here's What Industry Pros are Saying:
When asked about their general opinion of anonymous forums...
Only one industry pro surveyed indicated that s/he thought anonymous forums were useful to parents.
... 40% said they are mostly useful, but occasionally parents get misinformation
... 34 % said parents think they are useful, but they are mostly a way of spreading misinformation
... 14% said they are detrimental to parents and children in the industry
When asked if they participated in anonymous forums...
... 47% of industry pros surveyed said they do not participate.
...34% said they only participate in respected/established/reputable forums
When asked if they would think differently of the parent if s/he was voicing an opinion openly (avoiding anonymity)...
...54% said they would respect the parent for speaking their truth, non-anonymously, regardless of what it was
...29% said if the comment was a negative one, the opinion of the person may change
"The agents at CESD aren't participating in the forums." ~Carol Lynn Sher, CESD, Talent Agent
"I do not participate in anonymous forums. My personal opinion regarding information that is anonymous is if the information was credible and/or valuable, the author would sign his/her name. I have on many occasions experienced parents or young actors spreading false information that they believe to be true, and I have actually become concerned for the family that had been exposed to false information." ~ Lola Love, Talent Manager
Want to share your opinion? Contact us today.
The Reality Behind Reality TV
For many aspiring young performers and their parents, it may seem like reality television appearances are the strait line to the top. After all, the majority of today's television seems to be flooded with reality shows. In fact, who can resist watching little budding stars on shows like Americas Got Talent. The day after they surprise the world with their out-of-the-ordinary performance, they can be seen on every talk show ever created.
The fact is, however, there is a fine line between shows that lead to long-term entertainment success, and those that lead to a moment in the spotlight of Reality TV, followed by a trip right back to...well, reality.
"Most kids who appear on reality shows are not trained actors or singers," explained Children In Film's president, Toni Casala. "They will return to their regular lives the minute the reality show has wrapped. While some shows like American Idol and America's Got Talent (with which CIF regularly works) do skyrocket the careers of a few young singers, other shows are kitschy or vaudevillian enough in nature to be short lived. It's often difficult, emotionally, for a child to return back to a normal routine after their lives have been publicly exploited. Parents should consider this, in addition to the type of talent their child possesses, before considering a reality show audition."
Rules and Laws
Aside from the emotional roller coaster a reality show appearance could cause, parents must be even more alert to the fact that certain rules and laws could potentially be broken during the production of reality shows.
While some shows do follow the laws, others take the liberty to avoid such laws by shooting in states that do not have strict regulations pertaining to minors in entertainment.
"The great fiction is to pretend that these children are not performers," said Paul Petersen, president of A Minor Consideration, a group lobbying to overhaul child labor laws (especially in states that do not have them).
What is the risk of allowing your child to work on any production that does not abide by certain laws, rules and regulations? Well, to start, your child may not be paid, and if he/she is, it may be very minimal. While you may not be concerned if your child is on the payroll (after all, experience is experience right?), what you should be concerned with is whether or not the production is carrying workman's comp, whether or not your child's education will be hampered, and whether or not production knows how to work with minors. Will there be long days? Will there be stunts? Will your family's values be compromised? Will your child be humiliated on National Television? Unfortunately you cannot assume that the production is thinking "like a parent." Your child's safety, at minimum, is indeed at risk if precautions are not taken in advance.
In New Mexico, for example, where child entertainment labor laws did not exist at the time of production for the reality TV show "Kid Nation," an 11 year old was allegedly burned with grease while cooking.
Our intent, as always, at CIF is not to scare you, but rather to inform you of all angels so that you can make a wise decision as parents, and so that producers may also be informed of certain realities. That which appears to be true by a majority consensus, is not always actually true. This is why we always encourage producers to verify information with Children In Film before working with any minors.
Regarding Reality TV, Consider the following:
- Will this show help my child in advancing his/her talents and career?
- Will the welfare of my child be considered and protected?
- Will my child be compensated for his/her time?
Parents should also consider...
- Whether or not the public appearance is being set up to discuss the child's aspiring career or something the child has already participated in and is promoting. There is an influx of interest for aspiring stars to appear on television shows and in documentaries to discuss subjects regarding their quest for fame. Choose wisely and ask whether or not this appearance leaves your child vulnerable to unnecessary criticism. If, however, the appearance is set up because the child has already participated in something (a film, new show, etc) and the appearance is to promote that performance, then it is something worth considering. Usually it will be organized by your child's manager or agent.
- What are the rules and laws in the state in which I currently work, and the state in which I intend to shoot?
- If I am shooting in a state that does not have specific laws and regulations, am I considering AFTRA/SAG rules? Am I protecting the liability of my production by assuring that the welfare of the minors will be protected?
- Am I considering the fact that the child is indeed working, whether or not he or she is listed as an employee, and compensating him/her at least minimum wage for his/her time?
- Am I protecting the children by providing workman's compensation insurance in the event of an accident?
Creating an Adequate Educational Environment
While it may be tough to consider education the top priority on set when there are so many other things to take in to consideration, education simply cannot be neglected. To make things a bit easier, we've provided some suggestions and tips for creating an environment conducive to learning.
Whether your working in the studio or in an outdoor environment, you'll need to provide children with adequate schooling facilities. The facility should be dedicated entirely to education. It should be free of distractions, a comfortable temperature, and contain the appropriate amount of seating, lighting and surface space to conduct work.
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR TEACHER
A quick meeting with your hired Studio Teacher at the beginning of the shoot day is the most effective way to ensure education is taken care of appropriately and efficiently. Filling in the teacher will minimize hold-ups that could delay production.
"If you inform your studio teacher about things like the shooting schedule or the basic details of the scenes involving the kids," explained studio teacher and CIF Board of Advisor member Marie Rogers, "they will be better equipped and prepared when it comes time to shoot."
Marie explained that sometimes teachers are uninformed about the scenes and if it ends up that the scene isn't kosher, they have no time to give the production crew a heads-up, thus causing delays.
Also, discuss your plan for accomplishing the required three hours of education during the work day. Will school time occur all at once, or in twenty minute intervals throughout the day? There are boundaries that limit the hours that children are allowed to sit for school depending on their grade level. Make sure you know them to avoid surprises.
LITTLE ACTORS, LITTLE EARS
Remember you and your crew are around children. Avoid profanity, use positive, reassuring language and compliment children when they've done a good job. Children feed off of positive feedback and reinforcement. When you praise a child, you will likely find they respond better when it's crunch time.
Marie suggested allowing the kids to eat first if at all possible. "They (kids) often take more time to finish their food than adults," she said. "If they get their meal first, there could be bonus time to finish up education while the rest of the crew is eating."
DO THE RIGHT THING
Child actors are working actors, but in the end they are still our children, our future. The children you hire are invested in the success of your project, let's return the favor by investing extra effort toward their on set education and their future success.
The Morality Clause
Many companies in the public eye are now using Morality Clauses in their contracts as a way of protecting their image. For example, last summer Random House announced that any writer whose audience includes minors will be asked to sign a contract in which a Morality Clause is included. This means that if they are found behaving in a way that damages their reputation as a person suitable to work with or be associated with children, they could lose their advance and/or their book deal.
Random House isn't the only one concerned with the morality of its major players. Michael Phelps, Chris Brown, Kate Moss and many other celebrities have lost major sponsorships because of their less than stellar behavior. Major brands are keeping an eye out to ensure that the brand's reputation is not damaged due to bad behavior on the part of those who endorse their products.
Is this concern for morality a mere selfish act to protect image, or are brands generally concerned with what our children are viewing? Realistically speaking, it likely comes back to money. A bad image equals a loss in sales and high-rolling players simply won't stand for that, but this push towards a strong moral compass amongst those in the limelight should not be ignored by industry professionals, parents or young stars.
Parents and Talent
For anyone aspiring to make a name for themselves, behavior should be monitored and even scrutinized. Parents should be increasingly aware of their child's behavior, dress and the way in which they share information with the public. There is a fine line, of course, between allowing your child some freedom and privacy, and helping your child become aware of how important their reputation truly is.
Barbara Cameron said it well when she explained, "Be the parent first. Don't let society or the industry train up your child."
Social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook should be monitored and open discussions should be had with the young talent. Should a teens privacy be respected? Of course, but remind your teen that while you may respect their privacy, others on the web may not. We are in an age where all types of information is readily accessible and we simply must not turn a blind eye to this reality.
Industry professionals such as managers and agents should inform their clients of the reality associated with images in the public domain. Your clients reputation ultimately affects your reputation and your business. As adults, we can understand the concept of how one bad image on a social networking site could surface and potentially harm a job interview or opportunity. Your clients should be aware that the situation is very similar for them.
Working with Children in an Adult Environment
Everyone has heard the expression “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.” This ancient African proverb teaches eternal truth. No man, woman, or family is an island, but in Hollywood, community isn't always what it is supposed to be. In Hollywood, there are islands everywhere . . .some of which seem impossible to reach. In addition to employing multiple strong, creative personalities, our business employs many different departments (Production, Sound, Electric, Transportation, etc.) performing all kinds of individual and sometimes dangerous tasks. The pressure to “perform” any of these jobs can be intense. Add to that equation . . . Children . . . and what we get can be pure chaos.
We'd all like to think we live (and work) in a place where people care about others -- where people pitch in to help out when things get rough -- where it's safe to let the kids play around. Unfortunately, a film set just isn’t that place. It is dangerous, hazardous and full of people who put their needs and desires before others, often sacrificing the well-being of children.
The truth is we all need to take a pro-active position when it comes to our contact with children. Whether you are a Producer, Director, Actor, Grip, Gaffer, no matter . . . occasionally we all need to be reminded that our behavior serves as an example to the children we work with. That our actions, whether we are parents or not, help to shape the futures of the children who interact with us.
We have all heard the horror stories that are sometimes associated with the employment of minors. The question is, what can YOU do to make the working child’s experience the very best that it can be?
In this section, we will discuss important issues that affect child welfare on set. We’ll explore some tough topics, leaving you with some solid ideas on how we can improve children’s working conditions and together, as a community, raise happy, healthy, independent, loving and supportive adults.
Everyone’s job is easier when you are part of a network of family, friends and co-workers who care . . . a community.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) requires Interviews (auditions) and fittings for children to be held outside of school hours and no later than 9:00 PM.
- Codified Basic Agreement
- Section 50, (F) (7)