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The Ins and Outs of Graduated Minors: PART 2

September 07, 2016

Graduated Minors, Part 2: The Realities of Working Like an Adult

If you have a teenaged young actor, you’ve probably been faced with the concept of “Legal 18” and “graduated minor.” You may have even heard stories about young actors who have divorced their parents (not to be confused with stars like Selena Gomez and Macaulay Culkin who simply “fired” their parents as managers) in order to get around certain legalities in the industry. 

The reality is, producers benefit from hiring 18 year old performers (or those who have become graduated and thus “legal 18”) because they do not come with all the legal restrictions of working with a minor. In February, Children In Film defined the terms associated with this process in Part 1 of our series on The Ins and Outs of Graduated Minors.

But is this a fail-proof solution to getting more work for your minor? Not necessarily. 

If you’re familiar with what it means to become legal 18, you probably can very easily recognize the pros: 
  • You’re a more desirable employee. In many states, especially California, hiring a minor comes with a whole gamut of rules and regulations. Removing these legal road blocks can clear the path to the role of a lifetime.
  • Producers save time and money. Needless to say, hiring someone who does not require such detailed attention is, at the very least, a time saver for a producer but it also saves money and resources.   While some would argue that the cost of hiring a studio teacher is minimal compared to the overall cost of production, these costs can be significant, especially when producers are casting lead roles, or traveling to distant locations for filming.
  • You may work any hours as an adult.  Think about it; you up for a big role that includes a lot of night time exterior shots (think “Teen Wolf”).  A ‘legal 18’ child can not only work longer hours per day, they can work well into the wee hours of the night, avoiding the usual 12:30 AM cutoff time.
These benefits are significant when producers are casting large roles, that last weeks, months or years.

The less obvious results of becoming legal 18 are the cons, but don’t assume there aren’t any as becoming legal 18 can, in many ways, be detrimental to your child.
  • School takes a back burner. Once the proficiency test required to become legal 18 has been passed, your child can technically quit school.  While some kids elect to stay in school even though they have officially tested out, school often takes a back burner to the acting career.  Although some may argue that there is no harm in this, others argue that parents should not be so quick to allow their children to skip over some of the formative years of high school.
  • Colleges may not appreciate it. There is a general understanding within the industry that colleges do not look fondly upon the idea of leaving school early. If college is a goal for your child, contacting the school’s admissions office before moving forward may be a good move.  Another consideration:  As an early grad, your child may no longer be eligible for the scholarships and awards ordinarily given to seniors.
  • You can work as an adult.  Yes, this is also listed as a positive but consider what this truly means: extremely long work days (which makes going to regular school virtually impossible), exposure to the underbelly of Hollywood realities (there’s no studio teacher on set for the protection of your child), and the expectation to work and behave as an adult.
Because of all these pros and cons, it is clear that a long conversation and a thorough investigation of what is right for your child should indeed occur before deciding to become legal 18.  Holding “legal 18” status is much like holding an ace in your pocket during a poker game.  Just remember, aces can win small pots, but sometimes lose big ones.  Parents & teens must keep this vulnerability in mind and devise a strategy based upon multiple critical factors (career & academic) which impact the outcome before showing their hand.