I was watching the Season 6 finale of "Bones" the other night, where one of the primary characters was having a baby and commenting that the baby clearly wasn't a newborn, and it got me to wondering about babies in the movies. How exactly do infants become actors? Do they regulate baby actors, or just sort of find parents that are OK with handing babies as old as 15 days over to strangers? Is it fair to the babies? I was a bit surprised to find researching my random Netflix induced quandary a bit difficult. What came up for most search terms was just other people asking the same questions.
So, how does an infant get in a movie?
We see babies in all sorts of entertainment based roles from commercials to big-time blockbuster hits, and they get there the same way adults do, they audition. Producers hold casting calls for infants and toddlers the same way they do adults though they aren't looking for skill, more cooperation. According to KidsInMovies.com, a site devoted to child actors, directors often seek twins. Twins allow them to quickly trade one baby out for a look-a-like should the other be tired, hungry, and just not very happy saving the film big bucks. They also look for kids that don't have powerful stranger anxiety, separation anxiety, and are generally highly expressive and content. In shorter rolls like commercials, it is apparently a dirty diaper game, where a producer has a line-up of approved wee ones and anytime one baby doesn't work out, they simply keep going down the list. Any baby that doesn't make it through the whole commercial isn't paid whether they were picked or not.
Are there laws against baby actors?
There are regulations that vary by state in terms of how long and how young an infant can be put to work, so to speak, in the film industry. Overall most state regulations forbid infants younger than 15 weeks of age and require a health check by a pediatrician after that. In nearly every state infant and child actors are required to obtain a special permit. They may also have to adhere to strict guidelines as far as how long they can work. For example, in Iowa a baby can only work between the hours of 7 am and 10 pm and may not work more than 3 hours at a time. Some states also require a guardian always be present, a portion of the baby's earnings be set aside for them as an adult, and the work not pose any mental or physical threat to the child.
Is the entertainment business bad for babies?
This one is really a manner of opinion. You could see that the profit made, which in cases could be great, would likely improve the status of living of the infant. If the infant really caught on, it's also possible the action could lead to a future career such as it did for say, the Olson twins, though you could see that as a con if you consider more child actor drawbacks that don't apply to infants. On the other hand, infant actors are placed in the hands of complete strangers in a strange place. You also have to wonder if the experience would have a lasting negative psychological effect. Research into infant development and memory is still very inconclusive. In the end whether putting your baby into a commercial or movie is good or bad is pretty opinion based. Personally, I could probably be finagled into a commercial, maybe even a short film or TV spurt with an older baby, but not a long-term project like a full movie or several episode TV arc and certainly not with a nearly newborn infant. This could be why we don't see many babies in movies that really look newborn.
Would you let your baby act?
You may also enjoy: