In terms of the duty of care afforded him, Gilman had a chaperone in the form of his mother and received on-set tutoring together with Kara and the child actors who play a troop of scouts. Work days, incorporating three to five hours of schooling, totalled eight to 10 hours, as per Gilman’s recollection. (“I am not an objective resource!”, he cautions.) What he does know for certain, however, is that, “I enjoyed every day I worked on set, so I was totally OK with it, but we were working long hours,” he says. “I was not upset about that at all. It’s just the nature of how things are, especially if you’re in a Wes Anderson movie, it’s hard to get everything done in nine hours. We were never working crazy hours, it was just maybe an extra hour or two [than a standard working day].”
How child stars are protected – or not
In the United States, the activities of child actors are regulated by state laws, meaning that working conditions are more variable – and often more lax – than in the UK, where there is nationwide legislation and an organisation set up to monitor industry practices, the National Network for Children in Entertainment and Employment (NNCEE), which exerts a considerable and growing influence over productions up and down the country.
Ed Magee is the current chairman of the advisory group founded in 1994. “We’re an organisation that helps improve practice, and safeguards children, but also makes sure that people are complying with the regulations and that they understand them. As an organisation, we spend a lot of time discussing what the legislation [around working conditions for child actors] actually means. Because, like any legislation, it can be open to interpretation. And sometimes you do have to say to people, ‘Well, actually, you know, that’s not quite what it says.’ So it’s about holding people accountable and making sure that children, when they are working, are safe and protected at all times.”
The main piece of legislation in England is The Children (Performances & Activities) Regulations 2014, bolstered by The Children and Young Persons Act 1963, which stipulates that from birth to the end of statutory schooling at 16 (the last Friday of June in Year 11) an actor requires a performance license approved by the local authority for each production they work on. The decision to grant a license is based on whether the education, health, safety and wellbeing of the child will be maintained. Hours are carefully set with 9.5 hours being the maximum that a child actor can spend at a rehearsal or performance venue, a figure that includes work, schooling and mandatory breaks.