Working with children on video shoots
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Working with children on video shoots

If you are planning to use children in any kind of promotional video or tv commercial, hopefully, you are aware that you can’t just put them in front of the camera and start filming.

You or your production partner need to seek appropriate approvals to avoid hefty fines and or legal action against your company.

For your project to proceed without a minor or two, then there are some very important steps you need to follow to comply with Australian laws. So let’s break it down…

WORKING WITH CHILDREN CHECK:

 
If you work with children, it’s simple you require a valid Working with Children Check. It’s a simple online check that involves a national criminal history check and a review of findings of workplace misconduct and if you check out ok you receive a Working With Children number  (WWC Number). The key staff at Toybox all have these checks and we strongly recommend the crew you employ for your productions can produce these as well.

PRE-PRODUCTION:

 
First and foremost you need to apply for an Authority to Employ Children from the Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG). These guys are also extremely helpful on the phone when you’re not 100% sure how to keep things nice and legit. But you’ll need to get rolling on this 10 days before your intended shoot date. Hence this being Step 1.

And there are fees required so make sure your budget has allowed for this!

Age Notes

 
If the child/ children are of school age, try to book the shoot for a weekend or during school holiday periods. This allows you to skip one step: principal permissionfor your child star to wag school. Otherwise, this needs to be arranged three days before filming.

If your talent is under 3yrs old then you’ll need to have a registered nurse on set. If the child is under 12 weeks old, you better just chat to the OCG directly – 02 8219 3600.
For all older kids, a parent or guardian present is usually sufficient.

The maximum hours a child can be on location (including makeup/ wardrobe/ meal breaks) is usually 4hrs. But since kids tend to get tired/cranky pretty damn fast in these situations, it’s best to just get them in & out as quickly as possible.
Like… an hour is ideal. Re-write the script if you can.

Catering Notes

 
The list of foods kids are permitted to eat now quite short. So check with the child’s parents for allergies BEFORE arranging catering or craft services. If the child DOES have allergies, avoid bringing anything on set that could cause an allergic reaction.

Seven to three days before filming, send OCG the following:

– Scripts/ storyboards 
If you have any adult content in there (drug use, swearing, nudity etc…), you will need to address how you plan to avoid the child being exposed to these themes. E.g. a child will never be in the same shot/ room as the drugs/ naked lady. Reverse/ reaction shots with a child with being filmed separately.

 Child Safe Code of Conduct

 
You are required to produce a Child Safe Code of Conduct for your production – this needs to be viewed and signed by every person attending the shoot. It needs to be tailored to suit your company and project (just to ensure nothing is overlooked).

Address of Location/s

 
You need to accurately indicate where the production will be filming and any location changes. It must clearly state how the child will be transported and who will be transporting the child between locations.

Risk Assessment of Location/s

 
For each potential risk, you need to supply an adequate counter-measure to prove the child will not be at risk of injury or harm while on set.
E.g. on a recent shoot, one of our props was a drop-saw. Our solution was that it would NEVER be hooked up to power. This rendered the risk of injury by drop-saw pretty low and therefore acceptable.

Finally, two days before your shoot, you will need to send the OCG a completed Pre Employment Notification (PEN) form. This is also found on the OCG website.

And lastly, when you send out your call sheet to client and crew, also attach the code of conduct so everyone is aware of their responsibilities prior to arriving on location.

SHOOT:

 
When the big day comes around, here are some tips to ensure the situation is nice and child-friendly:

– When your talent arrives, show them and their parent to their designated bathroom/change room.

– First aid kit equipped with cold packs and compression bandages (for starters)

– Phone number and address of nearest hospital

– Plenty of cold water handy

– Sunscreen and insect repellent (if outdoors)

– Have a shaded area set up with seating (if outdoors)

– Regularly check if the child needs a break

– Ensure parent or guardian has a clear view to the child at all times

– Be nice! (Being surrounded by a bunch of adult strangers can be scary.)

– Ask that everyone on set keep the F-bombs to a minimum!

The information provided is a broad brushstroke and we strongly recommend checking directly with the OCG at www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au

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