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SAG Responds Calls For More Child Actor Safety After Quiet On Set

SAG-AFTRA is responding to calls for more safety protocols for working child actors following Investigation Discovery’s documentary Quiet on Set.

The five-part series delved into the toxic work environments that many child actors faced working on some of the most popular kids’ television shows in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including allegations of abuse, sexism and racism.

Jenny Kilgen, a former Amanda Show writer who is featured in the documentary, penned an open letter to SAG-AFTRA “initiate and institute robust child safety protocols” as well as support federal legislation on the matter.

In response to the letter, SAG-AFTRA Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez told Deadline in a statement:

“The Union takes young performer safety very seriously and devotes considerable time to advocating for important legislative protections for minors and administering contract requirements for young performers. We give priority to complaints involving minors, maintain a constituent committee of young performers and help to fund and administer programs like ‘Looking Ahead’ that educate young performers about life as a child actor.

“In addition, SAG-AFTRA’s most recent agreement requires background checks for any ‘teacher or welfare worker (or other individual assigned to perform the same duties as a welfare worker, such as a child labor coordinator) who is engaged by the Producer to supervise or teach minors employed under the Agreement.’  Additionally, we have authorized Producers to demand background checks as a condition of employment ‘for any person working in close proximity to one or more minor(s), other than a minor who is that person’s child/ward.’”

SAG-AFTRA already has several resources in place for young actors, including the Safer Set hotline, which can be used for any on-set safety issues. The union’s reporting tool also has referrals for therapeutic, legal or law enforcement assistance.

California law prohibits people who are required to register as sex offenders from providing services to minors working or seeking to work in the entertainment industry. Those who are looking to work with minors must undergo a criminal background check and obtain a Child Performer Services permit.

However, on set, background checks for crew are not required as long as the minor is accompanied by a parent or guardian.

In her letter to SAG-AFTRA, Kilgen calls for “mandatory background checks, appropriate training for adults, transparency of investigation, & reporting policies, and free access to mental health providers through the employment cycle (and when necessary, after).”

She also advocates for the formation of a special task force to audit SAG-AFTRA’s current policies with the mission of improving child welfare in the entertainment industry.

“It’s my hope that this action will address, and help to dismantle, the current industry power dynamic which seemingly exists to protect the financial well-being of the studios and networks, often at the expense of the emotional, psychological and physical well-being of the children they employ — a dynamic where predatory behavior is enabled, and parents are too often sidelined,” she wrote.

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