“LIGHTS, CAMERA, action!” The director cues the staff, the microphones turn on, the cameras face the center, and the young actor blinks under the bright lights. Behind all the glamour and fame, underage actors face difficulties that many people are not aware of. The popularity of child actors has grown in recent years. As a result, they started to play major roles in films, but this unfortunately has come along with great costs.
The long hours spent filming is a major problem for underage actors. As many already know, actors spend extremely long hours on the sets, and this also applies to the child actors. Their schedules are difficult to change, and sometimes, they spend their whole day shooting, including the weekends and holidays. According to a 2010 survey conducted by the National Youth Policy Institute (NYPI), 25.9% of the 103 celebrities under the age of 18 worked around 8 to 17 hours, which is more than the average work time of an adult employer.
Moreover, since most of the young actors dedicate their time shooting, many of them are not able to attend school and receive a proper education. According to the same survey by NYPI, only 72.9% of the respondents answered that their education rights were not properly secured. It has become common for these young actors to drop out of mandatory education courses such as middle and high school.
In July 2014, The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism enforced a law to protect child actors. The law states that celebrities under the age of 15 should not work over 35 hours per week, and are forbidden to work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. without their or their parent’s consent. However, this law is not strictly followed. A director who interviewed for an article for Baby News revealed that the majority of the staff in this business are not even aware of this law. And even if they are, there are no specific punishments when this law is not followed.
Meanwhile, child actors in the United States and the United Kingdom are well protected by law. In the United States, depending on the young actor’s age, there are strict limits to his or her working hours. For instance, a six-year-old actor can only film up to three hours, a nine-year-old up to six hours, a sixteen-year-old up to seven hours, and so forth. Additionally, every child actor has a “Studio Teacher,” who teaches her or him in the filming set. In the United Kingdom, the Children and Young Persons Act (1963) requires the staff to get a license from the local authority and parents that allows the children to film. Once the authorities confirm that the child’s education and health will be taken care of, the license is granted. Even with the license, the children can only film for less than four hours a day. One of the reasons why the Harry Potter series took such a long time to film was because most of the characters were still young, and these strict rules had to be followed.
South Korea should also impose strict time limits on young actors, and harsh punishments should be given to those who do not follow this law. It is unreasonable that young celebrities are not given the basic priorities, such as rest and education, due to the long shooting hours. Participating in this area should be a fun experience for the children—not a painful one.