When you walk onto a set for the first time, assuming your child is not an extra (I can’t speak to this experience since we didn’t have it) you will be greeted by the set PA, or Production Assistant. They will show you to your kid’s dressing room or trailer. You will need to be prepared to sign contracts, and come with all required legal documents:
- Passport or birth certificate
- Work Permit (unless they have passed the CHSPE)
- Social Security card or photocopy
- All Coogan Blocked Trust Account information
- CHSPE certificate if applicable
- Articles of Incorporation if your child has incorporated
You should keep photocopies of ALL of these documents in a set folder that automatically comes with you whenever your child is working. They will not be allowed to work if you can’t produce these documents at the start of a job.
You will need to fill out paperwork, and let the PA photocopy whichever legal documents they need (not a bad idea to bring extra photocopies). I often brought a copy of the excellent Emancipation Grid downloaded from BizParentz.org after Dove had passed the CHSPE to help educate PAs and sometimes even Producers on the fine points of Work Permit vs. CHSPE vs. Legal 18 vs. Emancipation. There is SO much confusion about these distinctions.
The PA works longer hours than almost anyone and is usually a smart, educated person on a track to joining the DGA, or Director’s Guild of America. Meanwhile their job is like being an interning physician/cat herder: impossibly long days on their feet and doing 1,000 things at once. So be nice! They are also the first line of communication between you and the rest of the set. When you have basic questions about anything, you should start with them. And if for any reason you need to wander off, be sure to tell the PA where they can find you. It’s part of their job to know where you and your child are at all times.
The next person you are likely to meet is the 2nd AD, or Second Assistant Director. This person is generally charged with dealing most directly with the actors, and will likely be the one who communicates the requests of the director to you and your child, as well as the one who lets you know when it is time to go to set. Generally, unless your child is actively in a scene, they are required or at least encouraged to stay in their dressing room until called. Sets are busy, crowded places and they function best when only occupied by the people who must be on them at any given time. Every additional person on a set is an opportunity to have a cough, sneeze, accidental laugh, or cell phone disrupt a scene and cost everyone time and money. The 2nd AD will also let you know when your child needs to be in the classroom with their set teacher, and keep track of when they will hit the “pumpkin hour,” i.e. when they have worked the maximum allowed hours for their age that day. These things are closely monitored.
Sometimes there is a 2nd 2nd AD, and that person fits in the niche between the PA and the 2nd AD. They typically are charged with wrangling the background players.
Next you are likely to meet the wardrobe team. These guys are miracle workers. They clothe everybody on set with tight budgets and often-tighter deadlines, having to change course whenever the script changes. Possibly you have already had a fitting with them before the first day on set. The bigger the role the more likely this is. Or maybe all they have had a chance to do is get your child’s measurements and pull some possible wardrobe options. At any rate, they will likely have already delivered your child’s wardrobe to the little closet in their dressing room, or be ready to present final fitting choices when you arrive.
Some notes about wardrobe: it’s not important that your child like what they have been assigned to wear. It’s not about what might be flattering or make them look good—it’s about the character and the storyline. So unless it’s actually physically uncomfortable (and every wardrobe person I’ve ever met has bent over backward to be sure their actors are as comfortable in their clothes as possible) no complaining! You also must be careful that the wardrobe remains clean. So generally your child needs to either change out of it or wear a protective smock of some kind (which Wardrobe will provide) when it’s time to eat. Obviously playing outside in wardrobe is not recommended. And finally, should your child be lucky enough to actually like their wardrobe—they do not get to take it home at the end of a job. Sad but true.
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Next: Next: Set Etiquette and the Set Experience: Part 3