Insights from ChildrenInFilm.com:
The Reality Behind Reality Television
Is Reality TV a way in to the biz?...and other answers to Reality-related questions
Once thought to be a fad, Reality TV is now a main staple in our TV-viewing diet. With so much talk of Dance Moms and Toddlers and Tiarras it's no wonder some parents think that Reality TV may be an in for their kids' careers. And because there is no set precedent for Reality TV production, crucial rules and laws are often being broken and minors have been injured. In New Mexico, for example, an 11 year old was rumored to have been burned with grease while filming a cooking scene for the reality TV show "Kid Nation." Since then, rules have been created in NM to protect minors but there are many states that still do not regulate the amount of hours a child can work, how his or her education is managed and the conditions under which he or she is performing.
"The great fiction is to pretend that these children are not performers," said Paul Petersen, president of A Minor Consideration, a group lobbying to overhaul child labor laws.
The reality is that reality-TV stardom and Hollywood stardom are two very different things. There are little known cases where a child-participant of a reality show or game show has parlayed his or her appearance into a full-fledged acting career worthy of the big screen.
"Even if a child or teen catches my notice on one of these programs, I would need to vet their acting ability to see if they can fill a role on the type of show I cast," explained casting director Carol Goldwasser. "All I can see on a reality show is their look and to an extent, their personality, not their skill level."
While shows like Dance Moms and Toddlers and Tiaras occasionally highlight a child's performance skills it is normally just a byproduct of another goal: to highlight the drama of the entertainment industry. If there's risk that the show will portray you or your child in a negative light, know that it could have an adverse effect on a future film or television career.
"Most kids who appear on reality shows are not trained actors and will return to their regular lives the minute the reality show has wrapped," explained Toni Casala, President of Children In Film. "It's often difficult for children, emotionally, to return to a normal routine after their lives have been publicly exploited."
"Parents can be seduced by the industry to let kids do things that are dangerous," said Screen Actors Guild general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.
Parents who are serious about the craft of acting and their child's image should tread lightly upon Reality TV participation, and for producers, a knowledge of laws, rules and regulations is more necessary than ever before.
- when it comes to CA law, an appearance on a reality TV show is no different than that of a sitcom.
- even if a child is just on camera during "normal, everyday activities" he/she could be considered to be working.
Children In Film encourages parents and industry pros alike to know and understand the realities behind reality television, before working with minors on any production.