Whenever I interview a child in my office, I end the session by inviting the parents in for a chat. I evaluate the child and briefly describe the agency as we decide if we’re a fit to work together. I end by asking the parents if they have any questions. Invariably, money comes up. I can tell a lot about the parents’ motivations by how they ask and how early in the conversation it’s raised. If their initial question is, “How much can my child make?” followed by, “Who gets to spend it?” I’m pretty sure I’m not interested in their child. Money should not be the motivator.
On the other hand, parents are naturally curious about how much money their child might make. So I’ll try to briefly explain here.
Child Actor Pay Rates
First of all, there’s a huge range, from next to nothing to very large amounts. There are many variables involved, but here’s a quick overview. These are all rates for union shows under SAG-AFTRA.
For one day, the base rate is $1,030 for either a half-hour or one-hour show. For a week the rate is $3,575. Usually, a young person starting out will make one of those rates, scale payment, plus an added 10% for commission due to their agent. The same rates are true for full-budget theatrical films, but there are a number of different rates for films that are based on the budget. They range all the way from deferred payment, nothing until and if the film is sold, to $100 and up a day. Commercials pay the same day rate as film and TV generally.
Live theater has a similar range. Scale payments for Broadway are in excess of $2,200 a week. Off-Broadway and regional theaters pay less. Some tiny off-off-Broadway houses pay very, very little. These rates are based on performing eight shows a week, which is the standard number.
On the other end of the range, I’ve had children who have earned over a million dollars in a year. Needless to say, these children are very few.
How Do Child Actors Get Paid?
Bear in mind, children pay taxes just like adults. They also owe 10% commission to their agent plus management commission, if one is involved. Lastly, 15% of the gross amount must be placed in a Coogan account, a blocked trust account, which cannot be accessed until the child reaches 18.
My final reminder to parents is this. You have access and free reign to spend your child’s money, but when they reach 18 they can sue you if they’re unhappy with your choices so be forewarned.
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