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How much time can teenagers work on a film set?

With child actors in high demand on California movie and TV sets, there are bound to be questions of just how long teenagers can work as a film performer. California labor laws spell out detailed protections for minors employed in the film industry, including strict work time requirements for teenagers. State law not only sets how long teens may work on an entertainment project, but how their time on a set is to be spent.

According to state law, teenagers up to the age of fifteen have the same work requirements as children ages nine through twelve. All minors in this age category are allowed five hours of work per day, and are required to take three hours for school activity and have a single hour of rest. Minors can spend a maximum of nine hours at the worksite. However, during the months when school is not in session, a teenager in this age group can take seven hours of work with an hour of recreation, with no school required.

Minors ages sixteen to eighteen have more latitude but their time remains strictly regulated. During the school year, teenagers in this age category are bound to no more than six hours of work activity per day, with three hours of schooling and one hour of rest. The law also raises the maximum allowed hours at the worksite to ten hours. Additionally, when school is out, minors of this age group can work an additional hour.

Sometimes there is confusion over what constitutes work time. Meal periods, for example, are not considered work time. A meal must be held within six hours of the minor’s call time and a previous meal time if applicable. Conversely, when a minor travels between a studio and a filming location is considered work time. However, the law does not consider a trip from a school to a home or the studio to be work time. It is also not typically considered work time if an underage actor travels up to forty-five minutes from on-location or overnight lodging to a worksite.

This article is intended to educate on the topic of minors working in the entertainment industry and is not intended as legal advice.

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