Are Your Kids Safe On A Movie Set?


By Marci Liroff

In my last article, I had just seen the eye-opening documentary “An Open Secret,” which exposes the years-long grooming and sexual molestation of several children in the modeling, film, and television industries.

I spoke with Anne Henry and Paula Dorn of BizParentz Foundation, who furnished the documentary with several years of files they had fastidiously collected on suspected child predators.

In terms of keeping kids safe in cyberspace, how have things improved?
The good news is that we now have two new laws in California. The Child Performer’s Protection Act was spearheaded by BizParentz and signed into law in September 2012. It requires fingerprint screening and a permit for those working closely with children in our industry.

The other law, the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act (AB 1319), protects all actors against financial predators by banning advance fee agents and managers and regulating those who charge a fee for services like acting classes, website design, photography, showcases, and CD workshops. Sexual predators scout for victims in these venues. We’ve had several convictions under this law, which was created by the first-ever collaboration of unions, studios, the MPAA, managers, agents, parents, and law enforcement.

How can parents “police” their kids’ images and general personal welfare online?
1. Set up a Google Alert for your child’s name and the names of those with whom they work.

2. Check your child’s phone often—let your child know you are doing this.

3. Take control. Research everyone with whom you work or are considering working, even if you think you know them. Check the sex offender registry, and ask agents, managers, and other parents on message boards. Check the databases available for the licenses that they should have. For instance, most of your service providers should have a CPS permit. Check the updated Talent Service Bond list. Talent agents must have a license. In California, that is a searchable database.

4. Be a powerful, professional “stage parent.” Never, ever leave your kid alone. Do not drop them off with others on set or allow them to travel without you. Do not let them socialize alone with adults, even the ones you know. Acting classes, coaching, and auditions must be done independently, but you should make sure to be right outside the door, very visible and very tiger-mom-like. Predators will view your child as too much of a risk. Elite-level professionals recognize the risks and will view you as a savvy parent.

5. Biggest tip: Learn to listen to and follow your instincts. If you or your child feels apprehensive, do not involve yourself. Do not abandon your normal parenting rules because you are involved in entertainment. Do not attribute odd behavior to “Hollyweird” or make exceptions because someone is powerful or famous.

Is there a way to report someone who is operating without a CPS permit?
You could report it to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, but like most laws, the enforcement in this law lies with those who were wronged. When BizParentz gets notified that someone is operating without a permit, we contact him or her with information about how to comply (thus setting up a written record that they knew about the law to aid with a conviction later if we need it). We give them a bit of time to get the permit, since we are still in an education phase of this law. But then their reputation will take a hit when they are called out in public for operating illegally.

Parents should not work with providers who don’t have a permit. It’s that simple. Tell your service provider that you can no longer work with them or pay them if they do not comply. Then move on.

Check out for resources on these topics.

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

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By Marci Liroff
UPDATE 2:30 pm PST April 2:

As of 2:30pm PST we have word that the Casting Directors have taken the audition tapes off the auction block and instead are donating them to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. You can read the story first reported on Back Stage Magazine here. This addresses the “for profit” issues on these tapes, but donating them to the Academy still doesn’t address the privacy issues of these auditions. 

The Daily Variety articlequotes SAGAFTRA as saying “Auditions are not public performances, and under SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreements performers are entitled to expect them to remain private,” said SAG-AFTRA General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “Our collective bargaining agreements include protections for performers against exploitation of audition and interview tapes, which must be erased upon performers’ request. Failure to comply with such a request will result in formal legal action pursuant to the agreements.Unauthorized use of audition and interview footage may also result in claims against producers and casting directors under right of publicity and/or privacy laws.”   

I’ll say again: these audition tapes were not meant for public consumption or scrutiny by people outside of the production. Period.


The casting community has been swirling with outrage the last few days over the news that two of our own are auctioning off several lots of audition tapes they’ve made through the years in Los Angeles on April 4th. Here’s the story.

Personally, I think the audition space is a sacred place and should be treated as such. When an actor comes in to audition, there’s an implicit agreement that the work they do in an audition is a work-in-progress and is only meant to be seen by those directly involved on the production in a contextual manner. It is not, and has never been, meant for mass consumption, sale, or distribution for profit. I have been asked countless times for audition footage – I’d never do it – and believe me I’ve got some doozies! I can only hope, and depend, that actors who come in to audition for me trust my discretion to not sell these work sessions.

I’ve spent the last few days alternately nauseated and enraged by this. Talks on Facebook within our casting community largely echoed sentiments of disgust and most were appalled. There were a few, however, who felt that by exposing these audition tapes to the public it had educational value and shows the public what we, as Casting Directors, really do. I agree with the “teaching moments” – just wish it had been approved by all concerned and if there’s profit to be made…then everyone deserves a piece of that pie.
Casting Director Matthew Lessall suggested that tapes like these should be archived and exhibited in a museum environment. I love this idea! Again, let’s get everyone involved to sign-off first and if there’s profit to be made everyone should share in it.
My contracts say that all work (including lists, videos, everything emanating from my office) belongs to the production and/or studio. Since this is all older footage they seem to be selling, perhaps the contracts didn’t have that clause in it yet? One can only hope.
Back Stage Magazine wrote a piece last night about this. The President of the Casting Society of America, Richard Hicks gave this statement:
“Richard Hicks, president of the Casting Society of America, condemned the auction in a written statement to Backstage, saying the organization “does not condone in any way” the sale or distribution of audition videos. “Actors who audition for the projects on which we work should have the reasonable expectation that their creative efforts during the audition process are treated with respect and used only for their intended purpose,” Hicks wrote. “Legal and rights issues aside, there is an ethical understanding among casting professionals that actors’ auditions are private.” He added that CSA “has always promoted and expected the highest of ethical standards of our members and will continue to do so.” Jenkins and Hirshenson are both CSA members.”
Many of the actors I spoke to were furious and worried about the future in terms of what rights they have over their audition footage. Will this be the new normal? I certainly hope not and judging by the CSA’s swift and harsh statement condemning those involved, people will think twice before doing this ever again.
I keep reminding myself that this is (hopefully) a “one-off”. This can’t happen again. I don’t know what the circumstances were that brought this casting team to think this was appropriate. I know there are two sides to every story. As of this time, Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson have not weighed-in yet. I have always held them in such high esteem for the countless movies they’ve cast so beautifully. I’m trying not to be judgemental but I’m losing the battle. I still can’t wrap my mind around this one.
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