Children, contracts, and movies

I’ve heard that children can’t sign contracts, so I was wondering about child actors. I guess their parents sign something for them, but wouldn’t they still have more flexibility in getting out of that contract if they wanted to?

I remember that an actress (can’t remember the name) was sued for refusing to be in a movie called “Boxing Helena.” I wonder if a child actress could have refused to be in a movie and avoided a lawsuit simply because she herself couldn’t have made any contract, and couldn’t be held to one her parents had made.

Also, I wonder if the possibility that a child star could simply refuse to work any more halfway through a film affects the insurance rates for movies starring kids.

IANAL, but I am a parent.

A minor child doesn’t have the authority to sign a contract, but he/she also doesn’t have the authority to break a contract signed on his/her behalf by a parent or guardian.

So a child star can lay down on the floor and turn blue in the face refusing to perform in a movie, but the producer can sue the parents.

There’s an obvious question here – what happens when a child turns 18/21 during the term of the contract? Frankly, I don’t know.

There’s also the Jackie Coogan law, which mandates what the parents have to do with the money (Coogan – who’s probably better known as Uncle Fester than as a child star – got ripped off by his parents, who took nearly all the money he earned and refused to give him anything).

Yeah, even simple actor release forms (what I use, since I’m a student filmmaker) are the same way. You have to get Minor Release forms signed by a parent/guardian.

Now, I’ve never used a child-actor, but it’s the same if children happen to be in the background of a scene. You need a release form signed by the parents.