During the most recent pilot season, Cindy Osbrink, CEO of the Osbrink Agency, says one of her child clients auditioned at a network and was offered the part.
The only problem was the network claimed there was no money left in the pilot’s budget and wanted the child to be paid as a guest star.
“I told them, ‘He’s in the family! How can he be a guest star?'” says Osbrink, whose client list includes Dakota Fanning and “Everybody Hates Chris” star Tyler James Williams.
The child actor ended up taking the job. “It comes down to either he’s not in it at all or he’s a well-paid guest star and the hope is the pilot gets picked up,” Osbrink says.
It’s not the first time Osbrink has had to deal with one of her child clients being offered less than adult counterparts on the same set for the same work.
Wendi Green, founder of Abrams Artists’ youth department, who represents “Two and a Half Men” star Angus T. Jones, also has fought to ensure her child clients receive fair compensation.
“It’s truly about the role,” she says. “If it’s the lead of the show, you’re going to be paid like an adult.”
“It’s not the age of the actor, it’s the experience” that she says should be considered, Osbrink believes.
Jones, for example, is not going to be paid the same as a star like Charlie Sheen, but, Green adds, “If the show evolves around the child, you have all the leverage.”
Mitch Gossett, director of the young talent division at Cunningham, Escott, Slevin and Doherty, says he thinks minors usually get “the short end of the stick” when it comes to equal pay.
“When producers sit down to make budgets, they pay child actors scale or slightly above,” Gossett says.
But, he adds, often the role could be the child’s big break into the industry, and sometimes taking a hit upfront may just pay off in the end.