EXCLUSIVE: The former LA Deputy City Attorney who prosecuted dozens of casting directors in a sweep of bogus actors’ workshops said tonight that industry professionals who violate an oft-ignored law to protect child actors from registered sex offenders could soon be the subjects of a similar undercover operation and prosecution.
The Child Performer Protection Act, which became law nearly six years ago, requires most professionals who work with child actors – including publicists, managers, and acting coaches – to obtain a permit, pass an FBI background check, and register with a California state database to screen out pedophiles.
A Deadline investigation in April, however, found that not a single Hollywood publicist who represents child actors had obtained a permit. Dozens of managers, acting coaches, and photographers who work with child stars had also failed to comply with the law, which is punishable by a year in county jail and a $10,000 fine. And yet, no one has ever been charged with breaking it.
Speaking tonight at a SAG-AFTRA panel discussion about the law, former Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Mark Lambert said that there will be undercover operations and prosecutions if the industry does not begin to more fully comply with the law.
“At some point,” he said, “there’s going to be an undercover operation. You could go to jail. You could be fined $10,000. You could spend a lot of money on lawyers. But you can avoid all that by getting a permit, because if not enough people follow the law, there will be undercover…there will be prosecutions.”
Urging everyone who needs to have a permit to get one – and getting young performers and their parents to ask to see it – was the main objective of the panel talk.
“You are empowered to ask to see a manager’s permit,” said Elizabeth McLaughlin, chair of the SAG-AFTRA Young Performers Committee, urging performers and parents to “spread the word” about the law and “educate each other.”
The State Labor Commissioner’s office reported that it did see a significant uptick in applications for permits in the months following publication of Deadline’s story, but hundreds of others who are legally required to do so have still not obtained a permit.
Even so, panelist Patricia Salazar, an attorney with the state’s Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement, said that as of tonight, “We have not received any complaints directly about non-compliance.”
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s chief operating officer & general counsel, said that now is the time for those who don’t have the permit to get one. “If you don’t have one and didn’t know, now you know. He also said that if there was a “honeymoon period” for the law, “That honeymoon period is surely coming to an end. Complaints will come in, and action will be taken on those complaints.”
“There have been press articles about this,” he said. “People working with young children need to have permits.” And for those who don’t “there’s a whole lot of reasons you don’t want to break the law like this.”
If you don’t have a permit and are required to have one, “Go and get it,” said Daryn Simons, a talent manager with the Cohesive Entertainment Group. “It’s very simple.”