Acting up!

Aussie multiples answer casting calls

Written by Carissa Mason

Twins and triplets are contributing to Australia’s $6 billion film and television industry, playing roles both on the big screen and on popular television shows. 

Multiples are in high demand, with AMBA regularly asked to send out casting calls via its Facebook page. Freelance casting director Clare Chapman said twins were sought after because they provided double the opportunity to get the right shot. “Babies don’t work to shooting schedules. Having two babies that look the same means that if we need an alert baby, or a smiling baby or a sleeping baby, we can choose the baby that’s in the right mood for the scene without affecting the continuity”, Clare said. She said babies were only allowed to work for a maximum of four hours a day so, for a full day’s shooting, sometimes two sets of twins could be used.

“In cases such as this, it is important to find babies who look similar and are a similar size, colouring, have similar hair colour and amount of hair – which can be a challenge from a casting point of view”, Clare said. Two sets of identical twins from Victoria starred alongside actors Ethan Hawke and Adelaide’s Sarah Snook in a science fiction movie released in 2014 after their mums responded to a casting call on AMBA’s Facebook page. Simone Powell’s baby boys Charlie and Smith Alexander-Powell and Libby Farley’s baby girls Milla and Ruby Simmonds share a feature role in the film Predestination. Even though the twins are boys and girls, as newborns they look similar enough to play the same baby. “The boys weren’t required to do much, as they were babies”, Simone said. “But there was smiling required and luckily we pulled it off with lots of dancing and jumping and funny faces involved. They also did a bit of sleeping on cue but, in general, they were just required to be themselves.”

Simone, who is a member of Frankston and Peninsula Multiple Birth Association, said her boys were needed for two days filming at various locations around Melbourne. As it turned out, only Smith ended up on camera, but both boys were paid for their time on set. “There was quite a bit of sitting around, and the calm of sitting around was evened out by the anxiety of wondering what the little ones would do once the cameras were rolling”, Simone said. “You do have to be flexible and be prepared for if your little one pops off while in the arms of some star or something similarly embarrassing”, she said. Yes, that actually happened. During what was supposed to be a ‘cute and quiet smile scene’, Smith farted loudly while in the arms of one of the actors. “All the crew and casting staff were wonderful and made sure the babies were well looked after with lots of heaters around and change tables”, Simone said. “They also had a nurse and midwife on hand to help out with the babies whenever this was needed. It was a very well facilitated experience and a buzz for mum and friends and, hopefully in the future, for the boys if their scenes make the cut”

Libby, who is a member of Diamond Valley Multiple Birth Association, said her girls were in quite a few scenes as wrapped newborns in hospital and even took part in a bath scene. “We were very lucky to meet Ethan Hawke. He was lovely and even took time out to take photos with the girls”, Libby said. “All of the staff were lovely and always kept me up to date with the different things that would be happening with the twins. They made us feel right at home and always made sure the twins and I were comfortable and happy”, she said. “My advice to parents considering acting opportunities for their twins would be to make sure that you are comfortable with everything that will be taking place and that the process is explained to you before you begin to film”, Libby said. 

Predestination chronicles the life of a “temporal agent” sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to ensure the continuation of his law enforcement career for all eternity. It was co-written and directed by award winning Australian filmmakers Michael and Peter Spierig, who also happen to be identical twins. Actors Equity New South Wales organiser for recorded media, Martin Cubby, said regulations for children working in film and television varied from state to state, and he encouraged parents to make sure their agent could explain the relevant points to them. “Particularly, are you being offered an “Equity minimum”contract? what hours will your children be required to work? what are the pay rates? and, be cautious about agents that charge a fee for your kids just to be on their books – the industry standard is for agents to take a percentage of what actors earn”, Mr Cubby said. The minimum daily base pay rate for children is just over $100, but can double with loadings if the program or movie is to be shown overseas or on more than one channel. Regulations in New South Wales, for example, state that children aged under six months can only work one day a week, for a maximum of four hours, with a rest break every hour. That increases to two days a week for children under three years. For children aged less than three years, there must also be a registered nurse or midwife on set. Regulations also state that parents must be comfortable with what their children are exposed to on set and employers must not cause or allow children to become distressed to produce a desired performance, such as acting scared or crying.

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