Everyone at Vox talked about it for a long time and they’ve decided that you’re old enough now—and, more importantly, mature enough—to finally find out where movie babies come from. No, it’s not some sort of cinematic stork like your friends at school may have told you. In fact, it’s a completely natural process that varies from state-to-state depending on local child labor laws and occasionally involves a robot. Again, it’s all very natural.
It turns out that if you need a baby to act in your movie, there is understandably some criteria you’ll need to meet. For example, in California, a baby can only be on set for a total of two consecutive hours and can only work for a total of twenty minutes. Also, the baby must be at least 15 days old, which means, when the baby in question is supposed to be a newborn, producers will often look into a casting a smaller, younger-looking preemie.
Of course, those restrictions don’t exist in every state. In New Jersey, a baby can work for five hours a day, five days a week, and in Louisiana, they can work up to six hours a day, six days a week. What’s more, only a handful of states require child actors to have a Coogan account—named in honor of child actor Jackie Coogan—that safeguards 15% of their earnings from their parents, just in case their parents are assholes.
If you’re a filmmaker who’d rather not deal with the headache of a live baby that has rights, there is always the option of using an animatronic replacement. But those are, admittedly, creepy as hell. Regardless of how you choose to bring an infant into your film, just make sure you do it with love and are fully prepared to accept the responsibility that goes along with it.