'Slumdog's' Millions – should kid actors get more money?

I found some interesting information about the two “Slumdog Millionaire” child actors regarding the payment they received for their acting roles in the Oscar-winning movie, and the much-discussed trust funds established for them. The following is an excerpt from an article titled “Slumdog Robber Barons” at diversityinc:

“”We took a look at published reports, and here's what we found: According to reports published by Reuters and the Los Angeles Times, the two 7-year-olds in question–Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, both of whom come from the poorest slums of India–were both “poorly compensated for their original, monthlong acting work and have not shared in the film's financial windfall.” The reports say Ali earned about $1,000 and Ismail earned about $2,400.

In the United States, child actors are paid $2,634 per week for a speaking role, according to the Screen Actors' Guild.

In India, 85 percent of the population lives off of no more than $2.50 a day–and the average salary nationwide is less than $1,000 a year. In the United States, the average salary per capita is slightly more than $26,000 a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's statistics for 2007.

But Danny Boyle, the movie's director, and Christian Colson, the movie's producer, issued a joint statement indicating that the reports–which originated in the Daily Telegraph in England–are far from true.

In fact, they say they've paid for the children, who had never been to school before 2008, to go to elementary school. They've also paid for them to go to secondary school and they've paid them for basic-living needs, healthcare and emergency needs.

If the kids wind up going on to higher education, those costs will be covered by a fund set up by Fox Searchlight, the distributor of the movie.

However, many children of the poorest regions of India never go to school and are destined for an impoverished life; higher education is rarely an option. So even if the children's educations are paid for in their earlier years, there remains a possibility that they'll never get access to the larger sums of money put aside for higher education.

Fox Searchlight, meanwhile, issued a statement of its own, refuting the reports that the children were underpaid.

“'The welfare of Azhar and Rubina has always been a top priority for everyone involved in 'Slumdog Millionaire.' … For 30 days' work, the children were paid three times the average local adult salary,” the statement read. “… We are extremely proud of this film, and proud of the way our child actors have been treated.'”

Should these kids get a larger share of the movie's revenues, including sales of the DVD to be released March 31st, 2009? Or, were they fairly compensated?

You be the judge…

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