Child Actors/Child Stars: Juvenile Performance on Screen

full name / name of organization: 
University of Sunderland/University of Sussex
contact email: 
Susan Smith ( and Michael Lawrence (

A conference co-hosted by the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland, and the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex.

To be held at the David Puttnam Media Centre, University of Sunderland
8-9 September, 2011

This conference seeks to build on recent scholarly interest in screen performance by focusing on the contribution of child actors to the history of international film and television. From the popular child stars of Hollywood to the child actors working in popular television and the non-professional children ubiquitous throughout ‘world cinema,’ the child performer is a prominent figure across a diverse range of media. However, the child actor is rarely considered in discussions of screen performance or of the representation of childhood: this conference will be the first of its kind to be focused exclusively on the work of children in and for film and television. We welcome papers that discuss particular child stars and performers and/or particular performances by children, as well as papers that consider more general historical and theoretical questions related to the child actor’s presence on the screen and their position in film and television cultures and industries.

Confirmed Keynote Speaker: Dr. Karen Lury (University of Glasgow), author of The Child in Film: Tears, Fears and Fairytales (2010).

Confirmed Special Guest: Jon Whiteley, the former child actor, will talk about his film career and his experiences making Hunted (Charles Crichton, 1952), The Little Kidnappers (Philip Leacock, 1953), Moonfleet (Fritz Lang, 1955) and The Spanish Gardener (Philip Leacock, 1956).

(Further Speakers/Special Guests to be announced)

The conference will comprise both traditional panels (consisting of papers of 20-25 minutes) and workshops (consisting of 10 minute long position papers that outline a key idea/theme/ argument or offer close analysis of a moment of child performance in film). Please clearly mark your submission ‘panel’ or ‘workshop’. We hope the conference will both represent existing scholarship and inspire and encourage further work, and so we welcome contributions that are speculative and experimental.

We are interested in papers on the following topics but would also welcome proposals on other areas as well:

• the training and schooling of child actors; the craft and labour of the child actor; notions of agency and control;
• different traditions of child acting and how child acting operates within different national/historical/cultural contexts and on the small (tv) as opposed to big screen (cinema);
• the critical reception of children’s performances/the child as actor.
• the relationship between child acting and child stardom (e.g. the contribution that performance makes to the formation/articulation of child star identity; the notion of the child star as performer); the child actor’s transition to child star;
• the transition from child to adolescent (or adult) performer; adolescent performances in film and/or television;
• how child performance operates within the context of genre;
• the child’s voice as an aspect of performance; voice/body relations in child performance;
• the dynamics involved when children perform with adult actors/stars;
• the work of the child actor in children’s vs. non-children’s cinema/television;
• children performing with animals;
• ensemble child acting;
• the performative spaces in which children find scope to act;
• child acting during the silent vs. sound era;
• the notion of the child as performer in the animated film;
• collaborations between child actors and particular directors or stars;
• professional vs. non-professional child acting

It is hoped that selected papers from the conference will be published in the form of an edited book collection. Please send initial expressions of interest, with a brief description of your proposed topic, to our conference email address: by 15 March 2011. The deadline for full abstracts (no more than 250 words) is 15 April 2011 (email address as above). Pre-constituted panels of 3 speakers are welcome. Acceptance notices will be issued by 6 May 2011. Registration details to follow.

Any general enquiries should be addressed to the conference co-organisers: Susan Smith ( and Michael Lawrence (

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