Every year, hundreds of pretend babies are born on TV shows and in movies. Generally, we take them for granted. They’re plot points, not actual characters. But if you think about it, it’s kind of weird. There’s a small army of tiny, barely sentient extras. Whose babies are they? Where do studios find them? What’s that weird fake placental goo made out of?

A new article in The Guardian has the answers. Apparently these infants are tiny SAG members, at least 15 days old and only allowed to shoot for 20 minutes a time. Their parents, for the most part, seem like pretty normal people.

Daniel De Blanke, a freelance composer whose daughter has been working as a child actor for almost half her life (she’s nine months old) says that “not being a big napper” has given his daughter an edge in the business. (Her upcoming spots include a print ad and an online commercial for a rental hunting website.)

“Being physically awake during auditions is a big thing,” he explained.

The competition for jobs is fierce. Casting agents have access to thousands of baby extras via various talent agencies and casting sites. Parents like De Blanke sign up, post a picture of their kid, and wait.

Well, mostly normal.

De Blanke also recalls being at an audition with “one gentleman who told everyone his infant was either going to be a rock star, or a movie star. Those were the choices.”

And the goo? It’s either high fructose corn syrup or a mix of cream cheese and grape jelly.

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