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Be Prepared For Your Next Shoot: How to Deal with Kids On-Set

kids on-set

If you have ever produced a video using children as talent then you know the advantages and disadvantages. Kids can be great, and truly add a fun atmosphere to any set. However, with their limited attention spans and nack for getting into trouble, they can take you on a whirlwind, and cause a lot of unnecessary wasted time if you don’t deal with them well.

Here are some tips for dealing with kids on-set:

Shoot in short segment

As I said, and we all know, kids have short attention spans. And if you don’t have any children of your own, I mean really short attention spans. Which is why you want to try and break up each scene so you can shoot in as short of segments as possible. This way, when the camera is rolling and the director yells action you only need the child to be in character for as long as it is until the director yells cut. If this happens to be a 5 minute scene and you are filming it in one take, well good luck keeping that kid focused. But if you are able to break that scene up into 10-30 second shots, you are much more likely to be able to get the child to do what you need.

Make it a game

Kids love games. And being a kid on-set is exciting for them. They have it in their minds that it is going to be the most fun day of their life, until they realize the reality of what being on-set is really like. To keep it fun for them, and make sure they stay focused and engaged, try to make what you need them to do in the scene a game in some way. When I was recently dealing with children on a shoot, I would use what I needed them to do for me as a competition. “Whoever can stare at that screen the longest and smile wins”. Although to you and I this might seem like the most boring game alive, children love having your attention and feeling like a winner. Just make sure that you reward them after they have completed the task, and let them know how happy and proud of them you are. Wayne Parker in his article on Child Discipline 101 outlines this theory,

“Offering an easy reward or incentive can help the listening behavior improve.”

Save the sugar

Although using sweet treats might seem like a great plan to lure the child to do what you want, it will most likely backfire on you. Especially if this is a long shoot, you want the child to be alert, but not running around like a mad man. Providing the child with a healthy snack and ample drinks to stay hydrated is key. If you do think that the specific scene would benefit from a hyper child, and you cannot get them to act that way without sugar, then it may be a solution. But be careful, and make sure that scene is scheduled for the end of the shoot and not at the beginning, or else that child will crash and you will need to let them nap it off.

Hope that some of these tips are useful on your next shoot where you need to deal with a kid on-set.

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