Are you producing a teaser campaign for your hospital’s next annual fundraiser?
Or do you need a marketing video series to promote a workforce development program?
Whatever your needs, you’ll need to choose the right on screen talent to connect your audience with your brand. But working with talent can be tricky, especially when they’re children. We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve and tips for you to consider when working with kids on set.
1. Set Healthy Expectations
Notice we did not say, “set low expectations.”
Working with children on set means they have specific needs and considerations, but it doesn’t mean that they’re incapable of working hard or performing well.
Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady, once said, “Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.”
Our producer, Chris would have to agree.
“Don’t treat kids on set like they’re kids,” he explains, “They comprehend things a lot better than adults give them credit for. It doesn’t make sense to talk to a child like a baby and then ask them to perform adult emotions. No baby talk.”
In other words, treat children on set with respect. Don’t talk down to them. Expect them to perform well and encourage them throughout the day. They can rise to the occasion.
At the same time, remember that kids can get frustrated and distracted more easily than adults. Be patient, and take into account that they may slow things down on set.
2. Create a Comfortable Environment
It’s important to work with a video production crew that can create a comfortable environment on set for kids. You want people who are approachable who are willing to encourage child actors and respect them as fellow professionals.
So, we establish a relationship with them while on set as we would with other actors.
“We did a video for Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital,” Chris said, “and we were working with kids, naturally. About thirty minutes before we started rolling, I made sure the crew was good to go, and I took some time to just talk to the kid off to the side before he went on camera.”
“I’ve found it helps to develop a bit of a repertoire with them before they go on camera. It works with adults too, but especially with kids. It gives them a sense of connection and security on set. And, that makes them more comfortable on camera.”
3. Know When to Call Your Cousin’s Kid and When to Hire from a Talent Agency
One of the most common questions when kids need to be in a video is “we can just use my nephew, right?”
If you need a child to convey the idea of family, and no one is speaking, you don’t really need to hire a child actor. After all, most kids can act like kids, unless they’re camera shy. They’re simply playing in the background, adding texture to a scene that conveys a holistic view of “family.”
But, if you need a child who can take direction, who can deliver lines, and portray more nuanced emotion, then you’ll want to hire a child actor. Or if the child talent is a main focus in the video, you should consider hiring a child actor.
Just remember that with an amateur child on set, you always run the risk that they may not deliver in the way you want, they may not take direction well, and they could possibly hold up production. So, you have to weigh the cost benefit of a professional child with the time table of your production day.
“Just grabbing your cousin is not always the best option. Sometimes you really need a kid who’s done it before, who’s comfortable on set.” Chris said, “Ivy is a perfect example. She was a professional, and she knew how to convey the proper emotions with a little coaching from our director.”
4. Soak Up the Energy
Kids bring a totally different dynamic to set! Soak in their positivity and their high energy!
“I love having kids on set,” Chris said, “Kids have that wonder and really wide eyed view of the project as a whole. And it puts things into perspective for us that what we’re doing is really cool. So, it’s fun to have a youthful energy.”
5. Consider Child Labor Laws
Production days are jam packed, and our producers work hard to keep things running smoothly on set. From lighting to creative to sound, video production crews are like an orchestra, playing all at once behind the scenes to create something amazing that’s on schedule and on budget.
If your company wants to do a video with kids, you’ll need to take into account child labor laws.
Minors cannot work on set for more than 8 hours at a time. Depending on how many days of production you require from child actors, clients may need to provide a tutor.
Your producer takes these concerns into account while scheduling production, but sometimes working with children increases the number of production days.