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Camberwell Production Guides: Working With Children

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Camberwell Studios discuss one of production's most debated issues; working with kids...

Why do you want children in your production? This could be for many reasons. Their little faces, flushed with curiosity and wonder, are one of the great natural selling tools of the marketing world.
Children are used for TV shows, adverts and corporate videos to give their products a special feel. Buyers trust the innocence of children; they can give the product or message a friendly and approachable feel. Shoots with kids usually throw up a lot of surprises, as they can be very random in their nature.
Children tend to be very unsettled most of the time, they don't like routines. The nature of repeating the same lines and the same actions every time is foreign to what they are used to.
They also have to listen to adults, which any parent will know, is tough. All you can do is find the right child for the job. Try your best not to go for looks alone as the child may not have any experience. Find a good agent that can take you through the whole process from the right way to cast the child and subsequently, the right way to rehearse with the child and obtaining a licence too.
The skill is to provide a relaxed but focused environment. You will have a limited schedule so make sure that you block out the day and actions prior to shooting. During this process you can shoot a rough video a shot list that can be shown to the child as an example of what they need to do. (Kids are like sponges so don't swear at any point). This video could also be a useful tool for preparing for your licence application. It will show the type of work the child will asked to do and it will give the application board an insight as to the type of production company that you is applying.
Be firm but gentle, if you are the person giving directions and information, It is best to find some time to speak to the child personally with their guardian present. Explain what is to be expected of the child. This will give the guardian some peace of mind for the rest of the shoot too.
Talk clearly and directly to the child. Explain the safety rules and how the day will go. Describe the sequence of events leading up to a take so they are aware of the voices they will be hearing. Make it fun. Get involved. Act out the scene or action briefly for the child so he is prepared mentally for the next take.
The road to casting, managing and shooting your child star is long and complicated but potentially very fruitful for your shoot. You cannot plan for the sheer unbridled joy of children being the face of the project or scene. Follow the tips to prepare for a safe, rigorously planned and carefully managed production and your child will add that extra dynamism and quality that no adult actor could ever offer.

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