A Quick Guide to Getting the Best Out of Children on a Film Set

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Working with children on a film set is never easy. After all, there’s a reason they say “never work with animals or children”!

However, the results can be great if you get it just right, and sometimes a project simply dictates that younger actors need to be used.

We’re going to take a quick look at some of the things which you need to know when working with children on a film set and offer up some tips which can make the whole thing run a little bit more smoothly.

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Know the Laws

There are some pretty strict rules in place when it comes to working with children on a film set, which you need to be sure you’re familiar with before you get started.

Firstly, the child may require a ‘Child Performance License’ if they’re of compulsory school age, which will be issued by the Education Welfare department of the local authority where the child lives. (You can read more about obtaining a child performance license at Film London.)

There are also rules surrounding when children can work. For example, they cannot work before 7am or after 7pm.

For all the laws you need to know surrounding child employment, head to gov.uk.

Create a Comfortable Environment

Making sure that children are comfortable on set and understanding of what is expected of them goes a long way toward getting a good performance from them.

Be sure to spend some time getting to know them and showing them around the set, perhaps showing them how some of the equipment works too.

There can be a lot of downtime on a film set, and with children having such a short attention span, it can be a good idea to have some game or other treats on the set as a reward for your young stars, or you could perhaps hire a ‘baby wrangler’ such as Peter Robertson at Filming with Kids, a professional who specialises in keeping children entertained and focused on film sets.

Get Your Shots Quickly

Many children are natural actors, and some of their best on-screen moments will be totally spontaneous, and you’ll never be able to recapture them in a second or third take.

Make sure that the cameras are always rolling, and try to capture your shots as quickly as possible, as unlike adults, kids won’t give you multiple takes to get something right!

Be Fun but Firm

It’s obviously important to build up a rapport with your young stars, but never fall into the trap of becoming too pally with them.

While you want to create a fun environment, it’s also important to remember that you’re a director and remain authoritative, without coming across as mean.

Try to explain the script to children well, but don’t tell them everything, so that they can use their imagination a little.

Above all else, don’t underestimate children! They’re a lot more perceptive than you might initially think, so be honest and straightforward with them and try to make the experience enjoyable for them.

Let them improvise and go with the flow, and remember that no matter how good your script it, you can never capture something through the eyes of a child like they can!

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