Kids are natural actors. Almost every child in the world loves to act at some time or another. Playing is a part of their inherent programming and is one of the essential tools that they have at their disposal to learn about the world around them. With that being said, directing children on TV shows, or any film venture for that matter, can be both challenging and rewarding, but there are things that you must keep in mind first and foremost.
Children are kids
The first thing to keep in mind is that children, whether they appear to be the most well-behaved, disciplined and respectful individuals you have ever met, children are still children. You cannot talk to them the same way you might speak to your adult actors. Children have sensitive psyches and will respond to criticism in much different ways than adults. They can also be hurt much more severely by simple words that you would think are harmless.
When directing children on TV shows, just remember that you are dealing with impressionable young individuals and they are likely not going to offer you the same performance for each take of the same scene. Don’t lose your composure, become frustrated, or angry. If you do after some time and feel that your patience is running thin, then take some time away from the setting and cool down.
Always have a parent or guardian on hand
The last thing that you want to deal with as a film director is angry parents. You also don’t want your child actors to do anything that they are not comfortable doing or things that their parents wouldn’t want them to do. There is no excuse to not have a parent or at least a legal guardian on hand whenever you are filming scenes with your child actors. No excuse. If the parents or legal guardian tell you that it’s okay, politely decline and inform them that legal issues prevent you from working with the children in their absence. While this isn’t true in most areas, the last thing you want is to deal with legal issues later on.
Getting kids motivated
Now, to get kids motivated to work on shooting scenes for TV or other ventures, you can have your hands full. Depending on the age of the child, you may have to use different techniques. Younger children will become bored playing the same scene over and over. If you are not getting the shots that you want, you may want to move on to another scene and then come back to the troublesome one later on, when the child is fresh.
Candy and games are almost always great motivators for children to work through scenes. Just make sure that what you are offering as a reward is fine with the parents. While the child may want that peanut butter cluster, they may be allergic to it, or the parent may not want their child to consume junk food.
When children begin to see the acting part of their day as work, then they will lose interest quite quickly. Keep the environment loose and relaxed and fun. Kids who are in a fun environment will be more willing to do the things that you ask him or her to do.
Directing children for TV shows can put any director to the test. When you keep their age in mind and find things that they are interested in and enjoy having fun with, then you have built-in positive reinforcements to use in order to get the best results out of them.