Table of Contents
Child actors are often seen as one of the most difficult parts of the industry. Not only can they be difficult to work with because of their skill level, but they’re also often harder to train and more difficult to keep track of due to their specific needs in work hours.
These are the top tips for working with the youngest talent and why they can be awesome employees to work with.
Kids can be difficult to work with because they’re often impatient, get bored easily, and can have trouble memorizing their lines. This can be incredibly frustrating to any adults working with them who are used to efficiency and well-trained professionals. Although you shouldn’t yell at child actors or try to push them, you should still set some ground rules. These can be things like no running on set, no talking when you’re filming other actors, and that they can have as many reshoots as they need so you can get a line or scene right. Be patient, but don’t get walked on.
There are union and state laws in place to keep children from being overworked. Because of these important laws, child actors can only work for a set number of hours and days every week. Try to plan any scenes with kids in them to be filmed around this schedule. If you can do this, you’ll make every filming day go by smoother and easier.
If a child’s manager is also their parent, it can lead to complications. Many parents see their performing children as a source of income (due to the Coogan Law, only 15% of a child’s earnings are deposited in a blocked trust account). So they may try to get more out of you or may argue if you question their child’s abilities. Although you should have patience with any actor, don’t let their parent managers try to strongarm into a larger income for them.
Sometimes the best way to get what you need out of a child actor’s performance is to help them forget they’re being filmed. In The Fall, a 2006 movie starring Lee Pace, the main actress, then eight-year-old Catinca Untaru, was often filmed giving her honest reaction to things happening around her instead of acting off of a set script. This helped her reactions seem more honest and allowed her to have more fun while filming.
Although the most precocious child actors will act like they’re thirty years old shoved into a five-year-old’s body: you have to remember that these are still kids. They’re going to be prone to distraction, they’ll get bored or frustrated easily, and it can be hard to critique them without being too harsh. Keep some whimsy in how you direct and work with them, and they’ll be the best part of your cast.
Although it can be rough to work with child actors at times, it’s still important that they’re a part of the industry since they allow stories to be told about people of every age.