Production: 5 Tips for Directing Children

Directing children in a film is not exactly the easiest job in the world. Here are a few tips that may help in directing children.

  1. Children Come First: In order to protect yourself and the child actor, you should be aware that there are some strict guidelines that protect the child actor. You should have a parent or guardian present when the child is working. The child should not be overworked or stressed out and the child should not have to experience things that they would be too young to understand emotionally or physically. The child's education must be taken into consideration and there should either be a tutor on the set or the child should have time off to go to school.
  2. Protecting the Psyche: Be sure that the child you are using in your film knows and understands the concept of acting. If the child does not understand this concept it will probably become confused and the acting and real life may become intertwined.
  3. Children and Direction: Most children are born actors and love to act. Every home has or has had the drama queen or drama king at some point. You know the kind: the kid that cannot tell a story without acting it out for you. However, acting out from a script is something totally different. You need a child that is a talented actor as well as one that respects authority in order to take direction properly. When directing a scene with a child and you have a good take, shoot it. A child will seldom give you the same performance twice. If you have to shoot a scene many times you can either change the mood of the scene if it will not disturb the flow of the script, or you can rest for a while (shoot another scene without the child) and then return to the scene fresh.
  4. See the Scene through the Eyes of the Child: When directing children you should remember that you are the director and not their buddy or pal and should render your direction with authority, but without seeming to be mean. They have to know that you are not their friend you are their director. As far as the script is concerned; the children should be advised about the story line without telling them everything. You want them to use their own imagination and creativity which will make your direction so much easier.
  5. Camera Angles to Use to Film Children: When directing children in a film, the camera angles at which the children are photographed play an important role in the mood of the scene. You cannot film an adult and carry right over to the child because you may lose something in the emotion (mood) of the scene as the adult and the child are at different heights. Move your camera angle to the child at the child's eye level. This will create a friendly image and add warmth to the scene. When filming the child at close up than move the camera closer to the child rather than using a zoom and a wide angle setting should be used.

Children should be encouraged to use that imagination and creativity so that it will make it easier for you to see the scene from a child's perspective. The author of a script is an adult and sometimes cannot see a scene with the eyes of a child. Your child actor may help in that respect.

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