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On Set Manners for Child Actors Video Lesson

Being on set is a huge opportunity! Make the most of your time on set!  Parents can help their child actors fit in, feel good, and get asked back with this simple on set manners for child actors video lesson.  Take a look, and read more below!

Actors of all ages do best on set when they know what to expect.  There’s nothing better than getting along well with the cast and crew.  Manners work to smooth the way with friends, acquaintances and strangers.

Manners are about  demonstrating consideration of others.  School-aged kids learn a set of manners for the classroom.  In-class kids raise hands to talk, wait until called on to speak, and save loud voices and hijinks for the playground.  These are great school manners!

Working commercial, television and film sets have their own sets of expected behavior.  Child actors will fit in, feel liked and make friends faster on set if they know what to do and how to behave.  And entertainment industry professionals may work differently than they might expect.

Parents can prepare their child actor before getting to the set so they know what to expect.  Once on set, parents can help their child actor’s day run smoothly (and get invited to more working days!) by helping child actors follow a few simple rules.

Mind the A.D.!

Even small shoots tend to have a whole lot of people working many different jobs.  The buck stops with the Assistant Director or A.D., who runs the shoot, coordinates all communication and knows, should know, or will find out about everything.  The person who says when to arrive, where to be, who eats, whether to break, when to work and when to leave is the A.D.

When you arrive on set, make sure the A.D. knows about it.  You will be told what to do next.  A.D.s always have an answer, and it’s law on set, even if the answer is, “wait here.”  If that is your A.D.’s instruction, then wait there.

So many people!

You and your child will meet a lot of people on set.  Everyone you meet on set is an entertainment industry professional, your child’s colleague, and a networking opportunity.  More importantly, everyone you meet is lucky to be there and is working very hard.  They all deserve your smile and your respect, so be generous with both.

You’ll meet the A.D., one or more P.A.s (Production Assistants), and likely some crew members in addition to the Craft Services personnel.  Be friendly and professional to everyone you meet.  Do your best to remember names and help your child to call people by their proper name.  Keep your call sheet with you to help with names and remembering later who you spoke to.  If you forget a name, ask. Encourage your child actor to say hello, make eye contact, smile and introduce himself or herself by setting the example and doing so yourself.

Stay put!

If the A.D. has put you and your child actor somewhere, stay there and help your child to stay.

There may be nearby temptations, especially on location, like a nearby playground or other children.  On any set, you can expect the lure of the bathroom, snack table, or craft service.

Stay put.  Whether you pull out your bag of tricks, play statue or initiate a thumb war, make sure your child stays where he or she was assigned until the A.D. says otherwise.   If you must move (like to get to the bathroom), make sure to let the A.D. know.

But…bathroom!

Make sure you get to a bathroom as soon as you’re on set.  It’s best to arrive early enough to make a bathroom visit before your call time, so you’re not rushed and you’re not needed somewhere else.

Later in the day, be sure to clear it with the A.D. before you let your child actor disappear into the bathroom again.  Even during a meal break, it’s a good idea to keep the A.D. informed.  A.D.s have a lot to coordinate, and you don’t want them looking for you when you’re not lost.

If you’re a parent of a very young performer, be sure to keep your child’s bathroom habits and needs in mind.  Look for opportunities for your youngster to get to a bathroom regularly enough to avoid any accidents.

Quiet on set!

It can be tough for kids to stay quiet, even when they want to.  While the concepts of “indoor” versus “outdoor” voices may work most of the time, it’s little help if your shoot is on location and outside.  As a rule, tell your child it’s best to use only their “inside voices,” even outside, unless told to do otherwise by the director.

On an active set, there are times you’ll both need to speak very quietly or not at all.  You can prepare your child actor by talking about that before you even get to set.  You can also practice before getting to set by playing “who can be quiet longest” games.

Once you’re on set together, look for what cues the “quiet on set” periods, and help your child to recognize it.  Does the A.D. announce something?  Is there a spinning red light that turns on during shooting?  Does someone wave a flag?  Encourage your child to be attentive to that signal.

Consider asking your child actor to help remind YOU to stay quiet.  Putting children in charge of simple, accomplish-able tasks like that helps build their confidence and take ownership of “being quiet.”  Rather than feeling shushed, they’ll be participating, helping to run the set and will feel more in control.

Quiet on set times are also a great opportunity for signing!

These days, parents sometimes teach pre-verbal children sign language for common items like “milk.”  Quiet on set time is a perfect opportunity to learn more signs or develop your own family hand signals.  Not only will you empower your child to communicate with you more freely, learning or inventing a sign language is an engaging activity you can share without distracting your child actor from the shooting day.

Redirect and stay positive!

Children have a very different sense of time than adults.  A 60 second wait can seem interminable for some young children. Parents know this from the non-stop are-we-there-yets they survived getting to their child’s last playdate.  Yet even the biggest role on the busiest set will have some down time.

Parents can help child actors first and foremost by setting a strong, positive example.  Complaints are defeating and contagious.   If you have any, keep them to yourself.  Your example is your first defense in helping your child develop good manners.  Keep simple solutions with you to address little things, like needing water, a snack, a quiet toy.

If your child has bigger complaints, redirect their attention to something positive.  For example, if your youngster says, “I’m tired,” you might say, “yes, you’ve worked hard on being patient, I’ve really noticed, and I’m proud of you.”vv

One of the best distractions is the set itself.  Encourage your observant youngster to watch and listen to the workings of the set.  The many people doing different jobs.  How each job helps and is part of the filming process.    The many different machines and tools they may see in action.

A working set is a cornucopia for a rousing game of “I spy.”

Food!

There is a lot of food on a working set.  Parents, be aware that there will be a full range of food choices, which means some fall into the candy and treats category.  These can be monster temptations to younger performers.  Help your child actor have good snack manners with the following:

Take SOME, not all.

Make sure your child actor takes reasonable portions of any given snack or food.  You know how much he or she will likely need or is allowed to have, so portion accordingly so your child actor avoids a stomach ache and the production avoids piles of thrown-out food.

Eat.  Swallow.  Then talk.

The same table manners appreciated in restaurants and at the Thanksgiving table are appreciated on set.  Encourage your child to talk with empty mouths and to chew with their lips closed.  And there is always a place for “please” and “thank you.”

If your child is “staying in wardrobe,” take care of the wardrobe!  Bring an over-shirt or robe that can be slipped on over your child’s costuming to protect it from spills.  You can also help your youngster keep tidy by selecting non-messy foods.

Crew Eats First

The A.D. will tell you when it’s meal time.  Crew typically eat first because they also have to go back to work first, setting lights or getting the equipment ready for the next take.  Parents can avoid hurt feelings and minimize frustration by letting their child actors know that beforehand.

The better your youngsters knows what to expect, and what’s expected of them, the better their day and on-set experience will be!

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