Working with kids can seem overwhelming at first, but as long as you figure out what makes them tick and learn about their little worlds, it’s not quite so difficult.
1. Understand how the child thinks:
When I began making directorial notes for Avarice, I realized that some of the life references I was making for my actor to draw from might be completely lost on an 11 year old girl. I knew that I needed to understand the world she lived in so I could make acting adjustments according to something that would make sense to her.
The first thing I did was to schedule some time to get to know her, and that’s what I would suggest to anyone who is working with a child. It doesn’t have to be a rehearsal or even work related. Find out what the child is interested in and spend some time doing something fun with him or her. The child I was working with really liked science and animals, so I took her to the zoo for an afternoon. In that time, I discovered how she enjoyed learning how things worked and how she was very curious about discovering new things.
Many times on set, I would draw from that time I spent with her to explain what her character was feeling and ways she could relate to it through her own interests.
2. Gain the child’s trust:
Another thing that is really helpful is building trust with the child. It’s always important to have that trust with your actors, but it’s even more important to gain with children. I never wanted to seem like an overbearing adult to her because I wanted her to feel comfortable to talk to me about anything she needed. Establishing that relationship early is very important.
Before we ever had rehearsal, I took her to the park just to play. We spent time running around and making up different games and stories. By the end of it, her mom was telling me I might be one of her favorite directors because she was having so much fun. Our relationship continued like that throughout the entire production which made it very easy for me to give her direction.
3. Get your shots as quickly as possible:
Remember that children’s attention spans are short. And the more times they do a shot, the more disengaged they get each time. You might get lucky and have a kid who can stick it out for a ton of takes, but more than likely, most kids will get bored and it will show on their faces.
Questions: In your opinion, how is directing a child different from directing an adult? In a fantasy film, is it easier directing a child than an adult because children are supposed to be naturally more imaginative?