CASTINGS, CHECK AVAILS, HOLDS, AND BOOKINGS:
MAKING THE PROCESS POSITIVE FOR KIDS
MAKING THE PROCESS POSITIVE FOR KIDS
By Jessica Benz – Mom | Actor | Studio Teacher
If you, like me, have been a parent in the entertainment industry more than a few hours, you probably discovered there are a LOT and I mean a TON of factors out of your control in this industry. That being said, in order for our children to be successful, we as parents must maintain healthy mentalities and nurturing environments for our kids, control the factors within our control 100%, and let the rest go.
At times, and especially in the commercial world, talent seem chosen with as much (or as little) thought as a shopper chooses fruit at the grocery store. Imagine a gal has a hankering for apples. She travels to the store and chooses two Fuji apples that catch her eye. Does that make the other Fuji apples (or Granny Smith or Red Delicious or even the bananas on the other side) any less than the two that were chosen? Of course not. Do you think the other pieces of produce pound their stems against the counter agonizing over why she didn’t want them? Think they wait for the next shopper to scoop them up and write a check? Silly right? Castings can be like that. Let them go.
As a parent, the way we handle the process will affect our children. Treat these castings like visits to the store. Go, smile at the shoppers, and be the people that you are. Be available. If a booking does not happen this time, it’ll happen another time.
If it’s fun for your child, great. If not, find other adventures. Childhood is short and too precious to squander in the casting office.
TIPS FOR POSITIVE CASTING EXPERIENCES
- Accentuate the Positive: With my five-year-old, I use wording like “we’re going to visit our friends at so-and-so’s office” and “you get to do a camera job today.” If we have no sides, as is often the case for commercials, I say, “it’ll be a surprise!”
- Eliminate the Negative: Stay away from pejorative statements like “you lost that audition,” and “that other kid beat you.” It’s not about winning and losing. And for goodness sake don’t criticize your child’s appearance. His/her hair, teeth, skin, etc. are the way they are. You love your child. Build them up with love and help them to see each person who walks through the door with love as well. A loving heart is a happy heart and will always be much more attractive than a cute face and outfit.
- Pack for Success: When your child was a baby you toted a diaper bag with all sorts of supplies, right? With that in mind, pack an audition backpack for the casting trip. Include water, a (non-messy) snack, and a full change of clothes to utilize in the car. Also include some compact, novel, and quiet activities to pass the time pleasantly in the waiting area
- Arrive Full, Leave Empty: Before your child steps into the building, make sure he/she has a comfortably full tummy. Before he/she leaves the waiting room into the audition area, make sure he/she has an empty bladder.
Think of these as bagged apples in the cart before the shopper checks out. If the shopper changes her mind, they go back in the produce section. As a parent of a young child, I choose to keep these to myself. That way, if the client makes other selections and releases the hold, there’s no disappointment or explanation to make about changed plans. But if not…
Beep-beep, ring-ring! Your child booked the job! Congratulations! Now you show up to set with that little darling and let production take it from there right? Of course not. You love your child and want a successful experience on set. You still have an important role to play.
In a perfect world, the production team would think of everything your child needs and wants to be completely content on set. They would have your child’s favorite foods, entertainment, and comfy quarters. They would always put your child’s needs and desires ahead of their project vision. But the reality is that they may not.
By law, productions employing minors must possess a permit to employ and provide a studio teacher to look out for the health, safety, and morals of minors on set. (For more on the Studio Teacher's role visit https://sites.google.com/a/jessicabenz.com/biz/faq---studio-teaching. To learn about Child Labor Law visit: http://www.dir.ca.gov/DLSE/dlse.html) In addition to those things, your child will benefit tremendously if you to advocate for them alongside the studio teacher and assistant director on set.
With a little teamwork between yourself, production, and the studio teacher, your child will have the best day possible on set. He/she will be comfortable and production will run smoothly. Here’s how to make it happen!
TIPS FOR POSITIVE WORKING EXPERIENCES FOR MINORS ON SET
Pack Your Bags: Think of bookings, especially location shoots, as day hikes and expect the unexpected. When it comes to being on set, it is far better to "have and not want than to want and not have," particularly when it comes to kids.
Be especially prepared for weather. Shoots frequently occur out of season and kids are inevitably fighting the heat for fall/winter shoots and the cold for spring/summer shoots. Weather can also change unexpectedly. Keep a “set bag” packed and bring it with you to all shoots so you can always supplement what production provides. Here are some suggestions for items to include:
- your child’s original work permit and two copies (He/she cannot work without it!)
- healthy, non-messy snacks (ex. crackers, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, etc.) and water or other non-sugary beverage (in case your child does not like what production provides)
- jacket (to wear between shots)
- hand warmers and/or body warmers (to tuck in layers of clothing)
- undergarments (undershirts, tights, etc. to offer an extra layer under wardrobe)
- large blanket or towel (great for sitting upon and/or warming up)
- hat with a brim
- bug spray
- umbrella (portable shade in sun and protection from water spots on wardrobe if it drizzles)
- extra vouchers from your child’s agent (for represented talent)
- an activity or two that is compact, quiet, and clean (no markers, play dough, etc.) Even better if it's one that can be shared with new friends on set! :)
- any other comforts specific to your child's needs
Arrive Ready for Action: As with castings, bring your child well rested and fed and be sure to use the restroom upon arrival.
School: If your child is school-age (6 to 18 years unless graduated from High School) and missing school on a shoot day, it is your responsibility to bring the work that your child is missing from your child’s school. (Studio teachers do not have the resources to create curriculum for the myriad of students they encounter.) Three hours of school with a studio teacher is equivalent to a full school day. If your child attends school for any portion of the shoot day, it counts as six hours and that time is subtracted from the time your child can be on set! Bring your child’s school work to set.
Be Present at ALL Times: A minor’s parent/guardian MUST remain in sight and/or sound of the minor. The only time guardianship is released is upon signing a guardianship transfer to another adult on set or when a school-age child is in school with the Studio Teacher. Even then, the parent/guardian must remain close by the school area to be reached if needed.
Be Your Child’s Advocate: You know your child better than anyone else. You can read their expressions. You know their schedule and their temperament. If your child needs something to be comfortable, speak with the Studio Teacher. The Studio Teacher is the intermediary between parents, minors, and production on set. Everyone on set wants a safe, successful day and happy kids. If something is not going right or makes you feel uncomfortable, speak to the teacher. If that doesn’t solve the problem, speak to the assistant director. When you do, stay positive whenever possible and remain focused on problem solving.
With a little teamwork we can be sure that our kids are happy and comfortable on set and that things run smoothly for production too. Now go out and have some FUN!
|Jessica on set with Cast Images kids.|