10 Questions To Ask Yourself When Directing Child Actors

Working with child actors is probably something you’ve been taught to avoid in film if you studied courses like we did. Although it presents a lot of challenges, the results can be incredible. Who can forget Lindsay Lohan’s performance in The Parent Trap? Or Macauley Culkin in the Home Alone series? Watching films such as The Florida Project, Room and Kramer vs. Kramer, it’s easy to see how working with child actors is sometimes unavoidable, however, when done correctly, their performance could be the key to your film’s success.

Budding film enthusiasts, Kathryn Butt and Dušan Mrđen, are here to discuss the top 10 things to consider before your shoot with child actors. Dušan has limited experience working with child actors (as a producer), so he knows first-hand – it ain’t easy. That’s why you need to properly plan and organize every detail in pre-production. So, if you’re determined to give it a shot, here’s some handy things to bear in mind to ensure you’re ready:


1 – When are you filming?

K: It’s a lot easier to organise your shoots around the school calendar, so weekends are great for a short-shoot. If you require a longer shoot schedule, maybe consider putting off your shoot until the end of term or during school holidays. If your film requires a night-time shoot, it’s important to bear in mind the legal obligations around working late. You’ll need to prepare your actor for a late night as their energy levels directly affect their on-screen performance. Make sure to allow them time to be well-rested before your shoot. You also need to take into account the time of year you’re shooting in – which brings us to….


2 – Where are you filming?

K: This also ties in with ‘When’, as you need to take into account weather conditions. If you’re shooting on a beach in the peak of summer, or in a car park at midnight, you need to ensure you’re prepared for extra breaks. Ensure their health isn’t compromised by providing sun-screen or bringing extra blankets etc. Also, how far away is the shoot from where they live? If it’s a long drive for a few hours of work then your actors could end-up overtired. Consider accommodation and travel when choosing your location. Also practicality, if you’re shooting in a swimming pool etc. bear in mind the safety of your location and prepare your actor beforehand.

child actors

Moonlight by Barry Jenkins

3 – Have you done your legal research?

K: First things first, check the legal requirements for children working in Entertainment & Film and ensure you adhere to them at all stages of production. It is paramount that you check your local regulations as well, as licenses may be required by your council in order to film. It’s important you check the restrictions on hours as well, and ensure you know the breaks they require whilst in your employment.

4 – Do you have all your paperwork?

K: …And there’s probably going to be a lot of it. If you stand any chance at sending your film to festivals, you’ll need proof that you obtained the correct paperwork. This includes parental consent & release forms, along with any legal documentation. Sometimes licenses can take a few weeks to be obtained, so ensure that you allow time and plan well ahead.

D: There will most certainly be a lot of it. Even when you think you have everything collected – the likelihood is that you don’t. Check everything twice and categorise every piece of documentation to save yourself time later. Research online, talk to your local council, ask your tutors and mentors, and especially other filmmakers for advice.

child actors

Home Alone by Chris Columbus

5 – How long will your shoot take?

K: You need to know how long your actor is allowed to work so that you can make the best use of your time on set. If you can only shoot for a few hours, you don’t want to spend those hours setting-up equipment or experiencing technical issues. The more prepared you are, the better your shoot will be. If you are likely to run over time, plan the shoot over a couple of days. Kids can have short attention spans so allow yourself more time to work with them and get the best footage.

6 – Who will be responsible for them?

K: Have you discussed with the parents whether they will be on-set at all times? It is strongly advised to encourage the presence of parents or guardians on set. Not only for the actor but for your own peace of mind. In some circumstances this may not be possible, in which case you will need to find an appropriate chaperone to accompany the actor to/from & on-set.

D: The parents might not want to be exactly on set (in some cases they might actually be in the way) but you need to make sure they have access to their child at all times whilst keeping an eye on the situation and anything else that might arise.

7 – Have you done a risk assessment?

K: I know, I know, they’re incredibly dull to do & you know the drill, but they’re arguably more important than ever when working with child actors. Things that you may not necessarily consider a hazard for adults might become dangerous with active, excitable young minds on set.

D: On one of the films I was producing whilst working with a child actor, I was adamant that the child’s health was at the forefront of production. The DOP that was on-set kept using a smoke machine to make the shot cinematically enticing. After a few minutes, I noticed the child was coughing – so I had to ask them to compromise and lay off the smoke. And the kid was too shy to admit it that it was because of the smoke!

child actors

Room by Lenny Abrahamson

8 – What about casting?

D: I would strongly encourage you to find a good casting director, preferably someone who has worked with at least one child actor before. When doing auditions with children, it’s important to be flexible and understanding as the children often get scared and have stage fright. The most important thing to pay attention to is the fact that they have to be receptive and aware of their surroundings. Messing up their lines during an audition is less important at that stage as long as they’re comfortable.

9 – Have you communicated with the child?

D: It’s also important that you spend a reasonable amount of time talking with the child and their parents, so the child can respond to you. When you get to the actual production, you might find it difficult to find time and you need them to feel comfortable on-set. Things tend to get a bit hectic, but it’s important the child is not afraid of you and can take direction.

10 – Do you have everything you need?

K: Make sure you have enough refreshments for them and enough things to keep them occupied between sets. There’s nothing worse than a bored child on-set – keep them entertained! Organise mini tours so there’s new things to look at throughout the day. Keep some toys/books/games on set to fill their off-screen time and keep their energy up. Ask parents for any essential requirements to minimise delays during the day.

D: …Oh, I highly recommdend Gummy Bears (you’re welcome). Most importantly, make sure they have fun! If they’re enjoying themselves, it’s likely that everyone else will too!

child actors

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Read Dušan’s article on motivating your film crew here.

The post 10 Questions To Ask Yourself When Directing Child Actors appeared first on Raindance.


Reader Question: How does a 15 year-old get experience screenwriting or directing?

Nowadays with digital filmmaking, the mantra is: Do something!

From Lence1818:

Scott, my question is how would a young person, such as myself, go about finding internships and other opportunities for screenwriting or directing? Ones that don’t exclude people who don’t have much experience and aren’t in college yet. I’m 15 so it’s probably near impossible.

When Lence1818 posted the question, mommyfollows offered a terrific response:

It might very well be impossible for you to do those exact things, except in whatever form a summer camp might take, but it’s not impossible for you to write and direct your own projects right this very second no matter what your age. I was about your age, sophomore in high school, when I first started trying to puzzle a story together. That was fiction, nothing meant for the screen, but every word you write for any storytelling format is another brick in the path toward a successful completed project, and every minute you spend putting together a film, no matter how short, is a chunk of experience you just won’t have if you don’t do it. Read about the 10,000 hour rule and take it seriously, or strive to be the exception; and study storytelling in general, and solicit honest, raw feedback. Do SOMETHING.

Do something. Today more than ever, aspiring filmmakers can create content. Digital cameras. Digital editing. You don’t need an internship to make a short film. Just go out and do it.

Don’t compare yourself to Spielberg or J.J. Abrams. They started somewhere. Their first efforts probably sucked. If you want to direct, trial-and-effort is a great way to learn.

Who are your favorite screenwriters? Who are your favorite directors? If you don’t know, what are you favorite movies? Find out who wrote and directed those. Then read and watch everything you can on those filmmakers. Books, articles, interviews, DVD commentaries, obviously their scripts and movies.

Then go make a short film. Write a script. Shoot it. Edit it.

Watch more movies. Read more scripts. I can’t begin to convey to you how important it is to immerse yourself in the world of cinema. Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppola, Tarantino, Abrams, pick any of great director and I can assure you they have an encyclopedic knowledge of movies. They have gone through probably hundreds, if not thousands of films, and broken them down scene by scene, shot by shot. Do that.

Then go make another short film. Write a script. Shoot it. Edit it.

If you want a film school education without the cost, you can get a good start here: Deep Focus: The Go Into The Movies Project:

Subject Area I: Movies

Subject Area II: Scripts and Screenwriting

Subject Area III: Film Analysis and Criticism

Subject Area IV: Filmmakers

Subject Area V: The Evolution of Filmmaking

Deep Focus In Brief syllabus: 25 movies, 25 screenplays, 5 books [For those with limited time or looking for a good starting point]

Go through that. Make another short film. Write the script. Shoot it. Edit it.

So to add one piece to mommyfollows’ great advice: Learn something. Do something.

GITS readers? What advice do you have for a budding 15 year-old filmmaker? Please hit comments and share your wisdom with this young person. Who knows. They could our next generation’s great writer-director.

UPDATE: Since I originally posted my response to this question in 2012, the situation has evolved. Digital technologies have made it even easier for anyone to make a movie. Web series have exploded on screen. The Internet continues to grow as a distribution platform.

The mantra “Do something” has never held more meaning than today. And if you want more inspiration, I just remembered that in 2009, I interviewed a then 17 year-old Emily Hagins who had by that time written and directed two feature length movies. You may read that 3 part interview below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Emily Hagins then.
Emily Hagins now.

Since 2009, Emily’s film and TV credits include My Sucky Teen Romance (2011), Grow Up, Tony Phillips (2013), and Coin Heist (2017).

If you’re a teenager, take a tip from Emily: Do something.

Comment Archive

Reader Question: How does a 15 year-old get experience screenwriting or directing? was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Exclusive: Jason Blum Talks Todd McFarlane Directing Spawn

EXCLUSIVE: Jason Blum Talks Todd McFarlane Directing Spawn

Exclusive: Jason Blum Talks Todd McFarlane Directing Spawn

After years of anticipation, Spawn creator Todd McFarlane announced at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con that he his entertainment division (McFarlane Films) are partnering with Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions (Get OutSplitThe Purge) to make a feature film of the Image Comics character. Now ComingSoon.net has spoken exclusively to producer Jason Blum about the prospect of McFarlane directing Spawn and how they plan to accomplish bringing the character back to the big screen.

ComingSoon.net: If you look at Todd McFarlane’s career, him becoming a movie director almost seems inevitable. He’s obviously worked in film and TV and music videos before, but how do you think he’s going to adapt his singular style to movies?

Jason Blum: I think he’s gonna do a great job. Being a director encompasses a lot of different skills, but one of the most important skills is you have to be a great manager. You’re kind of a General of this army that you have to lead into battle every day, and he does that in his life every day running McFarlane Enterprises. So I think that translates to directing in a lot of ways. We’ve had a great back-and-forth around developing the script. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think he could do a great job, but we’ll see. I have a good feeling about it.

CS: He’s said he sees this more as a down and dirty horror movie than a superhero film. Obviously demonic beings and hell are a big part of Spawn’s mythology, but how do you guys plan to translate Todd’s very dynamic form of storytelling onto a lower-scale budget?

Blum: (laughs) That’s a good question. One of the things is we’re keeping the scope of the script relatively contained, so that’s the biggest way. I think the other way is he and I aren’t paying ourselves any money out of the budget nor will any of the actors, so that’s another way. We’re using our usual tricks!


McFarlane has written the first draft of the screenplay and is set to make his directorial debut in this dark exploration of one of comics’ most popular characters.

“We’ve gone from the theoretical to now we’re making movies,” McFarlane previously said. “Blumhouse. Spawn. Badass. R. Get ready for it, we’re going into production. No more talking, it’s time to do.”

McFarlane is known for reinventing the look of Spider-Man as well as co-creating the Venom character for Marvel Comics. First appearing in 1992’s Spawn #1, the character quickly became the symbol for 1990s comics dark and brutal antiheroes. His Hellspawn powers allow him to teleport, shape shift, and utilize a variety of weapons (notably chains) in combat.

Spawn previously made the leap to the big screen in 1997 with Michael Jai White in the title role and then on television as an HBO animated miniseries, titled Todd McFarlane’s Spawn.

The post Exclusive: Jason Blum Talks Todd McFarlane Directing Spawn appeared first on ComingSoon.net.


What You Need to Know about Directing Non-Actors

Understanding the benefits and challenges that come with working with non-actors.

As no-budget filmmakers, chances are we’re not going to be working with Hollywood actors at the peak of their stardom. Actually, in each and every of your films your cast might actually be made up entirely of non-actors, or actors who have little to no professional experience, and that’s not a bad thing. People hear terms like “inexperienced” and “untrained” and immediately think “bad performance,” but non-professional actors actually bring something very special to the cinematic table, and because they do, you as a director need to bring a very special set of skills in order to direct them. In this video from Film Riot, director Ricky Staub (The Cage), offers up some great insight on what that skillset entails.

Whether they’re seasoned pros or bright-eyed first-timers, directing actors is a tough undertaking. There’s a lot of emotional and technical work that goes on between the director and actors in order to prepare for a great performance; if your actor is unfamiliar with this process, it could prove to be a little more challenging.

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Stanley Kubrick on How Chess Prepares You for Directing

“Among a great many other things that chess teaches you is to control the initial excitement you feel when you see something that looks good. It trains you to think before grabbing, and to think just as objectively when you’re in trouble. When you’re making a film you have to make most of your decisions […]

The post Stanley Kubrick on How Chess Prepares You for Directing appeared first on FilmmakerIQ.com.


‘Justice League’ Reshoots Cost $25 Million, Joss Whedon Reportedly Won’t Receive Directing Credit

Joss Whedon Justice League directing credit

When director Zack Snyder stepped away from Warner Bros.’ and DC Films’ mega-anticipated superhero team-up film Justice League in the wake of a family tragedy, the man who directed The Avengers stepped in to take his place. But will Joss Whedon receive directing credit for his work on the movie? A new report claims he won’t, and also sheds some light on the film’s extensive (and expensive) reshoots.

Over the weekend, Warner Bros. unveiled a new trailer for Justice League at Hall H, and released it online immediately afterward. One of the channels they released it through was their official Warner Bros. UK YouTube channel, where ScreenRant noticed an interesting bit of text in the description:

A film by Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher.

That’s the first time we’d seen Whedon’s name alongside Snyder’s in any sort of official capacity like that, and the studio swiftly removed the credit from the video’s description. To be clear, it isn’t studio executives who decide if there’s a Joss Whedon Justice League directing credit. That decision lies with the Director’s Guild of America. But it’s an interesting thing to think about, and something I’ve been wondering about ever since Whedon officially boarded the project.

We know that even before he stepped into the director’s chair, Whedon did some work on the film’s script. By the time the movie is released, he’ll have been shepherding it toward the screen in a directing capacity for just under six months. And while Ray Fisher (Cyborg) indicated at SDCC that the movie’s reshoots were “brief, if anything,” we have it on good authority that Whedon has overhauled a significant amount of the movie.

A new report from Variety confirms our intel, revealing that the studio is spending $ 25 million on reshoots that have lasted roughly two months, which is far longer than the average time that’s normally built in for films of this size. The report also says that the reshoots are problems for the in-demand cast, and it hilariously uses Henry Cavill as an example: his character in Mission: Impossible 6 has a mustache, and Paramount refuses to let him shave it off when he heads across town to film his Superman scenes, so it’ll have to be digitally removed from the Justice League pick-ups.

Variety’s report also quotes an inside source as telling them that Whedon won’t be receiving directing credit on the movie. But unless their source is from the DGA, I’m not sure about the accuracy of that claim.

Directors Guild of America logo

A Brief Trip Through DGA History

The guild was created, at least in part, to preserve the creative rights of film directors, but it was in existence for decades before the studios agreed, after contract negotiations in 1978, that there would only be one director credited for a film at any given time. According to the DGA’s website:

Director Elliot Silverstein, chair of the 1978 Creative Rights Negotiating Committee, recalled that “Our concern was that the use of more than one director (and if two why not three or four, etc.?) would lead to the producer becoming an über director and the director(s) becoming messengers. We did not want the Guild’s members to be involved in a ‘piece goods’ profession, blurring individual vision, authority and credit.”

While not quite going as far as to embrace the auteur theory entirely, the guild recognized the practicality of having one person in charge of a production:

“A single director is an organizational imperative,” DGA Secretary-Treasurer and Western Directors Council member Gil Cates explained. “A film is a complex form involving the integration of many elements. It’s a composite from many people — the writer, the actor, the director of photography. I’m sure that what is going on in the world at the time is also thrown in as part of the composite. So I’m not saying the vision has to be generated by one person, but, the best way to have that integration be successful is to have it articulated by a single person.”

One of the reasons the DGA has been so strict about only crediting a single director is because of what was happening elsewhere in Hollywood. They saw the complicated arbitration process in the Writers Guild, for example, when multiple writers contributed to a screenplay and credit needed to be determined. They were also looking to avoid the proliferation of producer credits being handed out to anyone with a passing involvement with the film. While actual producers are extraordinarily important to making a movie, sometimes people receive producer credit for questionable reasons. I’ve heard stories of people being awarded producer credits who aren’t even as involved in the creation of the film as craft service personnel.

Sin City sf

There Are Exceptions to Every Rule

But the idea of a single director being credited is not a hard-and-fast rule. The reason you’ve seen filmmakers like the Coen brothers or the Russo brothers receive co-credit is because they qualify as a “bona fide team” in the guild’s eyes:

There were exceptions built into the single-director clause of the 1978 agreement — there could be more than one director for different segments of a multi-storied or multi-lingual film (e.g., New York Stories and Tora! Tora! Tora!), for different segments of a multi-part closed-end television series (e.g., Roots or Band of Brothers), assignment of a second unit director or any especially skilled director (e.g., underwater or aerial work) and for a “bona fide team.”

Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) famously quit the Directors Guild when they wouldn’t allow Rodriguez and first-time filmmaker Frank Miller to both receive credit for directing 2005’s Sin City (Quentin Tarantino also directed a section of that film), and George Lucas split from the guild after a disagreement over The Empire Strikes Back.

The guild clearly won’t see Snyder and Whedon as a “bona fide team” since they didn’t make the movie together, and I’m wondering if this decision will provide guidance for a similarly-thorny crediting issue that popped up recently: the Ron Howard/Lord and Miller fiasco over at Lucasfilm. I’ll be keeping a sharp eye on how this turns out, and I’m sure Star Wars fans will be, too.

Justice League hits theaters on November 17, 2017.

The post ‘Justice League’ Reshoots Cost $ 25 Million, Joss Whedon Reportedly Won’t Receive Directing Credit appeared first on /Film.


Watch: Extremely Rare Footage of David Lynch Directing and Discussing His Process

Watch David Lynch in his element as he discusses his process and directing his 2006 film Inland Empire.

There’s precious little footage of David Lynch directing, though there have been articles—like this one, by David Foster Wallace, that followed the director on the set of Lost Highway.

But a recently surfaced clip from the documentary Lynch: One sees the director discussing his craft and facing depression, and depicts Lynch as he directs what would become one of his most controversial and experimental films of all time: Inland Empire.

Of his usual process, Lynch says, “Before you start shooting, you have done all that not-knowing, and catching ideas and hooking them together—and going this way and getting that idea and hooking them together, throwing that out and getting new ideas. Then, you have a script and you know what you’re going to do.”

Not so here, with Inland Empire, where the director says the process is different. “It’s scene by scene. Not knowing, but shooting [anyway].”

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Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger: Gina Prince-Bythewood On Directing the Series

Marvel's Cloak & Dagger: Gina Prince-Bythewood On Directing the Series for FreeForm

Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger: Gina Prince-Bythewood on directing the series

A TV series based on Marvel‘s Cloak & Dagger is coming to Freeform. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood recently spoke to BlackFilm about directing the series that stars Aubrey Joseph (The Night Of, Run All Night) and former Disney Channel star Olivia Holt (I Didn’t Do It) as the title heroes, Tandy Bowen, a.k.a. Dagger, and Tyrone Johnson, a.k.a. Cloak! First, check out the official info for the series:

Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger is a coming-of-age series based on the beloved Marvel characters. Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson come from starkly different backgrounds, each growing up with a secret they never dared share with another soul. Once a privileged little girl, Tandy Bowen watched as her family was destroyed by a disastrous storm that uprooted her life. Now in her late teens, an unexpected encounter with a boy named Tyrone sparks a life changing event. Young Tyrone Johnson wanted nothing more than to prove he was fearless. But when everything he held close was taken away, life taught Tyrone to be afraid. Now older and more sheltered, Tyrone closes himself off. But when he meets a girl named Tandy his life changes forever.

Prince-Bythewood spoke about getting involved with the series, though she said she wasn’t aware of it before this job.

“I’ve just been a fan of Marvel,” she tells the site. “When I heard what the story was about, it was right into my wheelhouse and the fact that my boys are big comic book guys and honestly, three years ago I was watching a Marvel show and my youngest ask when will we have a Black superhero? The fact that we’re so excited for Black Panther to come out, and the fact that I got to put something out on TV with a young female superhero and a black superhero was just a gift.”

She also talked about having more people of color working on Marvel properties than in the past.

“I came in to do the pilot, so I’m excited for the opportunity to do it,” she says. “It was such a great script and to be able to help create the look of the show was exciting for me. I love that they are starting to open up and broaden who there are bringing in.”

Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger also stars Andrea Roth, Gloria Reuben, Miles Mussenden, Carl Lundstedt, James Saito, and J.D. Evermore, and will premiere in 2018. Are you guys excited for the series? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @ComingSoonnet.

The post Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger: Gina Prince-Bythewood On Directing the Series appeared first on ComingSoon.net.


Directing Live Cinema? Think of it Like Horror

Director Yara Travieso has created a circular experience that redefines ‘interactive’ with her new performance and film ‘La Medea’

If the core of “live cinema” is the desire to create a realm of possibilities in which the rehearsed performances of an actor are filmed through the lens of the raw, unscripted influence of a live audience, the Dance Films Association’s La Medea has honed in on something new and visceral.

The project began in the black box performance space of Brooklyn’s BRIC Arts on the night of the Performance Space 122’s Coil Festival premiere performance of La Medea, by Yara Travieso. As audiences entered, there was an elevated sense of impending participation and the expectation of the unexpected.

In the performance space, three camera operators hit their marks throughout the continuous 80-minute show.

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