Tears, tempers and tantrums and that’s just the parents ….
Often the kids are brilliant to work with, but the proud mums and dads can sometimes over promise and under deliver when it comes to their child’s ability in front of the camera, literally pushing them in front of the camera in some cases, when their child is tearful and reluctant. Our recommendation is to over book the number of children you need, invariably one will drop out and even the most outgoing child can clam up when you switch the video camera on. Critically, don’t expect very young children to be able to perform on the day and give you useable soundbites, or even, in most cases, to take direction and actually do what you want them to. They’re too little and overwhelmed by grownups asking lots of questions. The youngest we would suggest you work with, if you want to record their opinion, is 5 or 6 and ideally from 7 upwards.
Playing some games to warm them up works well as an ice breaker but beware we had a shoot recently where the little kids played hide and seek and were really good at it! – delaying filming for quite a while. Have a couple of siblings or children who know each other in the group as this helps create a more relaxed atmosphere and if possible, restrict the number of children to around six. Your client may love the idea of loads of kids running around but it can turn into a filming nightmare.
Remember, they’re at school so organise a shoot in the holidays, at weekends or after 3.30pm. They can be tired after a long day at school so give them some down time to play, have a snack and get to know each other. Friday is a good day as they seem to find a surge of energy as they head to the weekend. Realistically, you can keep children’s attention for a couple of hours, after that their interest wanes, they get tired and can become more challenging to persuade to take part in filming.
What about the parents? Ideally they wouldn’t be on the shoot as they can distract the children or bring other siblings, and it can get very chaotic particularly if you are filming in a confined space. But broadcast PR agencies like Shout! Communications understand that parents are reluctant to leave their children in the hands of strangers! We happily facilitate them on-site for reassurance but not in the same vicinity as the shoot. If you’re hiring a house or venue, ensure there is a break out area for grown ups to chat and have a cuppa. It also gives the celebrity ambassador the chance to ‘meet and greet’ and your client the chance to chat to the celebrity too. Another really good idea, if budget allows, is to have a runner who can sort out parking, look after everyone; welcome late comers and keep the teas, coffees and snacks coming.
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It is critical that parents or guardians sign a release form. Ours is simple and ensures that permission is given for video footage of their child can be used for marketing and PR purposes. We would recommend that they also give permission for photography too. These days most websites also require hi-res stills to accompany a video and one without the other can cause problems down the line. Agencies like Shout! Communications do pay the children expenses, as these aren’t children with agents or at stage schools; it’s just for fun. There is no set amount that you should expect but most companies will try and be as generous as they can. Sometimes they are given a goody bag or some of the products they’ve been working with.
We’ve worked with a large number of children’s brands over the years and typically what clients like is a celebrity ambassador to front the video and then the children to help bring the piece to life. Whilst this can work well – don’t underestimate how good the children can be on their own. They often provide fantastic, engaging content.
See below a recent film we produced for monkey monkey with Dr Emily MacDonagh. It was to encourage children to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes. The kids on this shoot a few weeks ago were a joy to work with!