How To Direct Childran in Video (without crew)

So you’re a parent making an amateur video, and you don’t have a crew. You want to get the best out of the kids, but you know they’ve got the patience and attention of a fruit fly (a trait they inherited from someone). Here are some tips.

In the sample videos, both promotions, my children were generally not delivering their solo lines with their siblings. It’s too hard to keep them all together for more than 10 minutes, and they make each other laugh. So I shoot wide shots first, then take them one-one-one for individual lines. Then I edit longer lines — using “cutaway” shots so you don’t realize the entire line wasn’t read at once. The cutaways allow you to believe the kids are still gathered together.

Here are some other pointers…

• Have all props ready
• Get tripod and lighting together- best if daylight
• Incent kids (but best not to bribe); give them a time limit (15 min)
• Ask if they cam commit to that time (a verbal yes increases odds). I never like to impose or threaten them.
• Shoot all wide shots first (group ones)
• Stay off tripod for tight shots- allows spontaneity and motion shots
• Give them a cue (go!) and ask them to wait one second
• Feed them lines in tone you want delivered
• Break long lines us, and use cutaway
• If they mess up, encourage, keep rolling, do again
• When they get a line right, praise them (avoid fake praise)
• Allow for improv lines and moments
• When shooting individually, get cutaway shots of them looking in direction of other kids (even if they’ve wandered off)

Spontaneity. You can’t script lines like the horse/car and “old fashioned hot dog” lines in the video below. Most of the time my kids provide me better stuff than I could script. If you select “more” you’ll see the script of a video called “Couch Digging.” In this, the kids keep pulling out stranger things from the couch cushions. I’m too wacked on medicine to patiently shoot this right now, and I’m hoping Katie (age 13) will direct it and I can edit it. I know the best lines and shots will be spontaneous like Grant’s lines in Dr. Who below.

Storyboarding. Don’t know, don’t do it. I barely script.


3 Replies to “How To Direct Childran in Video (without crew)”

  1. I almost never scripted/directed video performances of hank. I just waited for him to do something, then fashioned the video around that particular piece of adorable/annoying behavior. Much easier toget good video, much harder but rewarding to figure out what the hell to do with it.

    1. Jan, thats why I refuse to give hank a camera. God knows what incriminating evidence he’d inadvertently record.

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