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.


Baby Monkey Song (Riding Backwards on Pig)

Here’s the “baby monkey” riding backwards on a pig song on YouTube… the one for which you’ve searched your whole life. You can buy “monkey on pig” song on iTunes too, and I did so just to support the singer (ParryGripp). Note that he’s not riding on a dog, which might have been your impression when you first saw it last fall. It’s clearly a pig, which brings it to a special level of humor. The retro 1970s Partridge Family and Brady Bunch-like arrangement also helps.

To see more of Parry Gripp’s classics, check NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM (the hamster/gerbil), or “Fuzzy, Fuzzy, Cute Cute,” and “Hamster Yawning in Your Face.”

This blog post requires you to sing along. And I can tell if you comply or not.

Eric Stonestreet’s Secret YouTube Account

Okay let’s keep this a secret, okay? Eric Stonestreet has a YouTube account. While the actor hasn’t logged in for the past year (maybe he’s busy?), it includes a delightful collection of his pre-Modern Family work. See cameos in shows you’ll recognize (and their studio’s better not issue a take-down notice), as well as this Arizona Lottery ad posted in the summer of 2009. Even more interestingly he vlogs with his friend Paul, shouting “I love you” as the poor guy returns to work. He’s also doing some shout-outs and beatboxing for peeps on YouTube. But let’s make this clear… he’s not gay.

Eric Stonestreet plays Cameron (right) on Modern Family (photo NYMag)

If you’re a fan of the actor, who plays Cameron Tucker on Modern Family, you may enjoy this Kansas State video, which shows some of Stonestreet’s undergraduate theatrical performances (circa 1996). You’ll see Stonestreet covered in complete purple for a KS recruitment video.

I think Stonestreet (Twitter) is calling himself “Stoney Pizzalot” in these videos, and showcases lots of talents that have not, to my knowledge, been seen via Cameron on Modern Family. Beat boxing? Bring it on Cameron!

Your Dysfunctional Family

I often do videos I don’t love, and they get lots of views for reasons I can’t explain. And then occasionally I do a video that I personally like, and the masses feel otherwise. This holiday video fits the latter category. I’ve watched it a dozen times, and it cracks me up. The stereotypical dysfunctions of a family gathering… and the cool music played by my father-in-law. 

Naturally everyone was aware this was a parody, and few of the family members actually resemble their characters. For instance, my brother-in-law Greg doesn’t drink. But he played a sneaking boozer pretty well… without the “over the top” drunk moves that many would have chosen. And our sweet niece Ali played the whining teen pretty darned well. 

Through careful editing, most of it appears candid style- and I deliberately shot across the room to give it that feel. Enjoy your holiday weekend, and all the dysfunction we call family. 🙂