I know why child actors mostly grow up to be kooky.
For the past several years, I’ve created videos for little kids, usually featuring little kids in some form or another. Let me take you to the set of one of those video shoots in the form of a sort of script.…
LARGE WAREHOUSE-LIKE SPACE LITTERED WITH TOYS OF VARIOUS SHAPES AND SIZES, BALLOONS, STREAMERS, CHILDREN’S SHOES AND CLOTHING IN BRIGHT COLORS. FOUR-YEAR-OLD CHILD SITS IN THE CENTER OF A LARGE TABLE. WOMAN (AKA ME) LAYS ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF THE TABLE, BIRD PUPPET ON HAND.
Okay, honey, we’re going to try this one more time. When you see the puppet, give it a big kiss on the top of the head.
WOMAN AWKWARDLY BRINGS PUPPET INTO CHILD’S VIEW WHILE SCOOTING ON BACK ALONG DIRTY CEMENT FLOOR. CHILD GRABS THE PUPPET BY ITS WING AND PULLS IT OFF WOMAN’S HAND.
You are soooo silly, sweetheart! But the puppet wants a kiss! Can you give the puppet a kiss when it comes up from under the table?
WOMAN AGAIN BRINGS PUPPET INTO CHILD’S VIEW WHILE SCOOTING ON BACK ALONG DIRTY CEMENT FLOOR. CHILD IGNORES PUPPET, SUDDENLY FOCUSED ON PULLING OF HER OWN SOCKS.
You’re so funny! And you look Like a Disney princess on the video! Do you want to keep your socks off? Can you kiss the puppet on the head this time?
CHILD (pointing to toys on the floor)
I want that ball.
Okay, how about you get the ball after you kiss the puppet’s head? Bird puppets love to get kisses on their heads!
WOMAN AGAIN BRINGS PUPPET INTO CHILD’S VIEW WHILE SCOOTING ON BACK ALONG DIRTY CEMENT FLOOR. CHILD MOVES FORWARD TO KISS PUPPET, THEN PUTS FOOT ON PUPPET’S HEAD, LAUGHING.
Honey, can you please keep your fingers out of your nose? You are such a smart girl, I bet you can kiss the puppet on the head this time!
And so it goes.
See, working with little kids is extremely tricky. As a producer and director and creator of videos for kids, I find myself in these inane situations where I’m trying every trick I know to keep children happy while also reassuring the parents, often hovering behind the camera, that their kid is The Most Brilliant, Most Wonderful Child Ever Born—even when I have to redo a scene a dozen or more times to get the shot I need.
Granted, I don’t blame the kid—they’re kids! And they’re little kids, because these videos are for babies and toddlers, who love looking at other little kids. But in trying to keep those kids smiling and content, it takes a lot of positive praise…. For doing the wrong thing.
One of my dearest friends is a producer of big Hollywood films, and I had to get her take on the perspective I’d earned (from under the table). I told her that I now knew why child stars are at great risk to grow up to be a little kooky: it’s the constant praise, the never-ending positive reinforcement for doing things the wrong way, that gives them an unmanageably huge ego. And you know what she tells me?
It’s not just the kids. Grown-up actors need the same praise, the same ego-bolstering-positive-reinforcement.
Huh. Funny, that.
It’s enough to make this creator/director/producer flat-out kooky herself!
To see some of Julie’s handiwork (that is, her hands in the puppets), check out the WeeSchool App—available for iOS in the Apple App store. Right now, for a short time while WeeSchool app is in beta, we’re offering FREE access to our app, as we load it up with music, ebooks, Play Plans, milestones tips and activities and yes, videos, in our early weeks. Go check it out!