You are on set to support your child, and keep an eye on them—to give them feedback when they ask for it (and generally not when they don’t, and especially no back-seat directing!) and to see if they are doing OK. Literally. Their safety is ultimately in your hands, and even though union regulations are in place and no one on set wants to do anything to compromise the health or wellbeing of your kid, you’d be surprised at how easy it can be to go just a little too far.
Two examples: when shooting Cloud 9, we had numerous “night shoots” which mean that because the script calls for shooting in the dark, the filming can go either all night or very late into the night. It was far below freezing (as it was every day of that film, up on a snowy mountain in Utah!) and getting very late. I could tell that Dove was just about at the end of her very long rope and getting dangerously tired. Everyone on that shoot was challenged by the brutal weather conditions, and the scene was taking longer to shoot than anyone wanted, just because it was so difficult.
When everyone is just doing their best to do their job, then that is what they are focused on. And it’s your job to stay focused on your kid. Only you can read the look in their eyes that says: “this is it—I have one more take in me and then I’m going to collapse.” So you watch them carefully and when you see that look—you step up to the director or the 1st AD and you tell them that your kid has one more take in them and then you have to call it a night. It’s hard—frequently you only have that location or that setup for that day, and if you can’t get a shot you lose it forever. This can be potentially disastrous for a film especially. So you don’t want to ever step in unless your kid’s health or safety is really on the line. But if it is, you must.
At the other extreme, during the Season One Christmas episode of Liv and Maddie (which was shot on a soundstage in Hollywood in July) the soundstage became unbearably hot. Air conditioning on most stages has to be turned off during filming because it is too noisy, and this was one of those stages. The heat was rough for everyone, but Dove was in a heavy fake fur dress, vinyl boots, long wig, and fake fur Santa hat. During the sequence where she was singing and dancing (in all these layers) in the living room, one of the writers came up to me and said, “Does Dove look OK to you? She looks to me like she might be about to faint.”
And sure enough, she did look woozy— I had been watching the monitors but hadn’t noticed. He was actually watching her directly—not on a screen– and saw something I missed. We asked for a break and pulled her off stage and into her air-conditioned dressing room and got her some water. After about ten minutes she was in much better shape. Sometimes it only takes a little break to make a big difference. Again, you want to be very careful to not be the parent who is always asking for special exceptions for your kid—time is very precious on a set, and falling behind on the schedule can wreak havoc on a shoot. If you are truly a pain to deal with, it can affect whether people are willing to even work with your child. But you also are their ultimate protector, and the only one whose sole job it is to look out for them.
Next: Set Etiquette and the Set Experience: Part 5
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