Comedian and actor W.C. Fields coined the famous entertainment business adage, “Never work with animals or children.” But sometimes you’ll need to cast children in your productions. Author Kelley Slagle gives a number of ways to best handle this and keep your young talent, and their parents, at ease, while finding the perfect child for your role.
- Comedian and actor W.C. Fields coined the famous entertainment business adage, never work with animals or children. But sometimes you will need to cast children in your productions. Don't be intimidated by the process. There are a number of ways to best handle this and keep your young talent and their parents at ease while finding the perfect child for your role. When casting children, you want to audition first via digital submission, and then follow up with limited in-person auditions. When you put out a call for a child role in a production, you're going to get a lot of submissions from eager parents who want to see their child cast.
Unfortunately, you're going to get a lot of submissions that don't quite fit what you're looking for. If you look at the picture on the right, those are two kids from my film Of Dice and Men. We were looking for kids that looked like our adult characters, and we got a lot of submissions that didn't even come close to fitting what we asked for. Doing the submissions digitally first will save you a lot of time in the casting process. When you're casting children, you actually need to cast their parents too. You want parents that are supportive. Are they going to be easy to get along with, but don't interfere with your process and don't hover too much on set? Be careful and evaluate them as you go along.
When you do audition those kids in person, you're looking for ones that can take direction from you so that your takes will go more smoothly. That is going to save you a lot of time in the edit room. One tip, when you're auditioning children, try it with their parents out of the room. You want to see if they can deliver a performance without having to lean on their parents' presence. You want to cast for authenticity more than ability. You want their performances to be believable. What would help is if you warm them up by talking to them about their school or the games they like to play and get them relaxed before starting to go through the lines and the script.
More than anything, patience is key when casting and working on set with children, which we'll talk more about later in this course.
- Casting and auditioning actors
- Breaking down scripts and characters
- Directing actors
- Working with non-actors
- Special scenarios