Directing The Tots

By Dana Conklin, Senior Producer/Assistant Director, Concepts TV Productions

Even the most meticulous producer can experience difficulty on set when dealing with the most unpredictable of talent ‚Ķchildren. At Concepts TV we’ve done hundreds of commercials featuring children and we’ve definitely amassed a few ingenious solutions to work with the wee ones.

Recently Concepts TV Productions filmed a non-profit commercial for March of Dimes, one of the world’s leading non-profit agencies. The storyboard called for a stadium filled with crying babies, and then indicated that each child should cry and then disappear one by one. To execute this concept, we ordered a row of stadium seats and cast 15 babies between the ages of seven and nine months (pre-crawling age). Each baby was strapped securely to the seat with a production assistant, or ‚“baby wrangler,” discreetly hidden behind each chair for safety’s sake. We gave each child a toy to play with, and when we wanted them to cry on cue, we took the toys away from them. But instead of crying, they all laughed! 15 babies sitting in chairs ‚Äì laughing! After brainstorming, our TV producers decided to use the same approach, but replaced the toys with their mothers. We had each of the mothers stand in front of her child playing with him, and when the director called ‚“Action,” the mothers left the room ‚Äì all 15 babies cried on command! We got the shot and the scene was so moving, we won a Silver Telly Award for the March of Dimes commercial.

Even more recently, we shot a TV Commercial for a child’s cup that could not be knocked over. We wanted to shoot a comparison test, so we hired a toddler to sit in his high chair and eat Teddy Grams out of a regular cup and then do the same with our ‚“hero” cup. We thought the child would spill his snack out of the regular cup. Instead, he carefully ate them one by one ‚Äì and if one dropped on the high chair he picked it up and put it back in the cup, looking in his mommy’s direction the whole time. Unfortunately (for us) this toddler was so well trained he wanted his mommy’s approval! To encourage the toddler to make a mess the producers started throwing food on the floor. At first he looked back and forth between the producers and his mother, waiting for someone to get in trouble‚Ķhe then happily spilled his cup and threw his food. Money shot! Once we broke his good habits, we gave him our no-spill cup and continued to throw food. He tried his hardest to pick up the cup to throw it ‚Äì no luck! We got our shot!

Whether you’re watching the kids light up as they explore a new product or seeing them behave in unexpected ways that make for unforgettable memories‚Äîas a producer, it’s always a fun and different experience every time.