The on-set / behind the scenes experience can be very exciting or very boring. It’s interesting to see how
tv shows and commercials and films are made, and its all the more exciting when your child is a part of
the action. These few tips can help you navigate through the on-set experience:
Seriously, you sit around and wait. If you are the parent, bring something that will keep you busy: a
book, laptop, tablet, etc. Take note of your surroundings in case you need to stretch your legs or take a
quick walk. This is also a good time to chat with other parents and build your network. During my most
recent on-set experience I completed work training on my laptop, journaled, walked a few laps, wrote
this blog post, chatted with the other parents and of course took several obligatory stalker momager
photos. For the talent, I suggest bringing something quiet that will keep you busy. There may be a lot of
waiting in between scenes, wardrobe changes and makeup re-touches so be prepared to wait. Some
projects such as commercials and industrials can be pretty quick, while film and tv episodes can take
much longer. You may find yourself waiting around for re-takes or for your character to be in another
scene. At any rate, you wait until the director says you are a wrap.
Whether it’s a full budget production or a small scale indie project, craft services will always be part of
the set experience. Depending on the time of day and how many hours you’re on set breakfast, lunch,
dinner, or snacks will be served. Sometimes there are stipulations in terms of who eats first: talent,
crew, etc. but most of the time it’s a very warm and courteous free-for-all dining situation. As the parent
or guest, I always try to be courteous and wait until after the talent and crew eats, or just grab
something to snack on while I wait. For my child, I might suggest he avoids certain messy foods or red
juices, etc. so that he doesn’t mess up his wardrobe or makeup. I also know that my son is a growing
pre-teen who eats me out of house and home so I always remind him to mind his manners and act like I
feed him at home. The point of contact for the project should get with you before-hand to check for any
dietary restrictions or special accommodations.
Follow Rules and Guidelines
Pay attention to guidelines and basic rules. Stay in the designated areas, take care of the wardrobe and props, and talk softly are a few cardinal rules that come to mind. As long as you follow the rules and pay attention to the non-disclosure clause you should be ok. You should NEVER post your location (you don’t want strangers popping up on a closed set), and if you post anything to say “working on a cool
project/commercial/film” rather than stating the actual project, when it airs, etc. because the client may
not want that information shared. Always refer to production book or call sheet information that was
provided to you or direct questions to the point of contact on set.
Don’t bring guests on set
Aside from “take your child to work day” you wouldn’t bring guests with you to work, so please don’t
bring anyone other than the hired talent to set. That includes other children or even the other parent.
This information is usually specified in the production info. Also, don’t bring others with the hopes that
they can be extras, or so they can see the behind the scenes actions. Lastly, if someone other than you
has to take your child to set please make sure they adhere to the guidelines as well.
Stay out of the way
Usually, there is a waiting area or trailer designated for you. If filming occurs in an open area such as a
public space or on the street make sure you stay out of the camera and crew’s way. I usually ask the
producer or whoever the point of contact is for the project if its ok to take pictures or behind the scenes
type of videos for personal use. Even when given permission, make sure you are out of the way and not
interfering with the work that’s being done and the instruction that is being given.
Don’t play director
Now is not the time to direct and coach your child; leave that to the director. Hopefully, they’ve already had their pep talk and are comfortable with what they are doing on set. Too much instruction can make them overwhelmed or uncomfortable. This is also not the time to try to bump them up from a
background or supporting role to a larger role. Please don’t advise your child to do any outlandish things
or anything contrary to what’s in the script in hopes of being seen. Not only will you piss off the director,
but you’ll probably get your child banned from the set or not invited back for other projects.
This is also not the time for you to make your acting debut! Occasionally parents or bystanders will be asked to stand in or be an extra, but this should be at the request of the director, not because you asked. I’ve personally served as an extra on a few of my son’s projects, including two commercials and a film. For one project I knew beforehand that they wanted “real family members” to work together and wanted
me to be an extra, on the others I was asked the day of and figured since I had to wait with him all day
why not work and get paid for it. If you or your child get bumped up to another role, great, but please
don’t make that your intention. Let the cast and crew do what they are paid to do.