When you’re watching a film or TV programme do you ever consider what it’s like on the set?
Needless to say, it’s a fast-paced, frantic, stressful but ultimately exciting environment. But what about when children are involved?
Lots of films, programmes and adverts make use of young actors and extras and the experience can be overwhelming and stressful, not just for the kids but for their parents and the film crew as well!
One programme which absolutely got working with children right is the BBC series ‘Outnumbered’, and you can read the views of its writer Andy Hamilton on working with youngsters in this piece from The Guardian.
One way in which studios make things easier is by using what’s known as a ‘baby (or child) wrangler. They work together with the children and crew to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
Baby wranglers essentially make sure that the children on set are comfortable and happy in this strange environment and keep them focused on what’s required of them, to make things as stress-free as possible and allow the director to concentrate on other matters.
While baby wrangling is common practice on film sets in the US, it’s not seen as often here in the UK, with Filming with Kids claiming to be “Britain’s only baby wranglers”.
Filming often throws up challenges which you might not usually consider, and these all have to be taken into account by a film crew.
This means that baby wranglers have to think on their feet to do whatever they can to keep the young stars as happy and comfortable as possible.
Of course, each child is very different and will have different needs, which is all part of the challenge for the wrangler!
It could be anything from needing to have their parent in eyesight at all times to having that one special cuddly toy!
Baby wranglers often have some knowledge of developmental psychology to allow them to best work with children of all ages, from infants right up to teenagers.
With smaller toddlers, it’s mainly a case of ensuring the set is as quiet and peaceful as possible and making sure the young actors feel as comfortable as if they were at home.
On the other hand, older kids might feel a bit self-conscious about the things they’re being asked to do on the shoot, in which case it’s up to the baby wrangler to simply play the fool and take the pressure off the child so that they don’t feel embarrassed.
They may also occasionally need to play the role of disciplinarian, taking a child to one side if they’re misbehaving and nipping any trouble in the bud.
Another important role of baby wranglers is working with children with mental and physical disabilities to make sure that they’re comfortable with the shoot.
At the end of the day, children are fundamentally different to adults, which is something that directors can forget in the heat of a shoot.
It’s down to the baby wrangler to play the role of middleman and if it comes down to it, ultimately let the director know that things just aren’t going to work out.
As any parent will know, if a child really doesn’t want to do something, then they won’t!