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Using 'unhappy' children in films - how is this done safely?

(84 Posts)
Sarah961 Sun 28-Feb-16 07:37:17

I watched the trailer for a film made by some acquaintances of mine yesterday. During this there was a scene with a small child, witnessing a fight between two adults, and walking away from it clearly extremely distressed, sobbing, saying 'Ma-ma' in that broken way children do when they are horribly upset or frightened.

I couldn't watch it again to check whether it was possible the child was edited into the scene so not actually crying because of the fighting, that it wasn't really her Mum, and she was upset for some other reason.

The child looked about 4.

Whatever the reason for the crying, it was not acting. It was genuine fear or distress, that much was obvious and it was incredibly painful to watch.

I'm pretty shocked that they thought it was Ok to use footage of a child in real distress, and also wondering what happened to make her so distressed, and if they just allowed it because they needed the footage for the film?

I kind of need someone to reassure me here. I absolutely hate seeing children crying in TV or films, because I think the same thing - they let them cry, or they may have even made them cry.?

This is wrong, isn't it?

rosebiggs Sun 28-Feb-16 07:43:17

I've wondered this too. There's an advert with a child crying on the bus and the person in front shows the child his phone to distract him.
But why was the child crying?
Did they sit there until the child cried?
Was he being held by his mother or an actress?

GooseberryRoolz Sun 28-Feb-16 07:43:45

It's done a lot more carefully than it used to be, and nobody deliberately does anyting to provoke an upset response from a child 'actor', which sometimes happened in the past.

It takes literally hours to catch a child naturally overtired, fractious or otherwise upset but that is what a film unit (usually a second unit) will now do and even then they don't always manage to get the footage they want and so rely on overdubbing a crying track on carefully edited footage of an otherwise okay child (this is noticeably more common now if you watch tv with an eagle eye).

bakeoffcake Sun 28-Feb-16 07:44:03

I agree with you 100%

I watched a scene from Call The Midwife on Friday (I think it was on GoggleBox) and a baby was absolutely screaming, it was really distressed- arms flaying outwards and very red faced. My first thought was 'what parent would allow their very young baby to be filmed getting so distressed' it was awful.
I don't think you'll get reassurance tbh because unless the children and babies are Oscar winning actors, they are genuinely distressed sad

GooseberryRoolz Sun 28-Feb-16 07:46:06

Sometimes just handing a small child to a strange actor DOES unsettle them so in a drama shooting order will be arranged to have scenes needing a crying baby to be shot first.

GooseberryRoolz Sun 28-Feb-16 07:47:41

Personally, I wouldn't have allowed my DC to do it. Film sets are often weird clangy, draughty big places with shiny lights and lots of people.

NotSayingImBatman Sun 28-Feb-16 07:47:45

DS1 is four, he could, and frequently does, get to that red faced, tears streaming, shoulder shaking sobbing phase when he's told it's time to put his tablet away.

Maybe I'm missing a trick.

Sarah961 Sun 28-Feb-16 07:48:27

Thank you. I'm glad people agree with me that it feels terrible to watch. I love it when they dub the crying over on the soundtrack, and hide the child's face so you know they aren't actually crying. That's great.

I wonder if they did wait for the child to get 'naturally' upset but this is the thing, it wasn't a normal level of distress. It was really awful - as if her mum was actually being attacked, and she didn't know what to do.

It looked as if she was watching the whole thing and terrified.

They aren't professional film makers though they have all the equipment and are trying to break into it - it's all they do every day and it's taken a few years to make.

They are really nice people but I am a bit dubious about this.

Any filming with a genuinely distressed baby or toddler will be done in very short bursts, with the total supervision and permission of the parents, and they'll never do anything to provoke it.

With older children, again they'll never do anything to provoke crying or screaming. The parents might, but a responsible production team never would. It would be a case of waiting until the child is very fractious, filming one or two takes at the most and then plenty of positive attention and a long break for the child.

Sarah961 Sun 28-Feb-16 07:49:37

No, I couldn't allow my child to do that either. How awful to have your distress documented for the sake of other people's enjoyment, when you have no say in the matter.

(By provoke it I meant screaming or poking the child/baby. They may hand them to strange actors, which would set them off anyway)

Sarah961 Sun 28-Feb-16 07:50:45

By waiting till the child is very fractious - what does that mean? Not giving them a break or something to eat - not trying to comfort them?

Blimey sad

Sarah961 Sun 28-Feb-16 07:51:22

Do you mean some parents will poke the baby till it screams?

WhirlwindHugs Sun 28-Feb-16 07:51:25

They wait until they cry naturally, shoot the shots they need then give them back to parents.

KaraokeQueenOfTheNorth Sun 28-Feb-16 07:51:42

I can't watch little babies upset, I have to leave the room. I was watching something recently with DH and it had a baby in it who was crying, not loudly or overly distressed but just kinda whimpering, I got really fidgety and DH said "you just want to pick the baby up, don't you?" he was teasing me a bit but it really distresses me! I always say the same about sad children on TV, who would let their sobbing toddler be filmed? I couldn't, I'd be running on set to cuddle them!

GooseberryRoolz Sun 28-Feb-16 07:52:27

That does sound pretty bad, actually, yes. Maybe even legally dubious given how tight the laws around DC in entertainment are. But I suppose it was one of their own DC, filmed during an amateur shoot?

You must feel a bit icky.

Katenka Sun 28-Feb-16 07:53:05

The scenes with crying babies doesn't bother me so much as I know it done in careful ways.

The scenes where for example where the child it witnessing something awful, does bother me.

I remember watching Dexter and it flashing back to him being found as a child next his mothers body. The child was covered in blood and quite young. I worry that because they don't understand it's not real, it may cause problems for them down the line.

I might be over thinking it. But I wouldn't let someone cover my child in fake blood and let them sit there filming.

Sarah961 Sun 28-Feb-16 07:53:29

Exactly Karaoke. It made me wonder whom she was running to, and where they were and how they could stand back and not lift her up, even for ten seconds.

That has to be damaging - for a child to know its parent won't help and is just standing there.

PseudoBadger Sun 28-Feb-16 07:54:00

"They are really nice people but I am a bit dubious about this."

Well if you know them why don't you just ask them?

Sarah961 Sun 28-Feb-16 07:54:41

No, it wasn't their own child. I assume someone else agreed to it.

Sarah961 Sun 28-Feb-16 07:55:20

I don't see them any more, and they wouldn't take it well if I asked anyway.

GooseberryRoolz Sun 28-Feb-16 07:55:31

I remember watching Dexter and it flashing back to him being found as a child next his mothers body. The child was covered in blood and quite young. I worry that because they don't understand it's not real, it may cause problems for them down the line.*

I've wondered that about a couple of scenes in 'scary' US dramas Katenka. I do think they do things there that wouldn't wash in our domestic industry.

WhirlwindHugs Sun 28-Feb-16 07:56:57

You seem very determined that they do terrible things to children. Being on sets is pretty loud and overwhelming, they will have several babies on hand. One starts crying. They put it in the actors hands, take the shot (often the shot is only going to be a matter of seconds, or fractions of seconds long) then given back to parent. It's a momentary thing.

To be honest I think having to be smiley and cheerful is probably harder for most toddlers.

Sarah961 Sun 28-Feb-16 07:56:59

you could probably add blood to an image using a computer, I think. crying not so much - not visible crying anyway

Sarah961 Sun 28-Feb-16 07:58:59

No, not determined. Just I suspect they may not have been totally careful about it, and was hoping someone would give me a scenario that was plausible that wouldn't have involved ethically dubious filming.

It wasn't a baby - I know babies cry a lot anyway and nothing can be done, sometimes. But a four year old (maybe three) in terrible distress doesn't seem like it would be that easy to capture.

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