Working with Child Actors or How to Learn Patience in 5 Second Bursts
For the Gabuduck app Miko and Cola we had inexperienced child actors playing 3 of the 4 major voiceover roles in the book. And this book is big by iPad ebook standards, 64 pages of fun and frolic! So how do you wrangle child actors, keep their interest while recording over 120 lines of copy and ensure you get a great performance? Patience, fun and preparation!
The characters Miko and Cola were played by Ava and Karmen, two precocious 8 year old girls with big personalities. We decided to cut their roles together to let them read against one another. It took three sessions with the girls to get their lines dialed in: session one was a piece of cake with the girls just nervous enough to quell their natural tendency to be, well, 8 year olds. Through sessions two and three, in spite of a heavy duty raid on the studio’s cookie jar, the girls really hung in there even while getting a little crazy. They both took direction like pros and there were no situations we couldn’t handle. If the lines got a bit tough they helped each other out, stayed on mic most of the time and gave line repeats until we had what was needed. They were real pros.
The character Sherman the Mouse was played by 4 year old Declan and he was a trooper. (Full disclosure: he’s my son!) Dad would feed him the line the way it needed to be read and Declan would repeat back until he nailed it. There were moments where he no longer wanted to read and the trick here is to take the break and do some playing. Sherman’s lines were cut over three or four days in my home studio with frequent stops to play Hot Wheels or Wii Star Wars but when it was all done and the edits were finished we had a great read by the little man.
Cutting child actors is a big change for the VO director. You need to get out of your chair, get in the room with the kids and help them through their lines. Mic stands and headphones can be intimidating to adults, just think what it’s like when you aren’t even 10 years old yet. We used jokes, cookies, frequent breaks for play and lots of patience and laughter. We ended up with great reads from three wonderful kids and a fantastic story that I’m sure your kids will enjoy as much as mine does.