Have you ever heard the term “stage mom”? When you think about that, what's the first thing that comes to your mind? Something positive or negative? In this business when someone says “stage mom” it's usually not a good thing.
I'm an acting coach in New York City, as well as an actor. I've been on a lot of sets, and I'm grateful to say that I’ve had a lot of kids as my scene partners. I know what it looks like when a good parent is on set and when a very nervous parent is on set. Those nervous parents are kind of new to what's going on, and they often get labeled “stage moms”. Here are some tips, tricks, and do's and don'ts for performer parents. Make sure you read to the end because my last tip is a bonus tip, and that one makes all the rest of them better.
Make Sure Your Kid Isn’t Hungry
When you are on set, there are a few things you want to make sure to do so that your kid is ready to work. The first thing you want to do is to make sure that your kid is not hungry. Now, there is always Craft Services on set but some kids are picky. There are probably things that your kid or teen just does not want to eat, and we know when kids don't eat, they get hangry. And we don't want them hangry. So, you should have a bag of food with you, the favorite snacks that you know they're going to want and enjoy. This is especially helpful after a very long scene or when they need to sit and wait for a very long time.
Keep Your Kid Busy
The second thing you should do is make sure that your child is not restless. There's a lot of rushing and then waiting. You have to be on set at a certain time -- you have to be ready, you have to look perfect, and then you have to sit. Sometimes for a very long time. The younger you are, the harder this is to do, so you really want to make sure you have games, toys, or other activities for them to focus on. Homework is the perfect thing to do on set.
Make Sure Your Child is Rested
The third thing is to make sure that your young actor is not tired. Even as an adult, I have been guilty of falling asleep on set. You want to make sure your young actor doesn't have to deal with that. Make sure that they are well rested. If there's a moment where there's nothing going on, it's totally okay for them to grab a nap. No one will think ill about that. Parents, you are on set because you know your kid best. You need to pay attention and notice when they are not at their best so that you can pull them to the side and help them get there. Keep eyes on your child at all moments while they are shooting. You were at home running these lines with them so you know what the scene should look like. If you see that they're getting a little bit tired, or you see that they might need to do some jumping jacks to get their energy up, make a plan to discreetly pull them aside. When they call cut is a perfect time to let someone (probably the first AD) know that you need to pull your kid out, or that your kid needs a five minute break.
Be Mindful of Who You Chat With
Please don't feel like you can't make friends or relax when you're on set. Just make sure you're not bothering anyone who is very busy. Talk with people who are not actively preoccupied. Other parents are great for this.
Pick Your Battles
Can we talk about hair and makeup for a second? This is the moment where I think most parents get in trouble. It's hard because you want to make sure that your baby looks amazing. We all want them to look amazing, but sometimes it's more about how they look for the part than how they look as a person. So pick your battles. Know that you will always want your child to look a certain way, and that's not always going to be the way that they decide to style or dress your child. I have seen parents go crazy about bangs and swoops and parts on set, and it's really not worth it. Let your kid be styled by the professionals the way they want to style them. Now, on the other end of that there are some moments where someone might be messing up your kids hair, or doing something that really might be bad for their hair or for their skin. Don’t let bad things like that slide but handle everything with grace. Make sure that you go to the right people, have the conversation, and ask for something to be changed. Have a solution when you go to the first AD with something that needs to be changed.
Hand Off Responsibilities to Your Child
Know when to hand off responsibilities to your young actor, and know which responsibilities you should keep. If you start in the business when your child is very young, you will have a lot of those responsibilities. As your child gets older, you should start to give them more responsibilities. You want to start gradually stepping away so that they're less reliant on you, and they're more reliant on themselves. They will start to feel really good about taking care of themselves, making decisions, and being around a set full of adults by themselves.
Don’t Discipline On Set
Now let's talk about don'ts -- the things that you should absolutely not do on set. The first thing you shouldn’t do is discipline your kids on set. This includes telling them that they're going to get in trouble when they get home. We can totally see that on their face, and then it affects their energy, and their acting for at least a good 20 minutes. Keep everything as light, and as fun, and as a learning experience.
Don't Ask Too Many Questions
There's a lot of things that you're learning when you’re on set, so it's okay to ask questions. It's the follow-up question for the follow-up question for the other follow-up question, that you probably should have googled, that you don't want to ask. Instead, you should just DM on Instagram for the answer.
Agree on a Signal Between You and Your Child
My number one tip for being on set as a parent is to have a signal with your child. There are a lot of things that are going to go on. You want to have a signal for when your kid feels uncomfortable, when they need a timeout, or when they need to talk to you. It can be the same signal for any scenario but it needs to be something that they can physically do so that you can see them across the room. Then you’ll know that you need to take a moment and pull them to the side. It can be a look. For me and my mom, there would be moments where I would just look at her and she would know that I needed to talk to her. It can be a pulling of their ear, whatever you want. Just make sure that it is something that nobody else is tuned in to and that you can continually use to check in with your kid.
All right, that's all the tips that I have for you today, I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you are having a great time on set, or auditioning or whatever you're doing, and as always wishing you love, life, and all the jazz.