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FAST FORWARD – THEN AND NOW – THE CHILDREN WHO COMPLETE ME!

If you’ve read previous blogs, you know I have a habit of going back and forth in time. The Kiddie Time Traveler am I!!  And, here I go again . . . .

As someone who has had the extreme good fortune to actually keep doing this coaching/wrangling thing  for a living for more than a few years – - -

Well, it kinda makes me feel like Auntie Mame, ya know???

Nurture a child, teach a child, love a child . . . . then watch them go on their way.  Or you leave them, because the film is over, or the series , or  . . . whatever.

It’s kind of devastating.  Heart breaking, actually.

Hundred of babies and children come to mind.

But one – - -  one in particular – - – comes to heart.

At this particular moment – one particular child.

It’s not that I haven’t loved others . . .  I have.  With all my soul.  AND I’ll be telling you about them, too.

it’s just that THIS one . . . .She was my first.

And, well, in addition to spending highly formative years of her life with her on the first seven years of 7Th HEAVEN . . . Well,

. . . . . she’s Mack.

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Mackenzie Rosman entered my life starting at barely age six . . . . .and she left my life – never.

Do I see her all the time?  Do we communicate often?  No.

Will she forever be the first daughter I never had?

Does it make my day – hell my WEEK,  when she calls, or drops me a line or an IM saying she loves me and misses me?

YES.  Oh, YES.

See her through my eyes . . . .that first episode together.

we’re on location on the front steps of the “CAMDEN HOUSE”  or The Alta House as we called it.  (that’s the street it was on in Santa Monica)

The cutest damn little munchkin you’ve ever seen . . . Shirley Temple curls.  Great big HUGE eyes.  Little Buddha belly, WICKED sense of humor, more mischief in that little body than in any 10 kids I worked with prior to her.  (Maybe after, as well!)  Cute little sailor blouse, if I remember correctly, cute little shoes and socks . . .

And . . .

OH CRAP.  She’s wearing a  short skirt.

SITTING

on the steps . . . .

With the camera level with her little face which is in pretty close proximity to her lap.

“Psst, Dawn” . . . . comes a summons from Video Village, and director Duwayne Dunham (to whom I’ll forever be grateful – he brought me on to 7th Heaven for his episode – and I didn’t leave for 7 years!) ANYway . . .

Another “PSSSSSST, Dawn”.  A little more forceful this time.

Me:  “yeah, Duwayne?””

Duwayne:  “Ummm . . . . Mack’s skirt . . . she . . . . can you get her to sit , um,  . . well, a little more lady-like?

Small pause.  LOUD silence.

Me:  “OH.  Uh…. Sure.”

I trot back to the steps, where Mack is squiggling on and off of her mark like a jumping bean.  Lord that child had energy!!!   How to  get a little girl to “sit properly” without making her aware of those kinds of things? She’s only six, for Heaven’s sake, and shouldn’t EVEN be worrying about stuff like that.

I get an idea, and much to our camera operator -Ronnie High’s – relief,  I go in and gently help her sit more ‘lady like” so that “we can see your pretty skirt better, Mack!” (!?)

And I keep doing this.  For about two hours.  No kidding . . . . sitting like a lady is just not something that a little kid remembers  to do:  for them, there’s no logic to it,  it’s not fun to remember all that stuff, and it isn’t comfortable to be seated so stiffly.   And as I said, in a perfect world, young kids shouldn’t need to think about all that.  (tho I seem to remember 9 year old David Gallagher singing something about seeing London and seeing France . . . sigh.)

Ronnie spent half that shooting day with a red face, little desperate whispered “Dawn”s escaping from him regularly,  to signal  that I needed to step in again.

Thus,  I spent most of the day whispering – “Mack, Honey, show your pretty skirt …”

As I write this, I’m sitting in a jury assembly room in Van Nuys, CA at lunch break , approximately 15 years later– remembering  and hooting out loud.

Boy – that would make the attorneys use their “pass” card if I was sitting in voir dire right now!!!  More on the jury duty another time . .

Thus began my first episode on the show . . . .I was to go on to do 150 episodes. I have the celebratory champaign glasses from the 100th and 150th episodes to prove it! I had no idea what a wild ride the next years would be.  I wouldn’t change it for the world . . . . though there WERE days I wasn’t so sure of that.

As I said – I was blessed to stay with 7TH HEAVEN for seven years . . . seven seasons of a hit show . . . . seven actual years of straight employment – practically a miracle in my business . . . . . but more importantly – seven years with my Mack!!

Next time – I’ll tell you more about our relationship -  and what SHE taught ME.

Mackenzie and the Very Long Day's Work

Comforting Mack and her co-stars on a very long shoot day.

PS   Typical for me – though I wrote this a few weeks ago, I’m just posting now.  It’s that back and forth in time thing . . . I gotta get a handle on that!

 

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THE THREE M’s

Nope, not talking about the Three Musketeers . . . .

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Nope – not talking about SciFi films, or any of the scary categories of films that seem to be THE films to make.

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Mustn’t Make Monsters .  Those are the Three M’s.

So what I AM talking about is the danger of  not being aware of the literally hundred of ‘little things’ that occur on a set and within that can turn a Beautiful Bright Spirit (aka a baby or child actor) into the Dreaded  Monster Of Ego, Arrogance and Selfishness . . .(sounds like something that would be in the swamp with the Rodents Of Unusual Size – R.O.U.S. – in Princess Bride!!)

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AND – they would be no less frightening . . .

AND . . . by the way . . . . not only POAK’s (Parents Of Actor Kids) need be warned . . . this happens to Civilian Kids, too!

SO – back to the non-pictorial part of today’s post:

One day, first thing in the morning on location for another commercial shoot,  I overheard a four-year old toddler ask his mommy “where’s  my WinaBAGEL?!!”  After chuckling in delight a few moments over the adorable mangling of the trade name for one of the more upscale dressing room/trailers an actor can have – the Winnabago -I suddenly sobered.  Was this just a tot malaprop, or was this kid already so spoiled that he would complain about a regular Honeywagon (a much smaller, often much less comfy type of dressing room)? Was he a Sweet Bright Spirit who was already in the throes of becoming a monster?

When you really examine the situation, it’s actually the kids who aren’t monsters who are the oddities. (and thank Heaven – there are many, many MANY who are NOT monsters.  I know – I get to work with them!)

But think of it:a baby or a toddler gets a feature film (well, actually a set of twins plus other multitudinous additional babies get a feature film – I’ll explain later).  The first thing that happens that the babies are actually aware of is:

they find themselves in (hopefully) a big beautiful spacious room (their new trailer/dressing room HOME for the next 3 to 6 months) that is filled with a huge basket of toys equaling anywhere from 500 to a thousand dollars, with a WELCOME TO (Insert name of Movie) note, which they probably try to eat.  (Or succeed in eating, actually, if mom and the baby wrangler are not on their toes!)

And then, if they’re lucky enough to have a baby wrangler on the shoot (I don’t mean just me – I mean the position of a baby wrangler – goodness, I’m not THAT vain!!) he or she has a veritable bottomless pit of toys (their “wrangling kit”) with which to entertain, train and cajole them. And THEN, if the wrangler IS me – - -  they’re probably being given new toys to keep about every three days – because I just can’t resist giving  ‘my kids’  presents.

Repeat the procedure with any age child actor getting a series or a film, because it is the same.

SO – they possibly become trained to believe that they will have new toys virtually fall out of the skies at oft-repeated intervals.  That is a major potential danger in the Monster department – though not as big a danger in the infant to three-year old age range as that of the older kids. The tiny ones seem to accept (and as quickly get over and discard) toys without making the kind of connections in their little heads as their older counterparts.

I can honestly say that I am amazingly lucky enough to have worked with babies who greeted me upon arrival on-set with huge smiles and hugs that could heal any kind of heartbreak, worries, or exhaustion that my real life may have been supplying.  Kara and Shelby Hoffman of LEMONY SNICKET and Trevor and Preston Shores of BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE 2, The Coss triplets Chloe, Ashley and Hannah of A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR CHRISTMAS, and Lucas and Evan  Kruntchev of DEXTER,  and Ryley and Bayley Cregut of RAISING HOPE are a few of the amazing babies who will be in my heart FOREVER.   They would fly across whatever space divided us and dive into my arms with huge hugs and squeezes almost every day. They were aiming straight for my arms and my heart.  Never once did they look at my hands first to see if I had new toys for them.  Is there a luckier girl on the planet than me?

Just take a look at these babies, and watch them in the films and on tv.  You’ll be jealous that I got to hold them, feed them, cuddle with them, train them, play with them.  Share part of their LIVES with them.  A gift I never take lightly – from them and their parents.

.Kara and Shelby KARA and SHELBY DSC00007_2

Image 6RYLEY and  BAYLEY Image 7

Batman&RobinSPENCER and PRESTON

 

 

DSC00867 CHLOE, ASHLEY, HANNAH

     photo 3  LUKE and EVANImage 10

Oops, digressing AGAIN. Sorry.

Back to the potential for monsters.
The bottom line is this:  these babies, toddlers, youngsters and teens are surrounded by adults, and GO TO WORK.  They are fussed over as children, but constantly in the company of adults. They hear adult conversation, witness all kinds of adult behavior (although admittedly the last thing some actors are is ADULT – no matter their age!)  And the crew???!!!!  Biggest bunch of wonderful kids you can imagine but it can make for further BAD examples for the kids!!!  They begin to feel as if they, too, are adults.  Because of this, many grow up with no respect for their elders, as my Grandma would have said.  They have one teacher, possibly for years, if they’re on a long-running series, or if they request the same studio teacher from one film to the next.  They call that teacher by his or her first name. Yet another breakdown in the necessary division between adult and child.

They ask for something on-set – they’re likely given it.  Expensive presents, special treatment, favors.  They go out into the world where thousands of fans – children AND adult -   want to meet them, touch them, talk to them, take pictures with them.  That is their regular, normal day-to-day life.  How could this not impact a child?
I’m happy to say that there is a way.  I know, because I’ve seen it.  It’s called Good Parenting.  As simple, as complex and as miraculous as that.  What is the magic that the Good Parenting Ones perform? You know – you probably do the same.  But for the record, what the hell, let me tell you what I have observed:
They don’t treat their kids as if they’re actors.  They treat them as members of the family.  As regular kids.  Sound like a no-brainer, I know.  But it’s hard to do.  And absolutely necessary.

They make them do regular chores.

They make them do their homework first

They make sure to get the kids to bed early enough to make up for the fact that they have to awaken at sparrow’s fart (my Australian agent, Colee Viedelle’s favorite description of anything before 9 am) to be at work at 6 am.

They know that the kids must get plenty of sleep in order to survive their very tough production schedules.  And healthy meals – not just the yummy junk food on the craft service table at work.

They make sure to help the child understand that he or she is VERY LUCKY – and that there are other children out there who are just as talented, but maybe not just as lucky.  Kids who would be thrilled to do what they are doing.

The really great parents make sure that their kids do volunteer stuff – serving Thanksgiving dinner downtown to homeless families, working with CHILDHELP. Seeing how truly fortunate even the average middle class family is, let alone a privileged child of ShowBiz.  Seeing how the “real world” really is.

The really smart parents make sure their young showbiz kids have NO CLUE as to how much money they are making, and give them only the going weekly rate for kids’ allowance these days. This is a really important one!

And most important of all THEY MAKE SURE THE CHILD KNOWS HOW MUCH THEY LOVE THEM, AND HOW PROUD THEY ARE OF THEM – having NOTHING to do with the being an actor part – but all to do with being Sally or Tommy or Mikey.  Their child.  That’s the real magic.

Time and time again, I ask the parents of my private coaching clients as well as those of my on-set charges to make sure that, when describing their kids, they say things like “my wonderful kid who is so considerate, or so polite, or so  smart and who also acts.  Not, “my kid the actor.”  Because if a child is identified by being an actor, and he’s not working – not acting – he can feel he is therefore nothing.  But if he’s a kid who’s great at sports, or who is such a help to mom, or whatever else defines that spirit . . . then he or she is ALWAYS all those wonderful things.  Oh, yeah, and cool – he also acts.

Ya know what I mean?

Dawn Jeffory-Nelson’s Will Work for O’s©

September 2 2013

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CELEBRITIES: MORE FUNNY STORIES or DENNIS QUAID THREW ME UNDER THE BUS

I’ve been ridiculously lucky . . . .As a baby wrangler and an acting coach,  I get to do what I love for a living with babies, toddlers, kids and even young adults . . . and I get to do what I love WHERE I love doing it:  on-set.

As a wrangler, I do often get pee’d, pooped and puked on . . . The Preposterous Triple P’s, I call them!!   But the wonderfulness FAR outweighs the not so wonderful.

AND . . . . I get to meet, work with, hang out with and interact with SOME OF THE MOST AMAZING STARS!!

Wanna hear of some of them??  And see some pictures??   OH, alright . . . if you insist!

SO – STORY # 1:   DENNIS QUAID THREW ME UNDER THE BUS!!!

Yes – - – - he DID! That devil!!

We’re in the middle of shooting a scene for WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING . . . we’re in the home stretch of the three months of shooting, and this particular scene is one of the last ones of the “BIRTH” sequence, where all of our leads are giving birth to their beautiful babies.  (I had 50 BABIES and toddlers on this shoot, Ladies and Gents  . . . . yep   FIVE OH – FIFTY!!  More on that in another episode of Will Work For O’s!)  And by the way, you CAN’T find better books on parenting than those written by the fabulous HEIDI MURKOFF.  How terrific to meet and work with her . . . I’ll tell you DELIGHTFUL stories of her in the upcoming months.

However, in the meantime, here are a few quick pics of a few of those amazing fifty babies – if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recognize them . . . these are  mainly some of the The Dude Group babies and a few our “newborns”. . .

Asher, Sammy & Dawn        Vedha Left Lekha Right    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

photo photo Image 2 Image 4   IMG_2280

But back to Dennis:   In the film, he and his wife (played by the delightful Brooklyn Decker) are the PERFECT couple . . .everything is way easy for them . . . the joke at this point is that their twin babies are the ones crying and screaming in their parents’ arms, while the other parents are blissfully holding their new angels.

Our director, the fabulous Kirk Jones,  asked me what I could do to make the babies cry – but of course, without being abusive.   OF COURSE – DUH!!!!!!  I told him a few things that we could do, none of which are harmful in anyway . . . and one of which, of course, is to make a sudden noise in an other-wise quiet room.   A baby is momentarily startled, cries  . . .we get the shot IMMEDIATELY and within a few second, I’ve taken the baby into my arms and have calmed and made him/her happy again.  No harm – no foul  and win/win.

SO we decide to use this method  . . . . .

Dennis and Brooklyn are on their marks ready to pace back and forth, I bring each of them a twin and then run to hide all smooshed into a corner of the small hospital room in which we’re filming.  Our 1st AD says “rolling”, our director says “action” – I make a ridiculously loud clapping noise  and  . . . . . . .

NOTHING!!!!!

Not a peep outta the babies!   They are happily cuddling in their “parents’ ” arms.   They obviously are used to noise (which is a good thing for a real babies – less stress in their  lives!!), but it’s not helping us get the shot with our “reel” babies.

There is general hilarious laughter from cast and crew . . . and we try again.  SEVERAL times…. and each time?  Only happy, and now SLEEPING babies, for heaven’s sake!!!  Blissfully happy and fast asleep.  OY!

Kirk says – “not to worry, we’ll add the crying in post, and we’ll shoot this particular set up so we’re really on Dennis and Brooklyn, and won’t see the babies’ faces – so no one will know they’re not crying in the final edit.”    FIrst AD Lisa Satriano – ( who is FANTASTIC – and I’d work with her in a minute ANYwhere ANYtime) says, “So we can shoot without the startle noise this time”.

YAY!  Good solution  . . . .

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I go back to my hiding place after once again getting the babies to our two stars, Kirk has a quick word about something or other with Dennis and Brooklyn, and goes back to the video monitor in the room just across the hall.  We’re all ready . . . but just before we get to rolling, Dennis turns to me:

“Dawn, honey, can you do that clapping thing again?”

So, of COURSE, I say yes cuz  A) a major motion picture star  has requested it, and B) I now assume that Kirk has decided to include the babies’ faces in the shot, and that’s what he just told Dennis and Brooklyn.

1st AD says “rolliing”,  sound mixer says “speed”, director says ACTION,  baby wrangler makes loud clapping noise . . .

babies cry.

1st AD yells from across the hall, “I SAID WE DIDN’T NEED THE CLAPPING NOISE IN THIS SHOT”.

DENNIS QUAID YELLS BACK, ” THE BABY WRANGLER DID IT!” !!??!!

There is dead silence . . . . I am frozen in shock.

I UNfreeze FAST and find my voice:

“Dennis Quaid, you sonofa*^%#$ . . . you just threw me under the bus!!!!”

He turns and looks at me.  Looks at me with that damned  Dennis-Quaid-crooked-amazing-charming-irresistible smile that has been making women swoon ever since his first film, and he says

“Every time, Darlin’ . . . . every time!”

Ohhhhhhhhhhh,  that man!!

I adore him!!!

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With STEPHEN KING, no less: THE USE OF MAGIC IN BABY AND TODDLER WRANGLING AND COACHING – AND PARENTING!! Part 2

171836939.036396 - Version 2

So . . . yesterday I promised that I’d add one more of my favorite “MAGIC” stories . . .  this one is from the second Stephen King miniseries I was THRILLED to work on:  STEPHEN KING’S STORM OF THE CENTURY in Toronto. (Boy – I haven’t even told you about the FIRST one yet . . . that’s me, Miss No-Continuity!)   STORM was about a powerful and terrible wizard, played by the amazing Colm Feore, who wants to steal a child  . . . and the consequences of his wrath on a small town in Maine.

How I got hired for this one is kinda a great story, too. . . but I’m gonna save that for later . . .

First -  a quick introduction to our major minors:

Picture #1 below is of our three lead children:  Spencer Breslin (also of DISNEY”S THE KID fame, RAISING HELEN, & THE CAT IN THE HAT, among a ton of other credits), Dyllan Christopher (who is best known for Unaccompanied Minors, Armageddon, Seabiscuit and another ton of other credits)and Skye Micole Bartuccio (who starred as Mel Gibson’s youngest daughter in THE PATRIOT, as well as CIDER HOUSE RULES, and DON’T SAY A WORD, to name only a few of HER credits!)

Storm of the Century

Picture #2 is during an off-work day: celebrating Spencer’s 6th Birthday.  He wanted a doctor theme for his party – and he got it!  You’ll notice another star – to – be at the bottom of the picture :  adorable and sweet Abby Breslin.  Skye is there . . . Dyllan was probably off getting a snack!

Picture #3 is one of Abby’s first headshots . . . and #4 is one brother Spencer’s  .  Just HAD to add those, cuz they’re so dern cute!!  DO I HAVE THE BEST JOB OR WHAT????

STORM OF THE CENTURE; ABBY & SPENCER BRESLIN, SKY MICOLE BARTUSIAK   Abby Breslin   171836939.040360

Now on to today’s story:

It was during a particularly difficult scene for my 8 mostly five-year-old little stars: an extremely long scene, in which all of the children are asleep in their cots while their parents discuss very important aspects of the storyline.

Normally – and IDEALLY!!! -   scenes such as these this are set up so that after filming a beginning “establishing shot” in which all the characters are seen, you would then go to “the coverage” which means the close-ups.  The advantage to that is you then get the eight five year olds out of the scene (and back to the school room, or to a recreation break) and concentrate on the adults in the scene.  However, in this particular TEN PAGE SCENE (!!), the children being fast asleep was important to story point and the parents’ dialogue.  SO the director felt that it was very important for the kids to be always seen in the background of this long, continuous take.

It was the correct choice artistically, but an kids’ acting coach’s NIGHTMARE!!  Children feel very vulnerable with their eyes closed – they don’t feel safe, their curiosity for what’s going on is not satisfied, they get bored silly, AND it’s murder for kids to lie dead still for 10 seconds, let along ten pages! The kids were squiggly and fractious and worried – - -  and we weren’t getting our shot.  I needed a miracle.

SO – - – - I turned to aromatherapy!!

Now, it’s a proven, scientific fact that our sense of smell is a very powerful phenomena: it can recall our past, affect our mood, etc.  And certain smells are more evocative than others: sandalwood is an aroma that can literally help you relax, and the essence of grapefruit is very invigorating.

(I KNOW that this is true:  I spent half of my life getting up at sparrow’s fart to go to work, and use a few drops of grapefruit oil in a steamy shower to wake me up and make me alert at 4:30 am.  Try it, it works!  Put a few drops on a  wash cloth,   hang the cloth somewhere in the shower while you wash, and let the steam of the shower release the aroma.  Then when you’re finished with your shower, rub the wet wash cloth over your face and neck and shoulders. You’ll feel more awake and alert, I swear!)

ANYway . . . .I had small vials of both of the aromas in my set bag, and this is what I did:

I put a little of the sandalwood oil mixed with a little bit of water (the essence is too strong for skin undiluted) into a separate vial for the tender skin of my kids.

I then went to each of them in their little cots, and told them I had magic relaxing sleeping potion that would let them be “asleep” for the scene and they would feel happy and safe and relaxed with their eyes closed til it was time for them to wake up.  I put the tiniest little bit beneath each of their little noses so the aroma would be constant, reminding them that it was very wonderful magic potion.

I then returned to my hiding place behind a column, and told our director, Craig Baxley, that the kids were ready.

Do I  even need to tell you that they ALL “went to sleep”, were still as angels and comfortable and safe all through the next gazillion takes?  That the director was thrilled, and the adults amazed at how good the kids were being?  I need not!

At one point, between takes, little Sammy – who played Harry -  called out, “Psssst!  Dawnie, I need some more magic sleeping potion, I think I’m waking up!”  Isn’t that the best????  I reapplied the ‘potion’, stepped back into my hiding place in case I needed to whisper to someone to stay asleep (I did not need to), and we finished the day’s work.

The true magic is a child’s belief system.  This is a very powerful truth for adults to know.

But we must always use our power for good, not evil.  There is an amazing song in Stephen Sondheim’s  INTO THE WOODS.  It’s called CHILDREN WILL LISTEN, and it’s message is important enough for me to pass on here.  Following are lyrics to part of the song:

“Careful the things you say,

Children will listen.

Careful the things you do,

Children will see.

And learn.

Children may not obey,

But children will listen.

Children will look to you

For which way to turn,

To learn what to be.

Careful before you say,

“Listen to me.”

Children will listen.

Careful the wish you make,

Wishes are children.

Careful the path they take,

Wishes come true,

Not free.

Careful the spell you cast,

Not just on children.

Sometimes the spell may last

Past what you can see

And turn against you…

Careful the tale you tell.

That is the spell.

Children will listen”

Stephen Sondheim

INTO THE WOODS

If you tell  a child that he is bad, and worthless and has no hope,  he will fulfill that prophecy.

Tell a child that he is a blessing, and good, and has a wonderful life ahead of him . . . and he will.

He will listen.

Careful the things you say . . . . . .for children are precious, and they are our future.

And they are my JOY!

 

©Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013

All Rights Reserved

Aside
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THE USE OF MAGIC IN BABY AND TODDLER WRANGLING AND COACHING –

AND PARENTING!!   Part 1

Okay, now I don’t want to upset anyone who feels that the use of the word “magic” is blasphemous, or that it is somehow insulting to their beliefs.  After all, is  not trusting smile of a baby or a child magic?  The way their little fingers curl around your hand, even as their little selves are curling themselves around your heart?  Or how they blissfully fall asleep in your arms?  Are those things not the very essence of magic?

Image 1    Image 2    Image 5  TrustingEyes   I think they ARE!!

So perhaps you’ll allow me the use of the word?  I promise it will not offend, if you’ll just hang in there a minute!

While you decide  – - – -  take a look at the faces of a few of “my kids” . . . . .

IMG_2247 lauhing      You’ll be meeting many, many more over the following blogs, I assure you!

Deuce4-1 DARE you not to smile at these little guys —–>__!! babyWTE

Rhys and Ashton Outside   DSC_0543 Lekha_Vedha

Here’s the deal:  I  give my kids “magic crystals” at the end of their coaching sessions for their auditions.  I also give “magic crystals” to my little kids onset.  I tell them they are magic, because anytime someone who loves them gives them something, that is the magic part.  That someone loves them, which is magical and wonderful, and wants to give something to them, which will remind them of the magic.  So see, pretty innocent and non-blasphemous right?  Like all these amazing faces above :  innocent!!

I have two very, very favorite magic stories – I think you’ll like them, too.

I’ll tell you the first one today . . . tomorrow for the next!

The first one took place pretty early in my coaching career.  I had one client who was about 8 years old who coached quite frequently.  He was a great kid, and had a little brother named Luke who was very young.  About 4.  Luke sometimes auditioned, too, and was a sweet and loving little guy, just as was his older brother. One day, the little guy had a BIG audition, with about 4 pages of steady dialogue.  That’s a LOT for a little guy who can’t read yet.

Now, I had developed a system for helping my non-readers and brand-new readers to memorize their dialogue:  I drew pictures for their words.   After all, when I went on an audition, if I started to forget my dialogue, all I would have to do is glance down at the page.  Not so for the little ones, they’re forced to memorize everything – and those squiggles on the paper we call words don’t mean squat to a four year old. Thus, my realization – pictures!

Now, unfortunately, I did not inherit my mom, Charlene’s, amazing artistic talent. sigh.  However, I seemed to be able to get the meaning across to my kids. (Remind me later to tell you about my drawing for the word “but” and my four-year old little girl client who FREAKED OUT a casting director! )

ANYway – back on-track:  I had finished drawing all of Luke’s words while he watched, reinforcing each time what each drawing meant.  He was doing very well at “reading” his pictures, and we were getting along swimmingly.  But he was pretty much a perfectionist, even at four, and he was getting frustrated when he couldn’t remember what a picture meant.  I HAD to come up with something to give him confidence. 

Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mommies and Daddies . .  at the end of the day – in MY mind – my job is to make my babies and clients feel safe, and loved, and confident and important.  LIFE skills, for them to keep throughout their entire lives, long after they may disappear from my sphere of influence..  The call backs and the work . . . that’s icing on the cake.  Their ‘personhood’ is what my job is about . . . show biz is second to the child.  Always.

ALWAYS.

Suddenly, I knew just what to do – or at least hoped I did.

I grabbed a small very pretty quartz crystal out of my crystal box, and told Luke not to worry:  I was going to give him a magic memory crystal.  He looked intrigued, and lost some of the worry lines that were creasing his little brow.  I rubbed the crystal over all of the dialogue on the four pages, telling him that I was putting the words into his crystal.  Then I gently rubbed the rock over Luke’s forehead, telling him that it was now put into his brain and his “remembery”. (aren’t kids malaprops the BEST?!!)

I could literally see his little shoulders un-tense ( if THAT’S not magic, what is?), and he smiled.

So we began his scene again, and lo and behold, he was remembering EVERYTHING on the first three pages.  We got to page four, and I saw him get that far-away look the kids get when they suddenly “go up” (can’t remember their dialogue).  He scrunched up his face, then I saw a kind of “light bulb” go off in his expression.  He grabbed his crystal, ran it over his pictures and then his forehead.  His face lit up, and he finished the last page.  Word for word  . . . . perfect!

I will never forget that little boy . . . . he resides, still, is in a corner of my heart   . . . four years old forever. Even though he is now a young man.

Right next to oh-so-many others who have a special place in my heart . . .which will always have room for more.

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 ©Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013

All Rights Reserved

8

AMAZING AND/OR HILARIOUS BABY & KID STORIES: THE INFAMOUS NEAR DISTASTER OF THE CAMERA IN THE BATHTUB

One day, on a commercial  – PAMPERS PULL-UPS, to be exact – I had an adorable little guy named Tyler.  He was just over 2, and was very verbal – as I was to find out. 

The commercial was all about the “I’m a Big Boy Now” aspect of diaper training, and showed him dressing himself, sitting on the potty himself.  You get the picture – you might even remember the spot.  What you don’t know – though you’re about to find out – is that our cameraman almost dropped the camera into the bath tub due to general hysterical laughter.  This is how that came about:

 We were shooting the “on the potty” segment  – seeing him sitting there, cutting to a view of his pull-ups around his little ankles as he sat, and then cutting to a shot of him pulling them up.  If you don’t have any particular inside knowledge of shooting commercials, you may not know that the only guarantee of a commercial is that you’ll shoot the scene over and over and over again.  Which meant, in this case, that I had to come out of my hiding place in the bathtub, where I was smooshed next to the cameraman, about 17 times and lift little Tyler up about 17 times to set him on the potty before he would then hop off and pull up his diaper.  EVERY single time I sat him down on the potty chair, Tyler peed into the toiler.  EVERY time.  SEVENTEEN TIMES. 

 In amazement, I finally blurted out, “My goodness, Tyler – where is all that coming from?”

“My penis,” he calmly replied, his expression clearing communicating that I had asked a very silly question.

Duh, Dawn!

And thus, simultaneously, a camera was almost dropped in a bathtub.

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©Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013

 

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

4

Amazing and Hilarious Kid & Baby Stories or CONFESSIONS: THE WORST THING I EVER DID FOR A FILM

I do have the word “Confessions” in the title of this today’s blog . . . .

SO – I’m about to tell you the worst thing I ever did in show business (well, next to that classically and historically, hysterically and horribly  delivered line of mine in Tourist Trap  – - -  but that’s a whole other story. and one of my other careers).

The confesstion?

I taught a set of 2 ½ year old triplets how to snort cocaine and inhale pot.

Yeah.  I did.  For a feature film.

In my defense:  the girls had absolutely no idea what they were emulating.

OF COURSE emulating . . . . you don’t think I’d REALLY teach them about real drugs, do you??  Fer Heaven’s sake!

By now you’ve probably seen the movie, so I’m not ruining any plot lines!!  It’s Harold and Kumar – A Very 3D Christmas . . . . and the character is little Ava.

I had gotten a call on a Monday night from the wonderful Toni Casala of CHILDREN IN FILM – an INVALUABLE organization for children and parents in the Industry.  http://www.childreninfilm.com.  I’m not vested in your going to this website.  But if you have children in the Industry – you are! DO NOT fail to go there!!!

Toni said that she might have a referral to a film job for me  – was I avail?

Was I???? You bet . . . !  Thirty minutes later I’m speaking to the production manager/producer on the phone: One of the triplets had accidentally been frightened on set (NO abuse or dangers whatsoever had occurred, I promise)

But she had become frightened, and all three of the girls had stopped working. They realized they needed a baby wrangler. The entire crew – from Producers on down – were absolutely dedicated to the girls’ safety, comfort and enjoyment of the experience. As was the cast – especially the brilliantly talented actor/writer Tom Lennon who is “Ava’s” daddy in the film , and  with whom I was soon to work  again. (didn’t know it at the time!) He was absolutely amazing with the girls. Of course cast and crew  wanted to get their shots – but they wanted the girls to be happy.  I commend them, and thank them for that!

To make a long story short  ( I know – when do I make any story short) – three days later I’m on a jet to Michigan, where they were filming.  There I met and began what is a life-long love affair with a remarkable family:  Chloe, Hannah and Ashley, the beautiful, sweet and loving triplets.  Katie and Casey, their amazing parents.  Mary and Bill, Katie’s extraordinary parents.   They will always be in my heart.  Momma, Daddy. Grandma and The Girls are still in my life, albeit long distance.  What a blessing.

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SO – back to the tale!

In the storyline, Ava is at a party (where she should not be) with her Daddy – who quite frankly also should not be there.  There is  a huge brick of cocaine, a disastrous event involving a giant fan, and      . . .  you guessed it:  Cocaine everywhere.  And then there’s the part where a big sneeze blows some right in the baby’s face.  (of course, we used powdered sugar)

Now how to get it to look like the baby has classic cocaine sniffing behavior . . . which of course I’ve only read about and seen in movies.

Here’s what I did:

I taught the girls (for all three sisters were playing the one character) to play OINK OINK PINCH PINCH ( okay, maybe not a brilliant title, but I was making up this stuff as I went along!)

I showed them how make a little piggy oinking noise while wrinkling their adorable little noses,  and then to pinch their little piggie noses two times in a row. Accomplishment #1- The Snorting.

Next I showed them how to make a number “1” with their index finger, which we then turned into a toothbrush.  Then we pretended to brush our teeth.   Accomplishment #2 – The Gum Rubbing.                                                                                                                                                                               VOILA!

While their parents and I (and the entire cast and crew) laughed hysterically at how cute they were (and how they didn’t have a clue) the girls giggled and had a ball.  We got fantastic shots, director Todd Strauss-Schulson and our producers were thrilled, and we got in a great day’s work.

And the pot?   First, I want to tell you that all the smoke you see in that car segment. . . that was added in post production – the triplets were NOT subjected to any smoke inhalation of any kind.  None.  Nada. Zip!  (fortunate for me, too, as I was hiding in the front seat!)

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Here’s what we did for that segment:  I would make whichever girl was working laugh and giggle with one or another of my silly faces or noises, then she would play “make a face like Dawnie” – where I’d be all wacky and silly and she would mirror my expression. . . and then, while doing that,  we played “say what Dawnie says” and she would repeat things after me like “oooooh, I feel dizzy,” or “oooooh, wow, the car is spinning,” or “I’m starving.”

Voila, again.  A stoned little munchkin.

I’m probably going straight to hell for this one.

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PS.  The worst thing I ever SAID in show business was (to Props department):  “Hey, guys, can I have the cocaine for the babies, please?”!

 © Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013

All rights reserved