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!


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  . . . . . . .


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  . . . .


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”.


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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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????


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


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




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.


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.


 ©Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013

All Rights Reserved