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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