What Not To Do When Working With Children or Animals

We’re usually advised to avoid working with small or furry subjects entirely. They’re renowned scene-stealers, and are notoriously hard to corral, much less direct.

However, marketing videos that amp up the cute factor are more likely to get noticed. To help you take advantage of that simple fact, here are twenty things to not do if you’re featuring children or animals in your marketing video.

The Twenty Big Don’ts

  1. Being deadline-driven. Deadlines are certainly important when you’re shooting a video. But, if you ignore the behavior of small children or animals that suggests when they need a break, you’ll struggle to get the best from them. By ignoring nap-time, you’ll probably wind up having to re-shoot anyway.
  2. Film now, think later. You need to work super quickly when you’re working with animals and kids, right? Yes, but it’s vital to plan carefully, prep for the shoot, and respond flexibly to any unexpected incidents. Everything you need to consider in order to set up a shoot is set out in one of our most popular posts, A Crash Course in Video Production Management.
  3. Forgetting the rules. There are strict laws setting out how long children can work for. Be sure to familiarize yourself with them and ensure you follow them to the letter.
  4. Start early, finish late. Children and animals don’t respond well to long hours. What’s more, they’re not fun to be around when they’re tired. Limit their hours and be prepared to call a halt to the day’s filming if it’s obvious they’re exhausted.
  5. Don’t spend time getting to know them. If you’ve spent time getting to know your small subject, you’ll be aware of what makes them happy and comfortable. In turn, this will almost definitely lead to a better performance.
  6. Just get it over with, it’ll probably look fine. Working quickly is really important when you’re working with kids and animals, but so is shooting a professional-looking marketing video. We recommend checking out our post Frame Your Shots Properly for More Impactful Videos.
  7. Ban snacks and toys. Encourage your guests to make themselves at home by asking them to bring some snacks and entertainment. Filming can be a long, boring process with a lot of waiting around, something that children and animals aren’t always great at doing! “Anything to keep them happy” should be your mantra.
  8. Don’t bother to provide food and drink. Although we advise encouraging your guests to bring snacks (see above), this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide refreshments and meals. A buffet table with kid-friendly food should suffice if you are filming children. A selection of good quality treats for any animal performers (as well as food for their owner) will make you very popular!
  9. Invest in an expensive light kit. You don’t need to spend a small fortune on lighting to ensure that your subjects are well lit. All you need is the right equipment and a good understanding of the basics. Make our blog post 7 Quick Steps for Simple Affordable Lighting your new bedtime reading!
  10. Provide bowls of sugary treats. A child who’s been eating sweets and enjoying too many fizzy drinks is unlikely to be able to concentrate on your requests. Keep it healthy (with a few treats for good measure.)
  11. Forget about the audio – it’s all about the cute factor. No matter how cute your adorable extras are, it’s important to get every element of the marketing video right, and that includes the voiceover. We’ve put together everything you need to know in How to Create a Professional Voiceover on the Cheap.
  12. Show you’re annoyed if things don’t go to plan. Staying calm at all costs is essential when working with children and animals. They might be naughty, throw up on your brand new lightbox, or consistently forget their lines, but that doesn’t matter. STAY CALM!
  13. Swear. Whether you’re a habitual four-letter word user, or whether you’re not having a great day, don’t allow yourself to swear. It’s unprofessional and risks causing offence (especially if the children are young).
  14. Don’t pay attention to the tone of your script. If the words don’t seem right when they’re being spoken by the kids, or if they tell you they’d never say something like that, then listen to them! For lots more tips on scripting your marketing video, check out our post What Not to Say in Your Marketing Video.
  15. Buying appropriate toys is a waste of money. If you don’t know any children or animals, then talk to someone who does. Find out what your subjects are likely to enjoy playing with. Even though they should ideally bring their own toys (see point four), a new toy is always appreciated! It doesn’t have to be expensive – a squeaky toy, Disney DVD, or coloring in book will keep them occupied when they’re not being filmed.
  16. Be unprepared for toilet mishaps. Children and animals will always be with their parents or guardians, so they are responsible for trips to the bathroom. But, you should be equipped to quickly clean up any accidents.
  17. Insist on having a team. Working alone to make a marketing video with kids or animals is hard work. With the right preparation, you still pull it off. Our post How to Produce High Quality Videos on Your Own is a great resource.
  18. Only praise truly outstanding work. Children and animals respond incredibly positively to lavish praise. Make them feel like they’re doing a great job and the chances are, they will do a fantastic job.
  19. Get stressed when they cry / howl. Small kids and animals wear their hearts on their sleeves. They’re distraught one minute, and overjoyed the next. It’s a (noisy) rollercoaster!
  20. Work with a large group of children or animals (or both!). Fact: kids and animals in large groups are extremely hard to control. Script large groups into your marketing video at your peril!

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Why Even Try?

Filming a marketing video with children and animals surely isn’t easy. But, it’s certainly memorable – not to mention a lot of fun!

Also, thanks to the time and effort you put into creating a video that features children or animals, your audience will be much more likely to remember and identify with your brand. This will be a marketing video that’s long-lasting and enduring; it will remain appealing regardless of the trends that come and go.


If you have any tips to add on working with these rewarding groups, we’d love it if you would share them below or on Twitter.

Written by Laci Texter

SproutVideo blog contributor. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Posted December 14, 2016

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