Posted by: emjb | February 3, 2007

Lights, camera, puberty

I worked on a video shoot today, for my employer, doing a film for our clients. It was hard not to find it all terribly glamorous, low-budget and small market though it was. We rented out a local school and brought in a few kid actors and a bunch of extras, fed them pizza and Cokes, and filmed a scenario partially written and edited by yours truly!


It was really very fun. The kid actors were such old pros, they’d been at it since they were wee tots. They brought extra wardrobe, knew their lines, got their expressions and gestures down with some coaching. Our director and a contractor had gone over my original script and made the dialogue workable, but really didn’t change all that much, which made me feel pretty good. The director, who, as one of our actors pointed out, looked like Alec Baldwin, was very good at getting the kids focused and emoting. I met and chatted with the grip and the lights guy and the audio guy (it was exactly like talking to roadies, by the way–big beefy guys with tattoos, knit caps, and interesting personal histories that may or may not include jail), and it was all just a kick.

Anyway, we got past the morning shoot, and brought in the extras, and then the fun started. One of our actors revealed his unbearable hamminess when faced with an audience, and had to be refocused a lot. I think that kid is a lot more likely to go into comedy than acting…he kept doing what sounded like Chris Rock bits. To be fair, he was pretty damn funny at it, which would be great except he kept cracking up our actor who was there to play “slightly depressed girl.”

It was so strange to sit there in a classroom looking at all these middle schoolers in their desks, knowing most of them probably feel deeply neurotic and hopeless a lot of the time, and just seeing how beautiful, for lack of a better word, they were. Even the ones who were “goofy” looking, there was just something about them that made me happy. All that energy and hope, maybe. All that potential, bottled up in one room, for them to do well and become interesting adults and do surprising things that I could never think of.

I’m sure it’s parenting making me think this way. Thinking of Nathan being one of those kids, slouched in a desk, wearing sloppy clothes to show his independence, full of equal parts great ideas and complete ignorance, bratty and sweet and wonderful and exasperating. What an interesting thing it will be to see him become that.

I know kids drive you crazy, teens more so, ok, we’ve all heard those jokes, I know it’s true. Not many people seem to talk about the good things about teenagers, how they can work so hard to understand, how they can hold on to their decency despite being in a constant swirl of hormones and aggression and drama, how much fun it is to talk to them when they’re figuring stuff out, to see them do something they love or learn something new. They have so much dignity, and so much goofiness at the same time.

It’s a long way off of course. Today, Nathan grabbed his flash card with the apples on it, and said “Ahhhhpulll, ahhhpull” to me, which he’s done before. But then he went to his highchair and banged on the tray; “AHHHHpullll, ahhhhpulll!” So I got him some apple bits, and he was happy, and I was amazed, because he’s surprised me again with how much he’s figuring stuff out. Today ahhpull; tomorrow, the car keys. That is SO awesome.



  1. I know exactly how you feel looking at those middle school kids. I feel the same way when I see our kids. I tell people I would rather work with middle school kids than any age. They are completely squirrlely but wonderful. They are little sponges. Most of them still believe that things can be made better and they are part of that. They have some very deep thoughts and insights, if only adults will listen. Theirs is a perspective like none other.
    Careful – being around kids is addictive….you might get caught! šŸ™‚
    Go Nathan!! Today apples — tomorrow the world!! (Mine will be leaving for law school before I know it!)

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