Hi! I’m Kyla, teenage filmmaker & creator of the teen drama webseries To The Max. This column will serve both as a production diary and an ever-growing list of how I’ve found my way around every issue I’ve come across and every mistake I’ve made.
There’s a lot of stereotypes out there about teenagers. My top three have to be 1) that we’re angsty, 2) that we’re lazy, and 3) we’re phone-obsessed and technology is bad and Thomas Edison was a witch. The thing is, though, teenagers are people! I mean, jury’s still out on some of us, I’m sure there’s some aliens among our ranks, but that brings up the question if aliens are people too.
Anyways, as you may know, I am a teenager, and every single person in the cast of my webseries To The Max is a teenager. And I love my cast, they’re wickedly talented and dedicated and brilliant, but working with teenagers is a whole different minefield than what you may be used to (and of course, working Stereotypes say that teenagers are melodramatic and have short attention spans, and that’s not entirely wrong, honestly. That said, I’ve outlined some of the main problems that I think are mostly teenager-specific, and then I’ve provided some ways to deal with these problems.
A LACK OF FOCUS
Everyone gets distracted, not just teenagers, but personally I find that sometimes when my cast gets distracted, I’ll get distracted as well. So:
- Have patience. Sometimes people will get sidetracked, and that’s natural. Don’t snap at them, just gently nudge them to get back on track.
- Have a schedule and stick to it. Of course nothing will go perfectly to plan and you have to be flexible, but if you have a certain time that you aim to end a scene at, remind them of this.
- Passive-aggressively force people to focus. If someone is chatting too much, just call “3, 2, 1 action” and wait for them to snap to attention because they most likely don’t want to ruin a take.
- Set an example. If you’re focused and not getting distracted whatsoever, people will follow in your footsteps. This works even better when people recognize how they constantly get distracted as compared to other people.
A LACK OF RESPECT
This is the difficult one, specifically for teenagers directing teenagers. I imagine it’s easier with adults directing teenagers since we’ve been trained our whole lives to listen to and respect authority/people older than us.
- Learn to strike the line between leader and friend. You don’t have to leave your friendships at the door, but you do need to make it clear that you’re in charge.
- Don’t tolerate blatant disrespect. Sometimes a lack of respect will manifest in different ways, such as refusing to be quiet on set when asked or not checking the schedule and thus not showing up when you’re scheduled to film. You can’t let yourself get walked over in these situations.
- Understand the difference between miscommunication and disrespect. If someone is repeatedly late for or missing shoots and they don’t notify you as to why or notify you at all – that is a deliberate choice. They don’t want to be there, and it’s up to you if you still want them there. But if someone is late to a shoot because something got lost as the details were shared, give them the benefit of the doubt.
There are four boys in the cast of To The Max. They’re all great people, but – and I hate to stereotype especially when I just spoke of this but it’s so very relevant – teenage boys are disasters. More specifically, I dealt with the fear that none of them had the maturity to handle a fight scene.
- Demonstrate. Show them exactly what they’re doing, even if it’s basic.
- Give clear explanations. Tell them exactly what they’re doing, even if it’s basic.
- Don’t rush it. AKA don’t do what I did. I completely rushed the fight scene we did. No one got hurt but I wish I’d been more careful and slow with it.
- Don’t let them actually hurt each other because “it’ll look more real”. I’m not kidding when I say that this was suggested multiple times and I had to repeatedly tell them that I didn’t want actual injuries. There are ways to fake everyone. Just Google it.
- Have faith in them. They’re not that immature.
Saving the worst for last in hopes that my mother has stopped reading because she said she reads my columns. If she hasn’t: hi mom I love you please stop reading. Look, teenagers are melodramatic and I’m the most melodramatic of them all and the kissing scene I filmed (there have been two but the first was a peck so it doesn’t count love you anyways @ my co-actor) was a nightmare.
- Make sure the actors are comfortable with each other. Or at least like, know each other and have chatted.
- Try and minimize the amount of times they have to kiss. If you can. If you want the kiss from like ten different angles, you’re a monster and deserve to burn. We literally only did it from one angle because I wanted to die.
- Give direction. I neglected to do so because I was feeling very awkward about it, but when I was watching it back after (which is the weirdest thing in the world by the way) I realized that the kiss should have lasted way longer. And been more intense. Are we reshooting it? No way in hell, but there are some regrets.
- Have someone there to give a pep talk. I received an impromptu pep talk by a wonderful extra of which the gist was “you’re wearing a cute outfit and you look fab so you might as well just kiss a boy” and it was beautiful.
- Just suck it up and do it. Stalling makes everything worse I hate everything.
Also you should make sure to use lipstick that doesn’t transfer oops
In conclusion: teenagers are not the worst but you can’t expect them to be professionals, especially if they’re doing this as a favour! Teenagers are people too!