If you have a young actor that ever has had even one moment of having trouble focusing on the lines they are learning, then I highly recommend you bookmark this post now, as you will want to come back to it. And, this lack of focus every now and then is 100% normal.
Our own young child actress is often found running her sides at various times of the day. Sometimes at night in her pajamas, sometimes after a long day at school or camp. Sometimes early in the morning when she just wakes up. Oftetimes in our car. Sometimes with other distractions happening all around her.
I often get asked how she learns her lines so quickly and how she remains focused at such a young age. As moms and dads of actors know, younger children may have talent and charm and be ahead of their years in a lot of ways, but oftentimes their child’s “focus” is the hardest thing to reel in. Young children get distracted and that’s completely normal. But with their professional actor hat on, we sometimes challenge them to be beyond their years in focus.
So, what do we do to help our young child actor focus? Here are a few crucial things that have seemed to work for our young child actress:
1) She reads her sides, then does jumping jacks or dance for 1 minute. Then reads sides again. Then dances, does some gymnastics or stretches, jumps in place, then does the sides again. She repeats this up to 20 times or as many times as it takes for her to be acting definitions – off-book or off-copy and very comfortable with who she is and what she wants in the scene or commercial.
What we’ve found is doing sides in smaller chunks helps what she can process. The small spurts of exercise gets her energy in the body going and helps her to focus on what she is about to do.
(as an alternative, depending on where you live – a teenager actress we know, who lives near a beach, walks the beach while she works on her sides – she moves her body literally as she learns her lines. You could also walk around a house, hallway or yard if this helps your young child actor to focus. Note: Make sure the ground or floor is somewhat even so you don’t trip while absorbed in the lines.)
2) Your young child actor needs to know how the characters relate to one another, like sister, brother, mom, babysitter, enemy, best friend, and so forth. We like to actually draw out a family tree or a mind map on paper before we get started with a new set of sides. This helps her to visualize how everyone relates to everyone else. The visual helps her to get a picture in her head of who everyone is and what they all want and why. This helps tremendously with her focus. She also refers back to this after she knows her sides.
3) To make it a bit more fun after the “10” time or more, we often remind her to try the lines a different way – because sometimes at this point, when they are young, they say things the same way each time. Or we ask her to try at least 1-2 lines a different way. That way she remains natural and believable and not robotic or rehearsed. Playing with how something is delivered is fun, as long as it still achieves the right emotion. Doing this keeps this fresh and also keeps things seeming like it’s not the 10th, 14th or 20th time. That then helps with her focus.
4) We’ve been on vacation before when sides came in. We made sure to move into a non-distracting area of that person’s home so she could work her lines. We actually picked a room in the house, where it was quiet, and worked in there a few times (on this film she got the lines a week prior). We also have worked outside before on a nice day. However, the outdoors can sometimes cause other distractions like butterflies or kids running near them. So, try to find an area of your home, building, hotel our outside that does not have a lot of non controllable elements.
Now, what do you do if your young child actor is just having an off day or night and cannot seem to focus on their acting sides or copy? After you probably get a bit nervous in your head for a moment, as he or she probably needs to know the lines ASAP, you need to do the following. We have done all of these things we list below and they work well:
1) Take a bunch of deep breaths and give yourself a relaxing time out for a few minutes. This will all work out and it’s going to happen how it should, but it has to come from within your own child. So, whatever you do, do not get mad. Just remain happy and calm.
2) If your young child actor is tired, they may need: some healthy snacks, some exercise for 10-15 minutes, to lay down and space out for 15 minutes on the couch, to ride on their kick scooter, to talk to you or someone else about something else, to do some artwork, to play a game of some sort, to do a puzzle or to climb a tree.
In other words, they may just need a short brain break. If you have the time, you may decide to give them 30 minutes or more. (just depends on how much time you have). You must give into this break time, as if you don’t, their focus may actually become worse. Get them some good energy snacks and then let them have a diversion away from the sides or copy.
3) If #2 above does not work, then you may want to try some fun challenges. Such as, if they are able to get through their sides in the next 5 minutes, you will jump on the trampoline with them for 5 minutes. Your challenge can be anything that is positive and healthy. Stay away from offering material items.
4) Then, after that time is up, come back to the sides or copy and their brain should more focused again.
Give the above ideas a try and let us know how your young actor does with his or her focus on lines. If you have any questions, ideas or comments, scroll to the bottom of this page and comment. We’d love to hear from you.