What Makes A Good Chaperone?
Actor George Sear reflects on which chaperones made the most positive impact on his time as a young performer
After landing his first part at the age of ten on The Bill, George has worked as an actor and presenter on shows like CBBC’s Friday Download, Disney’s Evermoor and more recently TNT’s new series Will. Now 19, he reflects on some of his younger experiences as a working actor…
Working as a child actor guarantees one thing: chaperones. From the fun and friendly to the by-the-book and boring, they play a big part in shaping the experience of the job as a whole. It's surprising how close you can become with your on-set guardian. Whittling away the hours waiting for your one line of the day means you have to become pretty resourceful about finding ways to entertain yourself! Chaperones can be very understanding of this, juggling responsibility and fun. Some of the best at the job can make you feel like you’re just hanging out with a friend - granted, a much older one. I'm still in touch with one in particular, and I'm finally old enough to go for a pint with him now.
Being trustworthy is a necessity as a chaperone, but being relatable is a bonus. Finding something you're both interested in will create a solid bond and inspiring discussions. At a time when I was just discovering the gym, my chaperone (who hadn't been in years) accompanied me. We ended up going all the time together and I'd be excited for our workout even after filming all day. We wound up really pushing each other, to the point where he had the revelation, "When I signed up for this job, I thought I'd be feeding and cooking for some kid. Not getting pushed to my physical limits!" So really we both gained something out of sharing a common interest, but also developed a great friendship that kept my spirits high. Much needed after spending three hours with a maths tutor!
Having a parental figure around is comforting when you're away from home at such a young, influential age. However, it's important to be given a good dosage of freedom. Some of the most fun I've had on jobs has been down to the free rein given to me by my chaperone. My chaperone often told me that he trusted me to be responsible and gave me the chance to hang out with friends without being permanently shadowed.
Easing the pressure
You’ve got ten minutes left of your allowed time on set to deliver that long paragraph you’ve been trying to ingrain in your brain since they changed the lines the night before. Chuck in a hopeful crew, praying they’ll get the shot, and the pressure is on. The fact child actors can only work a limited amount of hours means lots of ‘mini breaks’ (sometimes as short as a minute) where your chaperone takes you aside, out of the lights. It seems a bit ridiculous, and definitely feels it when you’d be happier sitting on set and not get shifted around. Truthfully though, it’s the only realistic way the director can get what he wants and stay within the legalities of your license.
It’s the little things that can really ease some of that work-related pressure. One of my chaperones knew I loved to raid the sweet box and dig out the Cadbury’s fudge, so if I were having an intense time, he’d always have one on hand. It was a great way to distract me and buoy up my mood. Not sure if my other chaperone’s gym and fitness regime would go hand in hand though…
I’ve been really lucky to have encouraging, supportive parents who’ve chaperoned me quite a few times. It’s a lot different than being assigned a stranger who’ll be temporarily looking after you. I think it’s good to have had both experiences because you learn new things and face challenges differently. However, parents chaperoning their own kids can sometimes be more prone to heightening the politics. I’ve known a couple of parents to be pretty high maintenance, probably the biggest divas on set! It can take a toll on their kid’s behaviour too – I’ve seen a few funny demands, like removing feathers from a costume because it could cause an allergy. The young actor was playing an owl by the way. Funny in hindsight, but pretty unnecessary and it caused a lot of eye-rolls from the crew. I’m sure every mum or dad just wants the best for their little darlings, but cooperation is at the heart of making a show, movie or whatever it may be, so it’s important to be rational and selective about your battles.
There’s not one perfect formula to being a great chaperone, it varies from person to person on how much freedom and trust you’re willing to give – but if you can do the job well and enjoy it, the young performer you’re taking care of will enjoy it too.
Thanks to George for sharing his insider experience of being a young performer, and the importance of a good chaperone. If you want to see more of what George is up to or ask questions, take a look at his Instagram or Twitter.
Image credit: Ben O'Hanley