Monday, March 08, 2010

What were they thinking of ?


Last week there was an excellent five part drama on BBC1 written by Gwyneth Hughes and broadcast on five consecutive nights. It was a gripping many stranded story with a superb cast led by Suranne Jones and David Morissey. Then there was marvellous Anne Reid playing Suranne’s mother. She captured the tragic sadness of a woman losing her grip, mentally on life, but still able to attract a widower played by Bernard Hill who had already lost his wife to Alzheimers.


There are so many other facets to this play one of which involved an abandoned baby. This isn’t a criticism of the play but something I need to get off my chest. More and more babies – even new born - are being used in drama and in this particular series the baby was clearly in a distressed condition and left to cry which was just right for the play but not for the baby, He needed to be held and comforted by his mother or someone he was happy with.


There were night scenes outdoors and one began to wish for the days when a doll would be used.

And what about those toddlers who are used to portray child abuse for various charities. They are too young to just act it. Why do they look so desperately unhappy? Producers are always ready to point out that no animals suffered during the action but what about the children?


Is there someone responsible for the well being of these babies? I’d really like to know.


I did one TV advertisement with my baby many years ago and the deal was we stopped the minute he was unhappy and he was held throughout by his mother. No harm was done – in fact the director came off worse as my son swiped a tin of Heinz strained carrots over him. Then we decided to quit before he got concerned about his close-up and became a spoiled brat.

22 comments:

Eryl Shields said...

I have often wondered this myself. I know there are strict rules regulating child actors regarding hours, but have no idea how they manage to show unhappy babies and children without those babies and children actually being unhappy.

Guyana-Gyal said...

I don't know about the babies...but I know the producers can add sound effects and make it seem as though the baby is crying on and on.

As for toddlers...while working in advertising, I met a director / producer who told me that in the US there are laws that protect the child. I guess there are in most developed countries.

When we filmed ads with children [in the Caribbean], we went along with how much the child could do, and a parent was always around to say enough.

Even without the laws, most producers / directors would not overwork a child.

Children can act, you tell them what to do, and they do. They can look desperately bored, unhappy, etc, even when they're not.

Pat said...

Eryl: I'm glad I'm not the only one concerned.

GG: whether there were sound effects or not this baby was lying in a cot with his face contorted with his distress. I'm sure what you say is the case mostly but this particular one gave me cause for concern and I couldn't ignore it.

rashbre said...

I also watched that show which did have some good plot-lines as well as a remarkable series of co-incidences.

You make a good point about the baby which maybe someone else will follow up upon.

Independently I'd noticed for some of the scenes that the baby's eye-line and attention seemed to be to a diagonal point camera-side and out of view.

Even in the midst of the drama I was thinking that the baby was looking at someone else, presumably his real parent-figure.

As a footnote, since 2000, in California a baby has to be 15 days old before he can start as an actor, maximum two hours on set and maximum 20 minutes working, with a guardian, nurse and studio teacher present.

Pat said...

Rashbre: otherwise it was great entertainment. I just feel they were taking liberties and it wouldn't be very reassuring to be told that it was all done with the parent's permission.

Jimmy Bastard said...

There is so much of your past that you are yet to reveal to a very eager audience. Tantalising little tit-bits about your past continue to whet my appetite once more Pat.

The Cloudcutter said...

It disturbs me too. Recently there was a reality show on TV here, in which couples had to take care of children who didn't belong to them. And it started with infants! It was horrible, felt like breaking my TV. Never watched it again after the first 5 minutes.

Charlie said...

I'm with you, Pat, on the infant/toddler as actor and their well-being. There are just too many stage-mothers out there who are more concerned with themselves and their image than with their baby.

Four Dinners said...

So I'm not quite so paranoid then?

I'm always uncomfortable about babies and toddlers used in this way - even for publicising child abuse charities.

I've always remained silent in case my own experiences in this field...on the receiving end..were colouring my judgement.

So I've been right to feel uncomfortable then?

Good to know...but not so good for the kids involved eh?

4D x

nursemyra said...

Poor little baby

Pat said...

Jimmy: all will be revealed - with any luck;)

Cloud cutter: I think it is something that must be carefully monitored.

Charlie: mostly I have given then the benefit of the doubt but one's eyes don't deceive.

Four.D: please God it couldn't possibly come near what you endured but there needs to be watch dogs I think.

Nursemyra: he really needed a cuddle.

Kevin Musgrove said...

It isn't just you. I feel very uncomfortable about this kind of thing.

And although I do support the NSPCC I find their extremely creepy and manipulative adverts very unpleasant (for the wrong reasons - offensive packaging, not content) and damaging to their message.

Maggie said...

Here in America, there are very tough child labor/child actor laws. Every move of these children is monitored. Babies are even more monitored.

Pat said...

Kevin: there seems to be a consensus of opinion about this. Maybe we should voice it in a more prominent place.

Maggie: I don't think it is as rigorous over here - unfortunately.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I so agree with you Pat....We do have Child Protective Services here, but frankly, I don't think they are doing their job the way they should....Many years ago I played a Nurse in a TV Show and I had to bring this Newborn into the mother. It was a real Newborn and I could feel her heart beating so fast and hard, I found it terribly disturbing. She wasn't crying, but she was clearly in "distress".
I know why parents do this....It's for The Money! And that is not a good reason in my book!
I think it is a crime and should NOT be allowed!

Pat said...

Naomi: interesting that you have had this experience. From what I gather it wouldn't happen in America nowadays and shouldn't be allowed to happen anywhere.

sablonneuse said...

Yes, I've often wondered about those poor little ones in child abuse 'adverts'. I didn't see the play but could imagine a pushy parent being willing to let a baby cry just to have him on the telly and that's certainly not fair to the child is it?

Pat said...

Sandy: there is a baby in the Australian 'Neighbours' who always looks happy as Larry. He obviously knows the actors and is at home with them. I've always sympathised with the tenet 'The play's the thing,' but not at the expense of infants.

Gadjo Dilo said...

I would have liked to have seen this play. But so much BBC output these days - at least, judging by what gets onto BBC Entertainment (nee Prime) channel - is depressing... unhappy looking babies, etc. Ann Reid is superb - as indicated previously, I'm a big fan.

Pat said...

Gadjo: me too. Did you see her when she - as an older woman and Daniel Craig - had a torrid affair in a TV play? If ever my book was made into a film (pipe dream I know) I'd love Anne Reid to play my mother. Not that my mother ever had a torrid affair- to my knowledge - but she had the same placid exterior with a lot going on underneath.

Guyana-Gyal said...

I'm hoping the baby had started crying because he was hungry or wet and they filmed him while his mummy was getting up his things...

Pat said...

GG: I'd hope you were right but it was more than just the one scene.