Behind-the-Scenes: Age-Appropriate Reading

Since the series was recognized in this year’s IPA awards, I thought I’d take a look back, myself.

The idea for the series came from my now-five-year-old daughter. We were on vacation in San Diego, spending a good portion of the day in, at and around the swimming pool. She’d been splashing around for hours and decided to take a short break. She proceeded to grab a towel, kick back on a chaise lounge and read US Weekly. I guess “page through” US Weekly, as she couldn’t read at the time. It was a funny image that seared itself to my subconscious. It was the inspiration for the idea to show a series of kids reading non-age-appropriate material.

Pulling off a personal project is never easy. Trying to pull one off utilizing 5-6 year olds leaves people questioning your sanity. I had some incredible help along the way. Inna Khavinson of Lovely Giant Productions (who I work with quite a bit) volunteered to produce the project for me. We would need kids, locations, clothing and props. The kids (talent) being the most important (as always). Inna hooked me up with Mindi Smith, a killer wardrobe stylist who happens to work on children projects often. We had Mindi keep a look out for cute, precocious children who were easy to work with and had some visual idiosyncrasies. Over the course of a few weeks, she single-handedly discovered our talent on numerous, editorial jobs. Each a character to play the different parts we had previously decided on (hippy girl, Jersey girl, businessman, sport guy). Mindi went on to find some amazing wardrobe that worked with each persona.

Set designer, Nicole Sofer, signed on to help with propping. She helped nuance each location to really bring the characters to life: little things, like a red bowl of cheetos, a hard-boiled egg and cup of espresso, some Buddha statues, a toy car and tube of itch cream. Hair and makeup artist, Gigi Gommers, ensured that the kids look fantastic, but natural and still “kid-like.”

For locations, I wanted to have a simple, neutral color palette that allowed the images to stand on their own, but also work together as a series. The whole crew put out feelers, contacted friends, family and acquaintances and eventually found exactly the places I had been imagining in my mind’s eye. Everything was in place and we were ready to go.

It may not be obvious, but shooting young children and celebrities have a lot in common. Preparation is everything as you may only get 5 or 10 minutes with them (the reasons are sometimes different – temper tantrums and full-on melt downs versus busy schedules). Having worked with young children a few times in the past, I knew the sets would have to be perfect and the lighting already tweaked before we even though of bringing the kids out. My assistants, the crew and I worked for hours previous to each shot doing just that.

And thank God we did. As the initial minutes of shooting went by without any hitches (the kids were rock stars), inevitably nature took its course. Attention out the window. Crying fits. The need to sit on mom’s lap. Ants in the pants. We got in a strong 5 minutes of shooting. Maybe 7. But that was it.

And I think it was enough. You can see the final images here. I’ve also included some outtakes below.

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  • Foureyesfilms

    love this idea and adore the fotos!!!

  • Ted Sabarese