Anyone who has ever thrown a kid’s birthday party knows this secret truth. Creating fun is A LOT of work. It’s back-breaking and exhausting and I sigh with relief when the big event is over (and successful). A set environment is no different. The fun doesn’t make itself and there are always underlying forces that conspire to suck the fun out, like a giant Hoover (or Dyson) vacuum on a mission. Deadlines, moods, balancing school, annoying behavior by parents, fatigue, invites and non-invites – the list is endless. As one of my closest friends on set, Vanessa, said once, “is it really only Tuesday? I can’t see myself through to Friday. Good Lord.” Please picture my Kentucky friend Vanessa saying this with her cute Southern twang.
Disney plans and invites their kids to AMAZING events; everyone should attend those because they are awesome--premiers, promo shoots, fan fests, days in Disneyland and Disney World, etc. However, the fun factor needs to be ‘pumped in’ at a series level as well, and this includes both on-set and off set activities.
During Season One and much of Season Two, Jake Paul, a notorious prankster, played a series regular character on Bizaardvark. He was always filming, a camera nearly glued to his hand. He wanted to capture interesting and funny things on video. Well, he definitely did that. Sometimes Production was not happy with his vignettes– like going up into the rafters with the kids or driving off of the set hidden in a car trunk with Ethan during lunch. But the element of fun was an extremely positive by-product. So we, as set parents, began staging fun, fairly benign and harmless, pranks. Recognizing we were novices, we first put our toe in the water and plotted with the kids against Jake. One time, we removed literally all Jake’s furniture (and mementos and art and everything) from his dressing room and replaced it with only dolls, funny signs, and fluffy plush toys. We covered his name plate as well and sealed his door shut with HAZMAT tape. It was hilarious and everyone loved it, especially Jake. Another time, we moved his beloved truck from his parking spot and pretended it was stolen. We often pulled the ADs, teachers, and production people into our pranks. For Jake’s birthday, we asked Production if we could hold a food (cake) fight on set and video it. They put out plastic sheets to contain the mess and the kids all mushed cake all over Jake’s face and hair. Then, they smashed the entire sheet cake into his torso. Again, stomach holding laughter and fun. When Jake left the show, we cried of course, and then had to move on; we knew the pranks had to continue. We would have to be wise. We would have to be clever.
We continued our pranks on set and sometimes combined them with our Mom’s Night Out. I attach a link of one of our adventures. Since our show shoots downtown, we typically plan things around that area. On Mom’s Nights Out, we go to really cool venues like Red Bird, Bottega Louie, and Hamburger Mary’s (yes, we went to drag queen bingo!). Most times, we laugh until we cry! It is cleansing to have a few hours where I show up as myself and discuss things other than the kids or the show. Typically, the kids have their own fun – for example, a pizza party and swim, play hide-and-seek, or just have old fashioned movie night at one of our apartments close by to wherever we go. Older kids are in charge of younger kids. As a parent-child group, we see a lot of movies and go bowling!
It’s vitally important to build good relationships on the set. Birthday cakes, pranks, home-made videos are all part of our show’s BTS (behind the scenes). We plot out thoughtful group gifts for the staff and crew, so they feel valued. Everyone plays a part in creating the episodes from the camera guys to wardrobe to hair and make-up. We involve wardrobe, props, dialogue coach, teachers, ADs in our little escapades because it keeps the set light hearted! Sometimes our kids are involved in the mischief and sometimes they are just embarrassed by us; either option works for me.
The most positive aspect of having fun with pranks and activities on and off set is that it takes up ‘space’, leaving less room for drama, competitiveness and ‘comparing’. We all have something to laugh talk about. It bonds us.
Thanks for coming to read the blogs and I hope they are useful. Come back next week for more tips and insights.
With Aloha, Eileen