Is it okay to bring my kids to along when I'm shooting?

The Documentary Doc answers that question, plus whether you should tell people if you're pregnant


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Dear Doc Doctor:
I’m a cinematographer, and I just found out that I’m pregnant. Should I tell people? I can’t afford to lose any jobs right now.

Pregnant or not, people will make decisions about what you can or can’t do. Camera work, because it is an especially physical job, often requires women—petite, pregnant, or otherwise—to prove their strength with that initial bone-crashing handshake.

It’s interesting that while pregnant women fear they will get less work if they announce their pregnancy, dads-to-be tend to approach the situation with full conviction that they must and will work more. We tacitly agree and cooperate with those men, who now—we assume—have more responsibility. At the same time, we want moms-to-be to maintain some sort of calm bliss while they wait for the birth of their baby. But what if work is a necessary factor for that bliss?

Lynn Weissman, a freelance camera-person and the producer-director of the documentary-in-progress, SUV, Mon Amour: An American Love Story, got pregnant in her early 40s with identical twins. “What to do when you are a pregnant shooter is uncharted territory,” she says. “Who are my role models? I generally did not tell new clients until it was obvious. Privacy aside, I worried that people might not hire me if they considered pregnancy a limitation; it’s hard enough to be female and a shooter. But looking back, maybe I could have been more candid. I did tell the crew in case something happened. I also hired an assistant when it became necessary. My pregnancy gave me a hernia, and I couldn’t carry heavy things in my later months.”

When asked why she kept working, Lynn answered, “First, I needed to save money. Second of all, on principle. My bubby liked to say, ‘Pregnancy isn’t a disease!’ And, paradoxically, work helped me take my mind off my bodily woes.”

Of course, each specific situation warrants a different tactic. But in general, I would remind those who are reluctant to work with expecting women that they weren’t born out of spontaneous combustion. Sometimes reframing a situation makes us all a bit more understanding.

Dear Doc Doctor:
Nannies are starting to cost me as much as a day of production. What’s your stance on bringing kids to a shoot?


In my many years of going over budgets as a grant reader, I have yet to see a line item called “Nannies,” so I have to assume that women pay for nannies on their own, recruit family members to help them, bring their kids to the shoot, or do all of the above.

People often ask me if they can bring their kids or grandma to a consultation, or if there is a place at the workshop facility where they can nurse, or if youngsters can play in the background while I give a lecture. I always say yes, and call the organizer to help facilitate whatever is necessary. If I were involved in a shoot, I would do exactly the same thing. And like me, many others agree that a kid around is better than a stressed-out director-mom.

Many things need to be considered before dragging your offspring to a shoot—including the child’s age and personality, as well as the type of shoot. Some kids might prefer to sit in a corner with a book, but those kids who become restless if they are not part of the main action need to be given a title and a task within the crew. (P.A. might be an unappealing position for an aspiring director but it can be an honorable gig for a preteen.) Producer Frances Lausell from Isla Films says, "My daughter Francesca worked as a P.A. when she was 11. She took her job very seriously, keeping quiet when it was necessary and helping around with whatever was necessary. It was very important for both of us to share what I do. My husband was also instrumental in supporting that process, bringing her to the set on weekends."

Adults can benefit from having kids around. First of all, people naturally avoid strong language around kids, which brings down the overall level of stress. I also noticed a sort of shared responsibility among the crew. That paternal/maternal or master instinct kicks in when young apprentices are eager to learn and help.

Ask your crew for ideas on how to handle the shoot. After all, expensive nannies will eventually cost them fees or shooting days! And ask your kids, too. As you probably already know, kids can often offer original answers when asked to solve an interesting problem.

don't do it

Kids are a distraction to everyone if they are anywhere near mom/dad. I'm assuming we're talking about documentaries, so I'm not familiar with what a "set" is. I've never shot on a "set" - just in offices, homes, hotel rooms, etc. Fair or not, I think it raises questions about a person's professionalism.