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Disney’s Bizaardvark: Survival Tips for Set Parents (Part 5 of 5)

Back Off Candle Snuffers!

One of the many smart things my good friend (and set mom) Hilary said was, “Your candle does not burn brighter because you put someone else’s out.” It is easy to forget this when your child has finally secured the acting role of a lifetime; as exaggerated as this sounds, it feels a little like this for every child who lands his/her first major role. And everyone else in your circle is excited as well. Grandparents are sworn to secrecy but can’t help bragging. The schools are pleased that they had a hand in developing a talent. Uncles and aunts sharing in the gene pool are quietly smug and proud! In our case, we secure an LA apartment and the 2 of us relocate from Honolulu for the new series Bizaardvark. The excitement overshadows the sacrifice of leaving half the family. We show up the first day for work to an atmosphere that is buzzing. No one wants to blow it as a parent or have their child make some mistake that might get him/her labeled as a bad seed or even worse, make casting think they made a grave error in casting your child. In hindsight, this seems dramatic, but in that moment, the stakes are seemingly very high. And this can lead to, well, both good and bad behavior.

In life in general, if you are not likable, no one will like you (except those who are forced, like your mom or long-suffering spouse). Just kidding, no not really. Usually, ‘likeability’ is behavior-based so you can always change, but better to not to start off on the wrong foot. People gravitate towards people they like. When you go to the set, you have to go in wanting to like the other people. It’s like forcing yourself to smile and then somehow you actually feel better. Because it sets a tone. And believe it or not, everyone brings a personal tone that influences the vibe of the set and show.

This is not the show Survivor. And NO ONE is getting voted out of any episode. The series/show only wins as a team. Outwit, outlast and outplay are not desirable qualities on a set – politics and competitiveness are exhausting. Everyone has to coexist 50 hours per working week, so everyone has to make continuous positive contributions to the culture of the show.

Think Moonstruck – SNAP OUT OF IT!

No matter how it feels on set, when you walk outside the set doors, everyone is equal. Anyone who acts differently eventually gets left out because everyone else tires of it. If you start to feel this way (like you or your child is superior to the others), immediate throw cold water on your own face! Get over yourself and your child as quickly as you can. Sorry, but you are not the greatest thing ever and everyone does not exist to make your child look better. That is the job of the writers, producers and executives and they do it very well. And trust me, the production team, writers, teachers, etc. have seen countless rounds of new kids coming in and they dread the new parent politics as everyone settles in. The good news is tomorrow is always another day so if you act high and mighty, you can always come back with a refreshed attitude and everyone will forgive you.

One behavior our set does not tolerate is any set parent criticizing someone else’s child (to his/her face) in the form of ‘constructive advice’. The kids are off limits. I would never tell Ethan’s castmates how to behave, eat, talk, study, run lines, deal with Disney or other show execs, OR interact with Ethan. I would happily give advice if requested but this is not the behavior I’m referencing. It’s not my place to jump in or parent another person’s child. The other parents are the same and this has a very positive effect on the set. Don’t take this to mean there was no private venting to perceived injustices that constantly occur, but they are channeled effectively between set mom friends (and with humor) to minimize the drama and the kids are left out (protected).

We also treat guest stars and other visitors with respect and include them in the social aspects (lunch, breaks, etc.). It is wise to be nice to the guest stars. They are often stopping by, on their way to bigger things. Just because your child is a series regular on this show does not put them above anyone. Guest stars from our series have become youtube sensations, leads in commercial movies, and, countless others are series regulars on their own shows. Everything shifts around in this industry and no one knows who will become the next big success.

I don’t view the cast as Ethan’s competition. I also go out of my way to help or advise any of them if they want it. They are my set family. Life is a long game and if the kids and the adults take away good relationships, this is a valuable network for the future.

Best advice for this week – Remember they are CHILDREN. Never go after anyone’s child. Stop yourself from being overtly or covertly competitive. People see it and it is not an attractive trait. Take a deep breath and put everything back into perspective. Figure out a way to reign in the difficult personality, without being mean. Because there will absolutely be a difficult personality in the mix.

Thanks for coming back again to read the blogs! More tips and insights forthcoming on balancing academics and crying on set. Have a great week.

With Aloha,

Eileen