A Production Manager’s Perspective: Working with Children

We were very pleased to be chosen by Al Ghurair Solaris to make a promotional film for their school bus from the ‘Interurbino’ range. At the initial meeting with the client, I could sense that Jana, our Producer, already had the story mapped out in her head, lots of cute kids happily getting on the bus and sitting there nicely enjoying the ride.

My thoughts, on the other hand, were along the lines of the quote from the comedian W.C. Fields “never work with children or animals”, as I envisaged bored and demanding children creating havoc on the shoot.  As Production Manager, of course I was tasked with (literally) “getting this show on the road”, which included gathering our cast of school children. As luck would have it, half term break was around the corner and I managed to get 13 kids to participate. All it took was a bit of sweet talking with the mums and straight out bribery to help oil the wheels. I think the thought of earning a bit of pocket money while being a “movie star” was irresistible to them!

Solaris photo 1

We started the shoot early morning with some drive-by shots in prominent nice looking Dubai locations. As part of the pre-production process, I had arranged police permission documents from the Dubai Film Commission to film in public places. This is standard for all filming and photography in Dubai. While standing rather conspicuously in the middle of the road, the crew were visited by Dubai Police. For the first time ever in Jana’s 12 year film career in Dubai she was asked to produce the permit. Definitely worth the form-filling bureaucracy!

The drive-by shots proved a challenge. Due to the length of the bus, it couldn’t do u-turns and, as those of us living in Dubai well know, this city is the u-turn capital of the world. Much of the morning was spent driving up and down Jumeirah Beach Road finding places to turn and drive by at the precise moment there were no traffic or pedestrians in the shot. Director and Producer were both fastidious about getting the perfect shot…

As a result, many takes later, we were running over schedule and I was aware that our cast of highly active kids aged 6 and 7 years old were running riot as they waited to be called at my friend’s villa with several frazzled mums trying to keep them under control.  By the time the children were on the bus, spirits were still running high so, like any good Production Manager, I had a few tricks up my sleeve to keep the shoot running smoothly. With my pre-prepared snack bags and drinks, I managed to get them all sitting quietly in their seats, so we had a few minutes of calm and silence as they ate. They were then ready for their “close-ups” and our Director managed to get some fantastic shots.

Solaris photo 2 After the slightly hot and bothered kids were delivered back to their parents, we headed out to the workshop which was located at the back of beyond in the rather eerily quiet outskirts of Khawaneej, a suburb that seems to disappear into the scrubby desert. There we filmed the different safety features of the bus inside and out. Isabella, our child presenter, did a fantastic job in the heat of the day. We then headed back into the city to get what has become the iconic shot for our Dubai film shoots – the Burj Khalifa. After taking what we thought was the wrong exit, we ended up in the perfect spot to get exactly the right angle of the bus driving past the tallest building in the world.

We learnt quite a lot about bus manufacturing and vehicle safety during this project. Solaris buses seem to be at the cutting edge of bus technology, the company being a trendsetter in the industry. After experiencing the bus for ourselves, we would highly recommend this as an extremely safe school bus option on the somewhat crazy roads of Dubai. Check out their website here.

After this experience, I would brave having a cast of children again but would have to think twice about animals!  Check out the film here.