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Confusing Content: When Your Kids See You on TV

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“That’s Daddy on TV! He’s being funny. He’s dancing silly. …Why is he doing that?”

Actress Amy Argyle and actor Ryan Schwartzman in 2018 release “Parker’s Anchor,” Available NOW on iTunes

So, it is officially time to sit my kids down and have “the talk” about why they may see Mommy and Daddy on the TV doing weird things. I thought they’d be too young for this talk. I also thought I just wouldn’t show them our films for a long time. Buuuuut, we are producers as well now. We make films and sometimes we are in those films and for quality control purposes, I watch the films in various stages multiple times… and I work from home. With my kids always there. As an Indie-Work-At-Home-Parent-Filmmaker (#iwahpf), my kiddos have been watching Mommy and Daddy and many of our friends do weird things on the TV for a long time.

No, my kiddos aren’t watching inappropriate content (which is a relative term based on their ages). But my kids ARE watching what I am describing as ‘confusing content.’ I’m calling it ‘confusing content’ because: people we know are playing pretend on screen and it seems very real.

Let’s talk about this. I need fellow Indie-Work-At-Home-Parent-Filmmaker’s (#IWAHPF) to share their thoughts here. Here are a few strategies that we are starting to explore in our home.

Actress Jennica Schwartzman as Detective Rachel Willow in 2018 release “Ridge Runners,” Available NOW on iTunes

Introduce ‘Confusing Content’ before it starts – preparation

“Hey, Mommy is playing pretend in this movie. I pretend to be a police detective. I am pretending to be concerned about where a little girl has gone without her parents. I am pretending to ask a lot of questions of these people. None of these people are ‘bad guys.’ These are my friends and they are playing pretend too.” (Ridge Runners, 2018 release)

Good guys vs. Bad guys – pretending & stunt work

“In movies, there are sometimes good guys and bad guys to help tell the story. In real life, there are no good guys and bad guys. In real life, good people do bad things sometimes and good people can do so many bad things that they need to be stopped by someone in charge. BUT in movies, Mommy and Daddy may sometimes pretend to be bad guys and pretend to do bad things, but this is just to help tell the story. Daddy is chasing that guy because Daddy is pretending to be a bad guy. He is chasing Daddy’s friend, Ace, who is pretending to be a good guy that needs help. Daddy and Ace are friends in real life. Daddy and Ace practiced this fight scene together. They had a lot of fun practicing this pretend fight. Would YOU like to practice a pretend fight scene with me? Do you want me to teach you how to pretend to kick me?” (The Man In The Trunk, TBD 2018 release)

Actor Christopher Marquette and Actress Jennica Schwartzman in 2018 release “Parker’s Anchor,” Available NOW on iTunes

Asking permission – bodily autonomy

“Mommy is pretending to be a person falling in love with this person pretending to be ‘Jared.’ In real life, this is Mommy’s friend named Chris. Chris asked Mommy’s permission if he could kiss and hug her while they were pretending to be in love. Mommy asked Chris’ permission to hold hands while we were pretending to be in love. Sometimes Mommy and Daddy will pretend to be people who are married to other people. Mommy and Daddy and Chris are all friends and have all talked about whether or not we felt comfortable to be touching each other. Mommy and Daddy have a special love and commitment to each other that is more important than kissing and hugging and holding hands.” (Parker’s Anchor, 2018 release)

Play pretend together – participation

“Mommy and Daddy occasionally get the opportunity to pretend that we are different people. Would you like to pretend with me? Would you like to pretend to be Spiderman and I can pretend to be little kid who is lost and needs help finding home? Or would you like to pretend to be a cooking teacher and I can pretend to be a student looking to learn how to make pancakes??!”

These are some of the tactics we’ve learned that helps our kiddo understand that some media on TV is just pretend and that the people that are in the story are just real people playing pretend together. This has helped us separate who we are from the people we play in movies.

Actress Jennica Schwartzman crying in bathtub in 2018 release “Parker’s Anchor,” Available Now on iTunes

I’d say that the hardest thing for my son to see is me crying in my latest film. He is VERY concerned about Mommy crying. But, watching the movie and pointing out the scene again and again helped him understand that it’s ok to suspend our disbelief and become emotionally involved in stories on TV and still understand that people on the TV are just playing pretend.

Tell me how YOU have dealt with similar situations with YOUR children or young people in your life.

Tag us with #IWAHPF (Indie-Work-At-Home-Parent-Filmmaker) so we can engage with you!

Jennica Schwartzman

About Jennica Schwartzman

Jennica Schwartzman, a member of The Producer’s Guild of America, loves tackling a project from idea to distribution. Jennica has been published in the Producer’s Guild Magazine Produced By, Legacy Arts Magazine, Bustle and she is a guest writer on the acclaimed entertainment industry websites MsInTheBiz.com, FilmmakingStuff.com, Artemis Motion pictures’ #WomenKickAss Forum, & WomenandHollywood.com. She has been invited to speak on film festival panels and is a teacher & workshop speaker for The International Family Film Festival’s Road Scholars intergenerational filmmaking camp. Jennica has 6 feature film releases scheduled for 2018. Her films have collected TOP awards from Bentonville Film Fest, Big Bear Lake Int’l Film Fest, Eureka Springs Indie Fest, Film Fest Twain Harte, Worldfest Houston, Fayetteville Film Festival, The Int’l Family Film Fest, & the highest honor from The Dove Foundation. Jennica and her husband/producing partner/writing partner Ryan have 2 kiddos and reside in Hollywood.