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Should Directors Work With Their Kids?

We are human. We want to do good things for our families and please them, even if it leads to some unwise decisions. Filmmakers have fallen into this trap by letting their children get involved or be influenced by them, and Robert Rodriguez is one of the greatest offenders.

We all know Robert Rodriguez is a talented director of very violent adult fare. Like many directors Rodriguez wanted to work with bigger budgets and got the chance when he made the family friendly Spy Kids series, earning critical and commercial success. But Rodriguez made a very stupid move after the success of Sin City by making The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. Rodriguez got his ideas from his children Racer and Rebecca and gave Racer a writing credit, believing children would know how to make a story for a children’s movie. There is nothing wrong with a parent trying to encourage their children’s artistic side, but multi-million dollar feature films is not the best medium for them to do that. Added to that was his children’s influence on his family movie Shorts, particularly the jarring method of storytelling.

Another director who uses his children as an influence on his storytelling is living train wreck M. Night Shyamalan. The most famous example from him was when he wrote The Lady in the Water. He told a rambling fairy tale to his children as a bedtime story he made on an ad hoc basis and he thought, hell, this will make a great movie. However, Disney executives did not agree with Shyamalan, which led to a falling out with that studio. Lady in the Water was a deserved flop. Shyamalan found out about Avatar: The Last Airbender through his daughter when she wanted to dress up as Katara for Halloween. Shyamalan ended up getting into the show and wanted to make a live action adaptation. I bet after his daughter saw the movie she said, “Daddy, why did you ruin my favorite show?”

Some filmmakers have the nasty habit of casting their family members. Francis Ford Coppola cast his sister Talia Shire in The Godfather Trilogy, which was a perfectly decent move because she was good in her role as Connie Corleone. The same cannot be said about his daughter Sofia Coppola in The Godfather Part III as Michael‘s daughter Mary, renounced as one of the most infamous casting decisions in film history. Zack Snyder likes to cast his son as the younger versions of King Leondias and Rorschach in 300 and Watchmen and letting him be very violent. But all this is nothing compared to what Will Smith does for his children. He gave son and daughter roles in his movies and even got Jaden Smith a whole film franchise – if only all our dads were able to do that. Because of this, many critics and film fans were dreading The Karate Kid. But it turned out to be a surprisingly fun movie. 

We have seen many people follow their parents’ careers, whether it is in sports, politics, industry, etc… Cinema is no different and if someone’s parent is a successful actor or director it certainly makes it easier to break into the industry. Some directors have helped out their children’s fledging careers. Francis Ford Coppola has helped Sofia Coppola’s career, acting as the executive producer for all her movies, whether they are good like Lost in Translation or poor like Marie Antoinette. The same goes for Ridley Scott who has produced movies for his son Jake and daughter Jordan, but neither have yet to match their father’s critical or commercial success. But they are only just starting in their careers.

But it does not always have to be bad for a director to bring their children into their work. Jason Reitman, director of Juno , learned his trade while working on his father’s movies (Kindergarten Cop and Dave). Now Jason Reitman has ended up being a successful director and has a better reputation than Ivan Reitman.

The moral of the story is that a director can help their children out in their film careers but they need to use some common sense. The child of a director would properly learn acting and directing more easily than a person from an ordinary background. So a director can have faith if they want to help their child’s career. But taking stories ideas from a seven-year-old or turn a tale you were making on an ad hoc basis into a movie is basically a stupid idea and these are people who should know better.

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