By Cindy Atoji Keene
As a ‘child wrangler,’ Cory Scott dislikes this odd but apt moniker for his job. Whether it’s a photo shoot or video filming, it’s his task to rein in child models or actors so that the production goes smoothly. “Being on a set can be overwhelming for both children and parents; I’m there to make sure everyone has a fun and worthwhile experience, including the media crew,” said Scott, 42, who has worked on the sets of Hasbro, CVS, March of Dimes, and Sonalysts Media. He says that “wrangling” is an apropos description when he works with kids, as often he has herd in enthusiastic toddlers so they’ll pose for the camera, or coax a smile from a tired subject. “I’m like a jester, concierge, cheerleader, counselor, and facilitator, all in one,” said Scott, who is also a freelance voice, film, and stage actor.
Q: With all the lights and backdrop, a photo studio can be quite a foreign environment for a child – how do you prepare them for it?
A: Most kids have never seen the reflecting umbrellas connected to the lights and they’re quite intrigued by it all. But they get used to the equipment rather quickly, especially when I distract them with my antics. Some boys in particular just want to run up the paper backdrop, and I obviously have to discourage that. I’ve established a relationship with them prior to getting onto the set, so it this makes them more responsive and comfortable. Kids find themselves in this contrived environment where there are lights and cameras but I help them still be free to be themselves.
Q: Part of your role is to keep restless ones entertained in the wings while the crew is readying the set. How do you do that?
A: I bring all sorts of props with me, from magic tricks to noise-makers, balls, dominos, and other diversions. I like to wear cargo pants with lots of pockets because sometimes I need to work really fast to grab a kid’s attention. I’ll talk with a funny accent or put on wild hats or glasses. Kids have limited attention spans so I have to know when something’s working or when it’s time to move onto a new tactic.
Q: How did you become a child wrangler?
A: I kind of fell into it. I’m a representative for a photographer, and one of his clients was a big toy company. He knew how crazy I was, and asked me to do entertain the children during a shoot. It was the perfect role for me, because I’m a dad but also have an entertainment background. It takes a creative mind to help the photographer get the facial expression, reaction or pose from kids that he’s looking for.
Q: What do you do when you’re not wrangling?
A: I’m an actor who tends to get cast in the role of a soldier, cop, priest or rock star – these are the personas I tend to give off. I also do voiceovers for commercials and some stage work. And I’m a ‘standardized patient’ for a medical school – we pretend we are patients so that residents can practice their bedside manners with us. My case portrayals have been an alcoholic, accident and stroke victim. So hopefully I am contributing to the future generation of doctors and helping them relate to patients with compassionate conduct.