“Never work with children or animals,” goes the old showbiz mantra.

We get that.

They can be hard to manage.

Because they just don’t really understand the world of work.

Your big fancy studio is just another playground to most kids.

Hamsters don’t listen to notes from directors.

And dogs don’t seem to appreciate a strict shooting-schedule no matter how many times you explain it to them.

So it’s a recipe for disaster.

But when you get it right, it sprinkles magic on your production.

Because the things that make kids and animals difficult to work with are the very same things that make them brilliant.

They’re silly, endearing and free-spirited – and audiences love them for it.

In the end, they’re worth all the stress and extra work.

But how do you make sure you get it right?

How do you get the performances you need?

In our experience, that takes planning, preparation and very careful direction.

Take the latest ’12 Deals of Christmas’ campaign we made with our long-term client, the Henderson Group (SPAR, EUROSPAR, ViVO & ViVOXTRA).

This year, the star of the campaign was eight-year-old Mollie McAlinden.

We chose Mollie after a very competitive casting process.

With the help of the fantastic Caroline Creggan Dance School in Cookstown, we saw lots of talented young performers.

And after a few rounds of those auditions, we were sure we’d found our star in Mollie.

But Mollie had a very tough challenge ahead.

She needed to sing some familiar festive songs with some very unfamiliar lyrics.

Mollie had to learn the new SPAR-inspired words and hit the right key all within very strict timing.

Plus she had to do it in a real recording studio while taking instructions from a director and sound engineer.

That’s a lot for any kid.

And there was a lot of expectation on the grown-ups too.

This was the fifth year of our ‘12 Deals’ campaign and, so far, every version had outperformed the one from the previous year.

The 2020 campaign earned our client a 57.5% sales increase over 2019.

 That meant the pressure was on for 2021.

So we started rehearsals well in advance with Mollie and she worked hard.

She and her mum, Elaine, had regular rehearsals with the Genesis team via video call.

They even interrupted a family holiday for one of those rehearsals (sorry McAlindens!).

But Mollie’s performances improved with every session and she absorbed all the directions she was given.

The team was confident Mollie was going to deliver when the recording day finally arrived.

But there are never any guarantees.

There’s no telling how a child might cope with nerves and the pressure on the day.

(This writer found that out to his cost during a P7 production of Cinderella – but the less said about that the better).

So we had to tread very carefully when we all arrived at the studio.

Mollie had to feel as comfortable as possible.

We wanted her to know the studio, her recording booth, all the people she would be working with and how the whole process would work.

It was also important not to overwhelm her with directions.

There are a lot of plates to spin when you’re directing a voiceover like this – timing, pitch, tone, clarity, a limited recording time and last-minute tweaks.

But we had to manage all that stuff without Mollie being too aware of it.

We gave her as few directions as possible to make sure she didn’t get confused or overwhelmed.

Beyond that, we just had to hope everything else went to plan.

So, finally, the moment of truth came – we hit ‘record’.

And Mollie nailed it.

She was the star we knew she could be.

She was fearless, her voice was beautiful and she was a dream to work with.

Her mum and the team watched on proudly through the soundproof glass.

Mollie was so professional that we even finished the recording ahead of schedule and got our lunch early – bonus!

So we do understand why people warn you against working with children and animals.

But they’ve obviously never worked with Mollie McAlinden.

You can hear Mollie’s vocal talents in the ‘12 Deals of Christmas’ campaign which is live right now.

Here’s a little taster of just one of twelve TV ads*…

The rest of the campaign will pop up on TVs, radio stations and social feeds all around you right through until late December.

So, thank you to the McAlinden family for all their help.

Thanks to the Caroline Creggan Dance School for helping us find our star.

And, of course, an extra special thank you goes to our star, Mollie, for making a tough job look easy.

(We hoped Mummy spoiled you in Claire’s Accessories on the way home!)

*The deals featured in this ad are no longer live.