I was watching Breaking Bad : End Times S4EP12 and there's this scene where Walter's family moves to Hank's house for security and the little kid Holly (probably few months old) cries while the family leaves Walt behind. I understand that the scene with the kid crying is made to add more drama but I was wondering how do the film makers make the kid cry in the scene?

I think of two possibilities

  1. Wait for the kid to cry naturally and make the scene.
  2. Make the kid cry with a little pinch or scare the kid and so on (Please don't misjudge me as a bad person.).

I don't think Film makers would consider the 1st option because that would cost time. But if they go with the second option, is it not maltreatment?

I'm not insinuating anyone, these are just my assumptions. What I want to know is,

Whether or not Film makers make the kids (mainly toddlers) cry for a particular scene?

If yes, is it not maltreatment of an innocent kid?

If no, what are the techniques they use to make a kid cry without maltreatment?

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    @Andrew Thompson I had to look up the dictionary to find the meaning of "inebriate" and it made me laugh. ;) Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 5:42
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    I've heard of filmmakers that have done things that people would consider mean, but I wouldn't consider abuse as long as it is not part of a pattern. For example, Ron Howard has said for the Andy Griffith show, they gave him a toy and intentionally snatched it away. Or in the movie Stand By Me, when the kids were failing to cry, Rob Reiner yelled at them that everyone was tired of shooting the scene. He made up with them afterwards. There are other times though, where no such thing is done. Like for the Rabbit Proof Fence. It really just depends.
    – user13530
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 18:52
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    With babies, they'll also often get identical twins to play one baby. That way, there's a higher chance one of them happens to be in the right mood for the scene.
    – user13530
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 19:09
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    Fun fact: in the 1974 italian comedy "C'eravamo tanto amati", is shown footage of a public speech by director Vittorio de Sica in which he reveals the technique he used to provoke the desperate weeping of the then 9 year old actor in De Sica's 1948 italian neorealism masterpiece "Ladri di Biciclette". Since the kid could not shed a tear and the scene demanded a very dramatic reaction, De Sica asked a member of the troupe to hide a few cigarette butts in the kid's pockets. -->
    – Pesetas74
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 18:10
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    <--- When the kid took out the butts, De Sica started calling him "ciccaiolo" (which means "someone who picks up butts"). The kid felt so ashamed that he started to bawl immediately. This is the original scene and this is the story told by De Sica in "C'eravamo tanto amati" (at 1:32:29 in original language with spanish subs ... the best I could find).
    – Pesetas74
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 18:11

3 Answers 3


I think, this varies from scene to scene. For example, I was recently watching Modern Family and in a scene, Jay & Gloria's son is shown starts crying, when his mother is putting him in his baby-car and stops crying when she pulls him out. Similarly in one episode the baby pukes as soon as someone talks of Gay-marriage. This is shown 3 times. What's similar in both scenes is that the camera is never close enough on the baby so that you can't notice baby's face in any scene. This means that while shooting the baby didn't do anything. they just played sound and made us feel that way. I am sure we all have seen many similar scenes. So it can be assumed that in cases where we don't see baby's face clearly, there is nothing happening with the baby at all.

But in my opinion and it's a personal opinion, the possibility of deliberately making a baby cry for a scene could not be denied. As I have seen in many movies, (not necessarily Hollywood) where an actual crying baby is shown. OP is right that it is highly unlikely that the producers will wait for the infant to start crying. It is unrealistic since the scene might require many retakes.

Now you might think why would the parents allow their baby to be made cry. Well, first of all, think why did they allow their infant to be used in a movie production at all.

In California, according to the law, any child as young as only 15 days can be used in a shooting. Surprisingly in many other states, there is no minimum age at all.

Check this link for details.

As far as I know a baby with 15 days of age, needs a lot of rest and they sleep most of the time. Any parent's biggest concern is to pacify their crying babies, let alone the thought of deliberately making them cry, but still it is done. Why ? The same link states.

According to a SAG spokesperson, infants are typically hired as "background actors" and receive a day rate of $126. If an agent or parent bargains for the child to be paid as a principal performer, the rate increases to $737 per day.

I don't think, it can be denied that kids are deliberately made to cry in some scenes.

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    Which explains why "newborn babies" usually have more hair than they normally do. Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 13:10
  • +1 definitely your answer provides more useful information. I want to know whether kids are maltreated to cry in the scenes. Check my edit. Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 7:28
  • Mothers spend enough time with their babies that they usually know what will make them cry without hurting them, such as taking a favorite toy away. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 19:12

Based on my personal experience, some kids can cry on command. If a kid - or even an adult - is having trouble crying on command (or otherwise having trouble showing a certain level of any given emotion), some directors use tricks like these to get them to cry/show emotion (though for #6 on that list, from what I understand, Kubrick did much more than just make Shelley Duvall repeat the baseball bat scene to get her into her awful emotional state for The Shining). Some of the more innocent techniques involve pinching or otherwise startling a kid - sometimes even just coaching them through remembering a sad/upsetting event can help them cry on command (and, having done that technique myself, I can assure you that it is not nearly as traumatic as it sounds). But as you can read in the aforementioned article, some directors have done some pretty awful stuff.

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    +1 just for the link alone. While these are terribly old movies (and I'd assume old industry standards and practices) it was still entertaining and gave an insight into the mindset of directors. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 16:49

There's a scene in Under the Skin (2013), starring Scarlett Johansson, where there's a baby/toddler alone on a beach - the baby is crying and looks really properly distressed and too young to be acting - I've always wondered what they did to it.

It's mentioned in an interview with the director, Jonathan Glazer. Basically, they found a baby that would cry whenever its mother put it down and took a few steps away - the mother is just out of frame.

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