The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, June 04, 2012

Tokan film: Tiarnan’s Malaysian movie debut.

A couple of months back, a call came in, as they tend to do: “Can you bring your kids along to do a film tomorrow?” It was very last minute. This is typical of filming in Malaysia.

“Only Tiarnan is free. Fintan has exams to do and Ainan is at University and I don’t want him to miss a day.”

There was a pause, the silence evaluated my remark.

“OK. Bring Tiarnan.”

“What is it for?”

“The film is called Tokan. It is about drugs. The scenes you will be doing will be in an airport.”

The following day, I brought Tiarnan, fairly early in the morning, to the KTM railway station which was to be made to look like an airport scene. He was quietly expectant.

Now, Tiarnan, 6, has appeared on film before – but for TV documentaries and a reality TV show. He hasn’t been in a film.

He was to pretend to be the young son of a man going on holiday to Brazil. He was supposed to be excited to be visiting this new country.

The first scene was filmed going into and through a smoke filled tunnel through the airport. What was notable is that Tiarnan really tuned into his surroundings and the situation, like it was really happening in the way he had been told. He was properly excited, to be visiting Brazil. At just the right moment he had been instructed, he said: “Come on Daddy!”, and dragged me forward as he rushed ahead to see what was to be seen. His face glowed with excitement – yet, of course, none of it was real – it only seemed to be so. My young son was acting.

What impressed me was the patience he showed with the filming process. He did each take as if it were the first time he had experienced the scene. Between scenes he waited with the rest of the actors – his father and Ignas Versinskas, who is a friend of ours (usually a film director, actually). He never betrayed any signs of impatience with it all.

In one scene, on the train platform, as we set to leave the airport, he played a game with me – which he had invented, actually. The director had seen him playing it and liked it so much, he asked us to do it for the camera. We were the centre of the image. The game was simple: tossing a teddy bear back and forth between us in ever more exotic ways, always catching it and throwing it back.

Again and again he played the game, like it was his first time. He never failed to seem enthusiastic about it. I rather think that his smiling little form will steal that scene.

The final scene was as everyone was being checked through security. We were at the front of the scene. In it, Tiarnan looked properly impressed by the gun toting police. He whispered to me between takes: “It is not a real gun, is it? Just fake?”

“Just fake.” I assured him.

“And the police are only pretending to be police?” he continued, looking up at their tall, stern features.

“Yes. Just pretending.”

That reassured him somewhat.

At the end of the shoot, the agent, Sam came to pay us. She started to pay me, for the work – but I shook my head and indicated Tiarnan. She paid him directly. He was most pleased to see so much money for his day’s work.

For me, it was very instructive to watch Tiarnan act. He is, in my view, a natural actor. He treats the circumstances as if they are real and behaves within it, according to the director’s request. He is able to do take after take and he shows great patience with the process. Not that alone, but his acting is natural and not overdone, as many children’s acting is. It was a revelation for me to watch him work and a very pleasing day indeed.

In the days that followed, he asked me, quite a few times: “Are we filming again tomorrow?”

He had really enjoyed himself and wanted to do some more.

“Some time, Tiarnan, we will do it again.”

Fintan felt that he had missed out because of his exams because he too wished he had filmed. I assured him that next time he could do so, if there were no exams in the way.

For me, as an actor myself, it is pleasing to see the same ability and disposition growing in my sons. I had glimpsed this before, in Tiarnan, when I had taken him to an audition for a TV commercial and he had worked with me. He had been very good then...very realistic. However, this was the first time I had actually worked with him. That day, he was not merely my son. He was a real actor, too.

Well done, Tiarnan on your film debut, in Tokan!

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:29 PM 


Blogger Anna Czarina said...


It's great to know that there are parents out there who allow their kids to pursue their interests and support and even fight for opportunities along the way.

To those people who say that you are pressuring your kids too much and other rubbish, I think this article would help.

It would be great if people would only support intelligence and talent when they see it and not be scornful or envious. After all, it is the wise that made the world a better place than it was in the past. We, the present, are the fruits from the great minds from the past, who likely suffered the same bullying as well.

Come to think of it, if people only supported those with potential, the present world would have been a far cry than it is now.

Don't give up and continue being the best parents to your kids.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Anna, for your kind, supportive and encouraging words. Yes, I shall carry on trying to secure appropriate opportunities for my children to grow, in areas of their interest. Sometimes, it is not easy...because no-one else really understands the situation the way a parent does. Also, the whole system is designed for the average child, in every way. Any unusual needs are not to be met.

Sho Yano did very well. I am happy for him. Perhaps I should write a blog post about his achievement. The hidden story of course is that his parents did very well to secure these opportunities for him.

Don't worry...we won't give up striving to be the best parents we can be.

12:59 PM  

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