This is Our Story

We're the Sprayberrys and we moved to Los Angeles about four years ago to have our go at Hollywood. When we met the folks at Children In Film, they thought it would be a great idea if we documented our story. After all, our failures and successes (hopefully more the latter than the former) can be your lesson book.

So here you have it - Dylan and Ellery working through the ups and downs of being child actors - their mother and I working hard every day to ensure their success not only as actors, but also as well-adjusted members of society.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Young Actor, Man of Steel

Actors strive for, and dream of, the chance to be cast in such an iconic film as Warner Bros 2013 reinvention of SUPERMAN. Dylan is a fortunate young actor who earned this opportunity and has since filmed in the role of the young Clark Kent.

The Audition Process

Moving the calendar back to the spring of 2011, I recall being in Houston, Texas on a three-month work assignment and hearing all about this untitled WB project for which Dylan had auditioned.

It was April 28, 2011 when Dylan learned that the sides for the audition would be from the film Stand By Me, a favorite of Dylan’s. I learned that he had gone in and felt like he gave a strong audition.

By May 16, 2011 his mother Dana got the classic “CALLBACK” call from Dylan’s manager! In our excitement we also learned that the WBROS untitled project is actually Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan... nice!!! There is, however, a twist to the callback: Zack Snyder will be in the room. I’m still in Houston at this point hearing about the callback and eventually learned that Dylan felt his performance was, again, strong. Two days later  (though the wait always feels like longer for young actors) we learned from Dylan's agent that he is a contender for the role of Clark Kent.

At this point things got really exciting and really moved fast; it’s like the biggest mental brain tease ever, especially for Dana and me. Dylan - who is always cool about these sorts of things - just trucks along and does his job, no worries. He does the work - the audition work, I mean - that’s what the actor does.  And the parents wait calmly on the outside yet are tormented on the inside.

Here's the thing... when you get to the point of meeting with a director, you are there and at the same time you are nowhere.  What I mean is, you are so close to dreams becoming realities and yet, technically, you don't have anything yet. Enjoy that conflicting feeling as best you can! It's part of the process. 

It’s pretty funny now, to look back on it, but when you’re going through it, it’s an emotional rollercoaster ride. It's a very fast ride and the longer you wait to hear the exact status of where your kid is in the mix of things, the more mentally trying it gets. It’s exciting and stressful which makes for a very CRAZY way to live your life, welcome to HOLLYWOOD!!!!  Don't let it get to you and never forget that win or lose, call back or not, you're moving through the process. 

Days pass and I receive the thrilling call that our boy is still in the mix for the role of 13-year-old Clark Kent and is needed for a match session (June 6, 2011). A match session is designed to pair actors up with other actors to see if the looks fit, and so forth.  This is the point in the audition process where, if they were calling for blondes all along and then end up with a brunette the parent wonders how that could possibly have happened.  It likely wasn't your child, it was the match session and they picked a brunette to play the mother thus negating the need for the blonde.  

I digress.  With this match session, once again, Zack was to be in the room. I was still in Houston thinking, "this is too good to be true!"  Part of me figured that Dylan will get close and then we would hear what we have all heard many times from casting: "we had stronger choices," "his hair was wrong or he was too tall,"... you all know the classic reasons. The reasons do make sense, but knowing this doesn’t make it any easier when the reality is your child didn't get the role. Especially when you get this far down the road with a project your kid really wants and one of this magnitude.  Just remember - match sessions - not your child's talent. 

On June 15, 2011, Dylan was still very much in the mix! We survived the match! But by June 28, 2011 he was requested for another testing session.

On July 6, 2011 it was time for a wardrobe session, which went very well. July 13, 2011 was another wardrobe session which seemed to go well. 

On July 20, 2011, we got the news. We were off to WBROS to sign contracts for the role; finally, and what a happy relief!!!!

While this process is going on I had asked Dana early on to find Dylan a gym and she did just that, plus some. Without realizing it, she found a new life for Dylan and Ellery. Long story short they found Ronin Boushnak at XFC in Sherman Oaks. Dylan and Ellery continue to workout at XFC 4/5 times a week, sometimes for 3 hours at a time. Ronin has become a mentor and inspiration to our family. Dylan and Ellery see him as their health God, and he’s so wonderful with all kids. Dana recently commented that Ronin was one of our magical finds within our six years here in LA.

Looking back on it I had returned from my stent in Houston when WBROS/Zack made an offer, and we were NUMB! It really didn’t sink in for a longtime; even after being on set, it didn’t all together sink in with me. I'm not sure if it has sunk in 100% even now. It was a surreal experience, a very exciting and elevating time for our family, friends but mostly Dylan. Taking Dylan to the contract signing and all the other meetings was a most proud time for Dana and me. To see our son honored with such a role and responsibility was just an amazing time for our family.

Becoming Superman

On August 6, 2011, the deal was done, contracts were signed, and flight and hotel arrangements were in process, and before we knew it, Dylan and I are off to the amazing city of Chicago. What a great city to visit. I must say these were two of the most rewarding weeks of my life. To spend this time with my son on such an iconic film project was much better than any vacation I could dream up!

Dylan and I worked out together, hung out in our favorite town of Naperville - what a charming little town. We must have ventured to Naperville six to eight times. Dylan and the boy playing young Clark Kent at 9 (Cooper) met up and became immediate best buds, and what fun we all had together. We will never forget the fun recreational day at the invitation of Diane Lane. What a kind and classy person Diane is.  She had such fun with the boys. She spent a good amount of time with them during the kickoff party, and was very giving indeed. The real shocker was the afternoon Diane called my cell; that was so funny and cool, “Hi Carl this is Diane, Diane Lane”.  I had to scramble for a minute to ensure I didn’t say something really goofy! The thing is; I am and have always been a very big fan of Diane’s. For me it was really a thrill to meet and hangout with Diane. And I guess my point is even after having been in the biz for a while as a parent of a chid actor, it's still easy to get a bit star struck. 

The sets were so detailed and perfect, there were some very tight sets where just a few people were there in two scenes in particular that we very cool. Lucky me to sit there on the sidelines and watch it all.

Mentoring from the Stars

So Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent) arrived. Kevin became a mentor to Dylan, really took him in and cared for him. Kevin too was terrific, funny, told great stories and did what he does so well as an academy award winning talent! Kevin is such a talent and so focused, yet always upbeat!

Zack Snyder is superb; watching Zack work was such an entertaining education. He is so cool, calm and collected... just amazing watching it all happen. Zack is always smiling and on his game, but he always takes a moment to connect and say something to you. He was always complimentary when he spoke of Dylan. 

Anticipating the Release

This will be a SUPERMAN like we have not seen before, which we will see in June of 2013.

Henry will be such a powerful SUPERMAN, this I can assure you of this. During Dylan's second trip to Chicago (This time his mother Dana was with him), my normally very calm and removed wife was even a bit star-struck standing next to Henry in full costume.  He really is Superman.  Then in April 2012 Dylan received an envelope, he opened it up to find a card from Henry and a SUPERMAN coin that Henry personally commissioned and sent out. That’s Henry Cavill, first class and thoughtful, such a kind gentleman.

The first trailer for SUPERMAN aired with the “Dark Knight Rises,” and we hear that other trailers will start to show up during this years holiday season. We did hear that a lengthy trailer aired during Comic-Con in June with Zack and Henry present. The rumor is that Dylan is shown in the trailer a couple of times, very exciting stuff!

One last memory to share, I did have the pleasure of meeting and talking with the casting team at WBROS one day last August and yes I ask the question of how/why Dylan was chosen?  The casting director was kind enough to spend some time and talk with me.  Ultimately, I learned, it came down to both talent and looks. He had the "match up" look, and he did the work.  There are only so many things we can control as parents when it comes to this industry.  Controlling their looks, we know, is not possible -short of having them join a gym and encouraging healthy habits.  Controlling the work - well, it has to be the children who want to do it. When these two things match up - the stars aline. And there you have it.  

Thank you and stay tuned for June 2013!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Day in the Life of Hollywood Living

It's September of 2011 and much has happened in the last year. Dylan accomplished student of the year and is heading to the 8th grade; they grow up so very fast. Between the science projects and language arts we considered hiring a scientist to literally split him in half to accomplish his heavy study load.

Ellery ended the year with excellent marks in school and is headed to the 5th grade. I remember us home schooling her from the first grade thru third grade, then we threw in the towel on home schooling. We learned that home schooling is a talent that not all parents possess; we do not possess that talent!

Dana continues to be SUPER-MOM as she cares so dearly for these two little guys running them from school to coaching to auditions over to friends for studying and so on….

I’m searching for a new hotel company to join, like so many Americans it’s been a trying time for our family, and me, but we have hung in there together. Lets hope we enter the New Year with a plan to lower our country’s high unemployment rate -sure takes the fun out of things.

The kid’s grandmother has managed to spend much of her time here with us in LA. She is the best grandmother ever, reads scripts, and takes them to school, the park, gym and so much more! We are so fortunate to have her with us so much. Our hope is for her to move here from Texas and become a California resident as we have.

Ellery spent much of the summer hanging out with her friends and rounding up as many sleepovers as possible. She started taking aerial classes and loves the bars and ribbons; she is very good! For an action sport she picked up kickboxing, now that’s a work out! Her mother and grandmother join in on the action too!!

Ellery did manage to get in a bit of summer reading when she wasn’t busy having fun and boy did she have a long fun summer! Did I mention she enjoyed her experience at horse riding?

Dylan started a new workout program and has really committed to it; he enjoys working out with his friends at the gym. He shot up this summer and is becoming a young man. He came up with the coolest 13th summer birthday bash - a GRAFFITI PARTY! The birthday choice was a very cool and colorful style KRISPY KREME DONUT CAKE, so creative and different. He and his friends had a grand time, they did manage to change colors a bit but it all came out eventually. Dylan started guitar lessons again and is working on his favorite licks from Jack White and others!

In August I had the pleasure of spending a couple of weeks with Dylan while he filmed in Chicago. What an amazing time we had as father and son, better than any vacation you could take and the experience for Dylan was amazing and then some! Chicago is such a great city as are the surrounding areas. We enjoyed this very beautiful Midwest City.

As most young actors Ellery and Dylan prepare for their auditions, they have become accustomed to the research and commitment it takes to be ready. We are very proud of their progress and how they have become such young artist yet managed to stay great and grounded kids!

Ellery is recurring on a TV series and as previously mentioned Dylan achieved an awesome role in a Warner Bros feature film that he is working through January, very exciting work for them both. I must say that Ellery has come so close to so many great feature films this year, we know something big is coming up. We must all remember to keep our kids focused on giving a solid audition and the right one opportunity will avail eventually. This is what happened with Dylan and when it the right project hits it’s an amazing experience, as I always say, ALWAYS DO THE WORK and great things will follow.

And of course we get close to great projects only to see them not go our way, we all know how that goes. I am happy to report that our family has a much better understanding of the auditioning process. We have learned to take it in stride and not reflect on the close losses that we experience and realize that if you give a solid audition that is all you can and need to do, the rest is SUBJECT CHOICE that is so out of our hands.

The kid’s agents and management team are such great partners; we are very fortunate in this regard. We have worked to gain the relationship respect our family needed in order to find comfort in knowing our team is in fact a team, a team that can communicate collectively.

In closing Ellery and Dylan had a rewarding summer; their grandmother flew Ellery and Dana to Texas where they spent 2 weeks with family and friends, while Dylan and I explored Chicago, what a great time for us all.

I just learned that I am headed to Chicago again for a 3-week taskforce opportunity with an excellent hotel company I hope to join on with soon. Ellery and Dylan start school Monday, this will be an adjustment, their last weekend is loaded with sleepovers and pool parties!

We are looking forward to a busy and rewarding episodic season and know great things are coming our way.

Have a great balance of the year our Hollywood Family Colleagues and Friends!


Monday, September 27, 2010


The race is off to the beautiful city of Pasadena for the screening of the true and inspiring story of the1973 Triple Crown winning horse SECRETARIAT, who to this day, has unbroken winning time records.

Upon our arrival to the theatre we are greeted by CIF Member and Actors Reporter Dharbi Jens who is interviewing this evening’s guests; she was so cute and did an excellent job! Ellery and Dylan stop and talk with fellow thespian Dharbi as the three of them have fun with their pre-screening interview.

As we find our way to see the screenplay of this incredible true story I reach back to my memory and recall the 1973 headlines and media coverage of this amazing Triple Crown feat. Such Great Spirit SECRETARIAT brought to the world of sports and in doing so touched the hearts of so many people horse fans or not!

For a history lesson in sports I recommend this galloping story of what happened to a daughter who respectfully and honorably followed her fathers dreams and after much sacrifice saddles upon monumental victory!

On our ride home Ellery, Dylan, Dana and I reviewed the film and the messages we took from it, here is what Ellery and Dylan had to say:

Ellery felt awesome when SECRETARIAT won his races; she connected with the hard work the mother put forth and her belief in her horse. Ellery was saddened by the death of her father and how much it hurt the daughter. Inspiration is what Ellery took away from the story: "work hard for what you want and believe you can do it."

Dylan took note that sacrifice is not always the worst choice and that on the way of working for what you believe in, it can be tough but rewarding when you stay with it. Dylan, like Ellery, walked away with the inspiration of going for what you want -something all of us understand as we pursue our children’s ambitious Hollywood career paths.

For Dana and I, it was an uplifting family evening of entertainment laced with lessons of life which was again inspiring to us all, lessons we are reminded and challenged with each day.

May the legend of SECRETARIAT live on and always be there for us as a reminder of what it takes to know a winner when you see one and believe and fight for what you believe in. Hey parents, sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Always Going For It!!!!


Desire + Endurance = Success

It’s March 24, 2010 and my job has come to an end, the hotel I managed was sold and I was replaced... it happens. So I jump in to help my wife Dana with running the kids to school, auditions and all the things she had primarily been taking care of for the last two years. As school let out and summer began, we decided I would take care of Dylan and Dana would handle Ellery. You know, split up the running around for auditions and all kid-related business matters.

As we continue our journey which has been going on for four years now, we go through levels of growth, and with that our kids become a bit more defined as to what type of actor they are. I'm sure a lot of showbiz families experience this. What I mean is you see what their range is and how they respond to different character roles. I will write another BLOG on that subject later on; this is a BLOG about Dylan’s success and the very hard work that came with it during the summer of 2010.

Dylan, as a rule, ends up in leading roles or as an ensemble lead or supporting lead. With these roles come big sides/scripts and more often than not tricky characters with many layers. The roles require research to really take in the entire landscape of the film and characters. In short, Dylan was fortunate in going out for many theatrical auditions this summer and many of them brought on big and tricky characters, which takes time and serious commitment. The good news is you grow as an actor with this hard work in the same way as if you had practiced baseball all summer or gymnastics and so on. The point is, our kids do get better with this expensive and time-consuming investment and there is measurable benefit in the kids' growth as actors and this is a big part of the actor's journey.

So after coming in second on a few significant roles he finally booked a fun role. Parents, let's pause and really appreciate how hard it is to book a role; if your child is booking theatrical roles, you are very lucky so please CELEBRATE!!! As your kids do, Dylan has worked so hard to get "so close;" it makes you crazy at times. We hear, "he’s not the look" or "he’s too tall,"... "oops, wrong color of hair," "he’s too much of a heartthrob," "the director didn’t connect with him." It's like we're thinking, "when will he get a break????"

Well, after much hard and excellent work, he did; he gets to fly to Vancouver for three weeks where he will work with a fun ensemble cast of kids and dogs. One of the actors is a friend of his; how cool is that?! Dylan is so very excited, and we are so very grateful and of course proud of him for booking this fun role.

Through the process for the film “SPOOKY BUDDIES,” he auditioned for three different characters and, again, finally booked one. Yes, it was a hard and relentless summer of work for Dylan, but it paid off and he will have the time of his life in Vancouver, but it didn’t come without hard work and resilience... lots of resilience!!!

Have a great school year!