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.

Monday, March 24, 2008

How We Deal With Rejection

Rejection - Part I

For those in Showbiz, I believe that we must first learn that rejection is not rejection as one would normally think of it. Casting doesn't (thank goodness) walk out and say, "Hey, guess what? We didn't like your work. You stink. See ya later. Better luck next time."

In fact, casting wants you to do well; they are your friends and when the right person comes along and fits the part, it makes their job so much easier.

So if you have images of the Simon Cowell type interrupting in the middle of your child's audition with a disgruntled, "That was the most horrible thing..." (complete with British accent) try not to worry - that is, after all, just for TV... no pun intended.

It really comes down to how you deal with rejection - how you and your children internally deal with not getting the work and, most importantly, how you move on and stay positive and shift your focus to the next opportunity rather than harping on the past. In order to book work, you have to do good work [auditions] and in order to do good work, you have to be in the right (and positive) mindset.

So how do you get this positive mindset and how do you help your kids get it as well? It's tough, but you have to manage the rejection in your head. It's the hardest thing to learn. We call it the "Emotional Roller Coaster." One minute you get offered an audition and you're up - you're riding in the coaster car, heart pounding, up the hill. Clink,clink,clink,clink (get the image?). Then you're at the top of the hill, looking up, looking down. Will you get the part? When you do, you keep climbing like one of those little "fake-you-out" hills that some coasters have. If you don't get the part, you may find your emotions zooming quickly down the hill - your heart in your throat. Then you level out and head up the hill again.

The key is to try to level out those steep hills. We have learned and continue to learn that it is about staying positive even when we're heading down the hill. Maintaining great conviction and belief that we have what it takes to succeed in Hollywood helps us manage the times of rejection. We simply do this through confirmation and feedback from our talent team.

Booking jobs doesn't hurt either. When we don't book, we remind ourselves of when we did. If you're new to this and haven't booked or don't have a talent agent or manager yet, perhaps you can shift the focus from the concept of actually booking jobs to the concept of simply making the attempt. If your child knows that the goal is to do his best and have fun and work hard rather than specifically booking the job or signing the agent, rejection is easier to handle. While you may not always get the job, your child is likely to be able to say he/she did his/her best.

For us, if we did not have confirmation early on we would not have hung tough, as I always say. Without confirmations we would have had to recognize that this wasn't to be and that it was time to pack it up. Decide what is going to help you confirm and at what moment you will shift what those confirmations are (from "doing your best and having fun" to "signing agents and booking jobs").

Rejection is very different for each child and family and success with overcoming it moves in stages. Well, this is our experience. I know Children In Film has a Child/ Family psychologist on their Board of Advisors if you're looking for a more professional view on rejection.

My next blog will go into detail about these "Stages" or the learning process that happens on your path towards showbiz success.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Student Films - Should I or Should I Not?

At first, we didn't pursue student films, but looking back after two years, I would say that we should have made a stronger effort to be involved with student films. Here's our story:

Why participate in Student films?

It's a real filming experience and a chance to get the child actor in
front of the camera, learning how the set works, meeting future industry professionals and most importantly earning potential film credits for sites like IMDB - a treasure we all seek!!

In the beginning our management had advised us to focus only on AFI related films, thus assuring a quality and credited experience. Throu
gh our management Dylan did work in a supporting capacity for an AFI film; it was a very well organized and professional shoot. Unfortunately one of his credited scenes was cut, but that happens. In fact, that is an entire lesson in itself - the cutting room floor!

Now that we are a bit more industry savvy, my suggestions to my friends are this:

  • USC, UCLA and AFI will yield the best chances of a quality experience. Additionally, I suggest they only submit for SAG credited student films.
  • Do your homework. Make sure the film is credited. Your manager or agent will verify this for you. If you don't yet have representation, start by asking the film's production crew.
  • On the front of your representation, let them know you are interested in student films. Then work as a team to submit for the best projects.
In February of this year, Dylan was fortunate to book the lead role in a UCLA thesis film and yes, it was SAG credited. Due to the strike, our strategically-thinking manager was on the lookout for student SAG films that would give Dylan and Ellery real set time. A role came up in this 22-page short film. We prepared, made our first-time journey to the legendary UCLA campus - Sound Stage 1.

After the audition, Dylan shared with me his thoughts:

"Well Dad, I ran through the scenes and asked if I could
run through the scenes a couple of times until I liked it and they said sure. I did great Dad!"

The next day our manager called to let us know that he had booked the leading role and we were very excited and proud! We were set to start filming on 02/15. In another blog, I write about how we dealt with a scheduling conflict that came up. To read more, click here.

The student film experience -

Dylan shot for five long days, and he was not 100% as we had all picked up a light cold, annoying runny nose and tiredness. Dylan rose each morning excited and ready to get to the set. We would run the lines the night before and on the way to the set. On set he would run lines, block, rehearse and shoot. When you're the lead, it's non-stop, making this a gift of a learning experience.

Our very talented director wrote the script and had been involved with almost 200 films - almost 90 of which she directed herself. She was a very professional and prepared director with a clear vision of what she was looking for, and she even shot with film - classic in her style. That's the thing about a good student film - they tend to bring back the classic qualities of film making thus providing an excellent, artistic experience for the young actor.

Each day the young, professional crew was ready to go, on time and not chatty unless it was work related. Don't get it wrong, they were very nice, just very busy. These students work on each other's fi
lms; they are busier than one would realize, and again, a very talented and committed crew.

We enjoyed craft services as nice as we have experienced on any other set.

What did we learn?

My thought is that a student film's big benefit for a child actor is set experience and credits. Dylan and I learned a great amount on the responsibility of what a lead must prepare for and how we can improve next time.

A few days after we wrapped, I emailed our director and asked for three things we did well and three things we could improve upon. We received very helpful critical feedback and will use it to improve our future set preparations.

Out of curiosity, I asked the director what made casting choose Dylan. She said it was his preparation for the character and how well he had performed the last scene, a sad scene.

We also learned that sometimes on set not all cast members gel. All I will say is to keep focused on the work and stay in character; be a professional and work through the challenges and rise to the challenge which is exactly what Dylan did. For children, if such matters arise, I suggest working them out with the director or first AD. Be discreet and never make a scene and only make it an issue if it is truly affecting your work. On the other hand, we became close to one of the cast members and hope to work together again. In our experience it is rare that cast members don't gel but it does happen - be cool, work through it - just like we all do at home with our kids.

The short film Dylan shot is something to be proud of; we are privileged to have worked with this director, cast, crew and locations. We look forward to seeing the final product and seeing the IMDB credit and believe our director will receive praise among her peers and positive festival entry recognition.

In closing, working on a student film is a serious responsibility. The time and expense the student film maker realizes is much and we must be aware that this is their career path and respect that as we respect our own careers.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Double Booking - Dealing with Scheduling Conflicts

When you're just getting started in this industry, you are eager to jump at every exciting opportunity that comes your way. We are quickly finding that scheduling conflicts, however, arise no matter what stages of the game you're at.

So Dylan booked a UCLA student film. We were so excited as he would be playing the lead role!!

Fast forward a few days - Dylan and Ellery booked a feature film as brother and sister and it started shooting on 02/13. The UCLA film was scheduled to start on the 15th! Ut oh!

Our manager called us, "Guys we have scheduling conflicts and Dylan may not be able to shoot the student film."

"No way. We love the script and there must be a way to shoot both!"

By now we had established a relationship with the student film director and did not want to back out of the film. We, our agent, our manager, the feature film production AD, and the student film director were all working to get both films done. After days of creative scheduling and caring patience from everyone we figure it out. We were beyond pleased that everyone worked in favor of Dylan; ultimately as a team we accomplished everyone's objectives.

At one point I was ready to walk away from the student film. It was getting very complicated and the student film director was making all the sacrifices which didn't sit well with us. We wanted her film to be everything she envisioned and it was becoming unfair to her.

In May our oldest daughter will graduate from college with a major in marketing and photography; we know first hand how important student work is and have the utmost respect for their commitments.

But things worked out in the end and thankfully everyone was able to get what they needed. The bonus for our cooperation was Dylan's ability to work on two different projects.

My advice when scheduling conflicts come up is to do your best to think of everyone's needs. If needs can't be met, then choices obviously have to be made, but if you can think rationally as a team, often things can work out.

Dylan's Honda Commercial

Here is Dylan's Honda Commercial. We thought you might enjoy having a look!
He's at the beginning - we like playing "where's Dylan" with this one, but Honda is a great name to add to his resume!!

Let us know what you think. Please leave a comment!