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.

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.


CS


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