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.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Stage Moms" become "Child Actor Parents"

Stage Mom or Child Actor Parent

The title "Stage Mom" or "Stage Parent" is very defining and on the surface makes sense (ie a mom or parent whose kids work on stage), however, I have reason to believe that in many cases this title is not always a positive one and sometime carries an underlined meaning. This sad, often accurate and sometimes inaccurate label, has its roots planted in the parents of the past who have earned the title - and all the connotations that come with it.

In an attempt to decipher the realities we all face in this industry, I've been studying my surroundings - specifically why we have "earned" this bad-rap name, here we go…..

I believe that we as parents are not always clear on our role and on how to control our children on set, thus the fear factor of working (yes working) with our own children sets in. You see, it is necessary to work with kids, but it is work, when a child is hired. But then they also have to be a real kid (both on screen and off) and are also expected to act like an adult on set. This is where the discrepancy lies. For the parent, this is arguably where things get a bit confusing.

In a recent film shoot we talked with a very seasoned cameraman who shared his candid views on working with children. Lets just say he confirmed the frustrating challenge of getting the kids to listen and focus. No different than any other person whose job comes with responsibilities, he wants to get his work done with the greatest of ease. Now, we must also understand that film making is a creative process, thus making it very different from a traditional job, very unique indeed, yet, its work and people expect cooperation in any work environment.

I do believe we, the Stage Parent, have a hurdle to get over in many set situations. I also believe we must make steps to changing the connotation behind "Stage Parent". One way to start is by changing the title. We are "Child Actor Parents" not "Stage Moms/Dads" or "Stage Parents." In my mind, this is an equalizing title and redefines how I prefer our family to be perceived/respected.

The trick now is to earn the new, positive title by way of teaching ourselves and children how to act on set and most importantly, as a parent, take the time to research general set expectations. Then measure how you are doing.

Because we are sometimes tagged/targeted as "Stage Mom," we must take the responsibility to work out of this title and become recognized as much of an equal to the set as the adults. If we stick to focusing on our Child Actor opportunities and aspire to work to become a seasoned actor, we focus on us, which we can control.

This improving process takes time and, make no mistake, in this small universe we work in, talks and word gets around. We have a choice: to be talked about with respect or lack thereof; we decide the outcome, which obviously impacts one's future working opportunities.

Come to set/work prepared, focus, listen, work safe, be respectful and learn the process.

We must always remember it is work when we're on set - not a holiday. What makes it fun is when we all respect the work process, thus exceeding the expectations of the directors, producers, cast and crew. This, I can assure, will lead to other work opportunities and place ones family as respected equals - part of the team!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As much as I appreciate your common sense about kids needing to be well behaved on the set, along with the parents, What about the mis- behaving powers that be.
In our experience, meaning the three of us in our family who work in the biz, and my husband a therapist and business coach, it is more often the crew and above that seem to expect children to act like adults.
This is not to say that extremely disruptive behavior should be allowed, but as one set teacher of 30 yrs told me, it seems the working kids who have had to be overly responsible and "well behaved" not to mention over controlled, for the years where they should be acting and being kids... Well lets just say, at 18 or 19 they then can be free to do all the mis-behaving and with money and influences around them that can create the crazyness we see in some.
I will elaborate on how I have seen some producers, AD's and even set teachers "misbehave" at a later point possibly.