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, June 30, 2008

Thoughts on raising a good "stage kid"

Dana and I watch our little actors closely, additionally we watch other child actors, and actually, we watch and pay attention to kids in general, especially the kids in our immediate lives.

What we are looking at is behavioral traits; We may choose to not allow our kids to associate with kids who are disrespectful. Additionally we speak straight and with great clarity when our kids fail to meet our expectations. If behavior is good - hugs and pats on the back. If behavior needs improvement, we redirect.

Our number one objective is to raise kind, considerate and respectful children. We attempt to bring Dylan & Ellery up as confident and well-rounded leaders. Whether they choose to remain within the entertainment industry is their call, but how they treat others and communicate is our responsibility to teach.

Just the other day we were connecting the dots from our parental behavior to their behavior and in doing so found ourselves evaluating and asking ourselves what kind of parent leaders are we? If our behavior directly affects theirs, then are we behaving as "stage parents" or "child actor parents" (as previously discussed)?

My first thought on what defined the difference between parenting as a "stage parent" rather than a "child actor parent" was based on discrete versus indiscreet parental behavior, on the set and otherwise. I believe that discrete parenting is reflected in children who may lean more toward a workable & genuine style on set. On the other hand, indiscreet & "rougher" parenting seems to find the kids leaning on the side of acting out more.

I am making this concept simple for a reason: While we all know there is much more to parenting than meets the eye, when we see how our children act, we must accept that our children’s behavior is a result of their environment. We obviously realize that everyone has a bad day or moment, that’s a given, but I am referring to consistent behavior traits.

If the parent is over-the-top, overly verbal, over dramatic, etc the child learns to behave in a similar manner. Where as a calm and collected parent tends to yield similar (not always perfect, but similar) behavior in offspring.

We reminded ourselves of how important it is that we remain discrete and focused on the film set objectives, additionally how we can successfully guide our little actors discretely rather than drawing attention to ourselves and issues that need to be addressed within the family, not within the company of the work environment.

The bottom line is that when children are on set and they know their boundaries and are prepared, the production process goes forward smoothly. Time is money and in this business; No one in production wants to work with a challenging individual, child or adult, and we have a choice.

At home and on set we can have a positive impact. And guess what. We, the parents, also have an opportunity to be appreciated as a solid member of the production team, not as an outsider - A simple reward for a job well done.

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!