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, July 28, 2008

That One Thing

Before I share my latest tid-bit on surviving child-actor parenting, I want to reference City Slickers.

Jack Palance, holding his finger in Billy’s Crystal’s face, proceeds to tell Billy’s character "its all about that one thing." This carries on through both City Slickers films and makes total sence in both.

I personally relate to it because life is about figuring things out. It's about finding those very few successful things which lead to happiness, but like anything you have to decide what is important to you. What will you truly sacrifice to earn that thing in life that you want so dearly??

So often we fail to break things down to a simple understanding. What is your "one thing." Are you ready to stick with it?

I choose to believe that most of one's business objectives are simple. If we can remove the peripheral emotional aspects and truly identify what we are trying to accomplish we will know, without question, the exact hurdles we must jet.

So ask yourself -
Are you and your child interested in the craft of acting?
Are you interested in earning money for college?
Do you want fame?

What is your "one thing?" Is it reasonable? Is it respectable? Is it fair to your child?

Going back to the beginning of January 2006, I remember standing in front of the Oakwood Clubhouse in Toluca Lake. As I stood there with Dylan and Ellery each holding my hands and knowing there were many parents and children inside waiting for the evening's serving of a Hollywood professional to teach us all something new, I was blown away with this new and unknown universe. And in the same moment I knew, without question, there is an easy way to accomplish one's goals; it is done by way of breaking down the big picture and discovering the individual parts that yield success.

You must become a student of your opportunity at hand. In our case (and most likely in your case as a parent of a child actor) it was starting a new business, SHOW BUSINESS. And as much as I loved the business (or at least the result), I had no clue as to how to become successful at it.

I was confident, however, in knowing I could find the path to success. I knew we would need to relentlessly pursue our objectives while learning and taking note along the way, again, trying to always simplify our success matrix but never giving up and continuing to break down the success measures.

We are fortunate to have many dear friends today as we explore and enjoy this gift we live in (Hollywood). Being considered "working actors" is a dream world filled with excitement and reward!

As I listen, learn and sometimes advise when we gather to educate and understand our Hollywood path I hear many different things and see warming and sometimes unusual reactions.

I hear so many things that I could write a book, but here’s the point; when you remove the emotion, the guessing of what the casting office thinks (you will never figure this out, Do Not Spend Your Time On This Area) how they liked you, the gossip and spread of false information and so on, you will be able to get back to your "one thing." For our family - the decision has been made to focus on this: Do Good Work.

The only thing you have any control over is the work you are doing. You want acting to be your craft? Do good work. You want to make money for college? Do good work. You want to be famous? Fine - Do good work!.

Once you cross that casting room threshold, go in prepared and confident, listen and have fun, be your self - be real not ON! Do good work.

There you have it, simple, do great work, get great feedback and great booking results. We have learned to be just as excited to book as we are to receive a callback followed by confirming feedback. We have came close on some great projects and have booked great projects; we now know its about the work. If your child felt like they did good work and you had them prepared, that’s all you can do.

Remember, this is a lifelong path, there is no easy way in. Its tough work and like any business you must understand what the real what are defined as true measures of success.

Have fun, be real, be prepared, and most importantly, Love Your Children!


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

SAG - waiting for the butterfly

SAG, the Screen Actors Guild, is often a topic of discussion amongst child actors and their parents - - that is, even when they aren't considering a strike! Should my child be in a union? How do I get in to a union? Will I get more jobs and higher paying ones once I'm in a union?

My advice to you when considering your options in regards to unions like SAG and AFTRA is don’t panic, don’t rush, and let the process take course!

So many thinking joining SAG is the answer for an automatic path to success. Although it is very important for a working actor to be a part of the union, it is even more important that you become a member when the time is right.

Obviously you must become eligible first. And while there are a few different ways to become eligible, my fear is that some parents are so eager to get their children into SAG that they go to extremes to make it happen. The problem is, using these "Shortcuts," may get you in to SAG, but what will you do once you're there? The work may actually come less often at first.

The truth is, there are no real shortcuts to joining. I suggest that you devote the same time and energy to finding solid representation and ensuring that when you get an audition you are ready. Once you have booked a few projects (SAG signatory) you will be required to join and things will work their way out. In the process, your child will have become truly ready for SAG.

Think of it like this - if you have a cocoon and are eager to see the butterfly, there are many ways to speed up the opening of a cocoon. You could force it open right? But would the butterfly be ready?

Without a doubt, becoming a member of SAG was a good thing for Dylan and Ellery, but it came on its own. It was not our goal or focus. SAG is very credible and many projects will ask for SAG only casting calls and for this reason, by all means join when your child becomes eligible.

For some, this is easier said than done. The cost is not minuscule. We could have joined much earlier than we did but my thinking was that we were saving $3300.00 to join and also leaving ourselves open forboth SAG and Non-Union auditions which would increase our booking opportunities.

In retrospect, I feel that the SAG-only casting calls way outweighed the non-union opportunities for us and this is most likely because the kids were at the appropriate stage to be joining.

One last point - I believe that becoming SAG says that you have worked and that you have been on a set and you have real filming experience. With young children, this is an important factor and a great resume builder. Being in SAG is an honor and a benefit, but one that is so because it is earned.

Best of luck to all of you - keep me posted on your successes!!