Finally! Here is the long-awaited second half of our exclusive interview with seasoned television and film producer Irene “The Dray” Dreayer. A brief reminder of her many credentials follows:
- Has produced 600 half hours of Primetime TV.
- Is currently producing the new original movie “Hunky Santa” for ABC Family.
- Formed her own personal management company in Los Angeles, representing writers and actors.
- Discovered twins Tia and Tamara Mowry and transformed them into the breakout stars of the series “Sister, Sister,” which she Executive Produced for the WB Network.
- Discovered Tia and Tamara’s younger brother Tahj, who went on to star in “Smart Guy,” a series for the WB Network.
- Served as Executive Producer on “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” on the Disney Channel for 3 seasons, and then “The Suite Life on Deck.”
- Discovered and Manages Milly and Becky Rosso, ( “The Suite Life,” “Legally Blondes”)
In addition these accomplishments, the Dray is now providing one-on-one mentoring to aspiring child actors via her new program, “The Dray Way,”a unique and revolutionary program unlike anything previously available to aspiring young talent. Hollywood Mom Blog readers are exclusively offered the lowest prices on The Dray Way sessions. Make a note of discount code HMDW-135Skype, and be certain to use it when you sign up, to receive another $20 discount off the all ready reasonable rates.
HMB: Should some children wait to pursue acting as adults? Or do you feel that a person is innately an actor or not an actor regardless of age/ development?
The Dray: You may have this natural-born ability, but like any other activity, you must develop the talent. Somebody can have a natural musical ear to play the piano, but it will take many years of practice to become a great pianist. As for acting, you begin with having the acting “bug” whether you are young or old. With commitment along with honing your skills (ie: acting, vocal and dance classes), your child, regardless of age, can take this dream and make it a reality. Acting may come easier to some kids but at the end of the day, one must ultimately put in the hard work and dedication to go from an actor to a great actor.
HMB: You’ve said that often you will evaluate talent and determine whether that child is “ready” to pursue a professional career. In your memory are there actors who unsuccessfully pursued professional careers as children but later “made it” in their late teens or early adulthood?
The Dray: In my experience, I cannot recall that happening…but I would have to research it.
HMB: Justin Timberlake, Alyssa Milano, Christina Ricci, Leonardo DiCaprio, Drew Barrymore, Ryan Reynolds, Scarlett Johanson, Neil Patrick Harris and Jody Foster were all successful as child performers and as adults. In your professional opinion what qualities/traits must a child performer have in order to transition effectively from “child actor” to “working actor” in their adult years?
The Dray: Many of these actors who survived the transition from a child actor to an adult actor never stopped “learning and practicing” the art of performing. Even the biggest stars are always working on their craft to become better actors. Just because you don’t have a job or are not working on a TV show, commercial, play or motion picture, does not mean you should cease continuous development, whether it be acting, singing or dancing. In addition, actors who trust their instincts and get solid advise about what roles to take have the longevity. Actors must be very selective about the jobs that come their way. The actors you mentioned would turn down a role in order to wait for the “great” role by having the courage to use the magical word “no.” I personally feel that it is so much better to do a small role in a great movie or TV show than to agree to a leading role in a mediocre film.
HMB: Will you tell us what your feelings are on the “open call castings” that have become so popular for feature films recently? Do you think casting from the general public via video submission is a genuine attempt to discover new talent, a marketing gimmick or perhaps a little of both?
The Dray: When looking for fresh talent I say…You never know. That golden child who lives down the street from you, who has no access to an agent or talent manager, could be the next academy award-winning actor. Many times casting agents/producers have exhausted their acting pool and venture out to the general public in hopes of finding what they are looking for. For example, the young girl Emma Watson who starred in all the Harry Potter movies, was plucked right out of her classroom in London…she had the right look! This was the result of an “open casting call” at her school in London. The tremendous success of American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and YouTube kid phenomenons are basically open casting calls! This only validates the process. Like I said, you never know!
HMB: In your own words, please tell the HMB readership what “The Dray Way” is and what it entails?
The Dray: THE DRAY WAY is divided into two parts. The Dray and The Way. “THE DRAY” is the moment I meet parents and their kids, getting to know them, their history and most importantly assessing where the family as a whole stands in regard to going on this journey. Is it the child’s dream or the parents? Are they aware of what’s in store and where to begin? Also, helping parents make some key decisions in regard to their child’s career, no matter what stage they are in, beginning, intermediate or just about to get the dream job.
Once all of these questions have been answered we get to THE WAY. Now this is where the critical work begins because I am able to coach the child as well as “train the parents”. Wishing and hoping for their child to be come a star is fine but parents must see what lies ahead for them – the overall picture. During THE WAY, I’m able to move into in depth coaching with a child in every aspect of preparation ranging from how to effectively audition to understanding the mental preparation it takes to get the job.
HMB: How will these one-on-one skype sessions benefit aspiring young actors?
The Dray: The bottom line is…I tell the truth to the child and the parents. Many times kids and their parents think they’re ready to compete for roles. I cannot tell you how many times I have said “not yet.”
It is astonishing how biased some parents can be thinking their child is ready to seriously audition. I’m able to explain to parents with total honesty and support how “not ready” their child really is and then I guide them to the right training and strategy that needs to be done.
HMB: When you evaluate child actors via your program, are you able to glean what type of actor that child “should” be as in commercial vs. theatrical, comedy vs. drama, television vs. film. Etc. and if so, will you share that information with the child in their session with you?
The Dray: Yes, this is exactly what I do. I guide kids to pursue a direction I think they will have the most success. After 30 years of producing tween and teen TV shows and discovering top talent, I feel confident in accessing what direction a child should be heading. It’s an instinct and talent I have had for many years.
My one-on-one Skype sessions are as different as the kids themselves.A month ago, I had a Skype session with an eleven-year old boy and his mom. He read a scene for me, sang a song and danced during our session. He was quite good but I felt something was missing. He had an agent, was going out on auditions, but hadn’t been able to land a job. Both he and his mom were very frustrated. He was mostly auditioning for comedic type TV roles. But I sensed something behind that happy face, beautiful smile and ambition that was very serious. After more dialogue and getting to know him, I asked him if he ever went on auditions for dramatic parts. I saw a dramatic actor. I sensed there was something more to this picture… an intensity behind those brown eyes. His mother disclosed that this happy go lucky kid’s father is a paraplegic and that he helps his father a lot. And there it was, the deep layer behind the forever-reaching smile, and the jokes…the serious layer he could tap into. At that moment, the young boy and his Mom saw what was right in front of them all along. A young dramatic actor. At the moment of realization, the young boy lit up with a huge smile! It was almost as if I gave him permission to go there. It was an amazing session and an incredible breakthrough for this talented kid!
HMB: What will be covered during the sessions?
The Dray: Parents (and kids) can expect to get answers to basic questions about the business, and guidance on what to do with their talented child. It can be first steps, or helping a young career that is at a standstill.
I access a child’s ability, talent, skill-set & desire before getting down to the real work of developing their craft. I talk with the child & evaluate where they are today to help the parents identify the next steps in their development, training & career path. I also coach kids for specific auditions. I read “sides” and rehearse with the child so they feel confident and totally prepared when they walk into that audition.
Multiple Skype sessions allow me more time to work with a child to help build self-esteem working specifically on image, presentation & developing better acting skills. I work with parents to manage their own expectations, giving them the tools they need to support their child. I coach kids and their parents on how to handle the high-pressure meetings, casting calls & auditions with confidence. In addition, I help parents navigate the “business of the business,” agents, managers as well as work permits and Unions.
HMB: What should a child have prepared prior to their one-on-one session with you?
The Dray: It’s helpful to have a scene or monologue prepared which does not have to be memorized. If they sing, then select a song of their choice. Parents and kids should familiarize themselves with the blogs I have written and the FAQ’s from the Dray Way site so they can be prepared to ask questions from their end.
HMB: What tangible information will students depart with upon concluding their work with you?
The Dray: Parents and their kids will always get the truth from me. They will know where and how to begin this journey. What to do and what not to do. I tell them honestly if they are ready or not…and how to take the next step no matter what stage in the process the child may be.
HMB: Do you recommend “Dray Way” refresher courses and if so, after what period of time should this be done?
The Dray: Yes I do and it’s based on what level the child is at when I first meet them on Skype. If they need more work, if additional questions have come up, if they want me to see how much they’ve grown or are preparing for a big audition then they should Skype with me sooner than later.
HMB: Is there any written information, ie books, workbooks, worksheets, etc. available to your “Dray Way” students?
The Dray: We just launched a series of 6 video Webinars on The Dray Way site (http://thedrayway.com) And, an ebook is in the works…coming soon!
HMB: After meeting with and evaluating a child that you feel perhaps has little or no talent and/or needs to seriously work on their craft, will you share that with them or their parents as well?
The Dray: Absolutely! I will always tell the child and the parents the truth without destroying the dream. I believe that pursuing the performing arts when you are young fosters self-esteem and confidence throughout one’s life. Giving a book report, talking in front of the class or in a boardroom or a meeting. So few children become stars, but acting and performing are invaluable skills one has for a lifetime.
HMB: What is the best piece of advice you can give aspiring young actors?
The Dray: Work hard, train, and be prepared. Don’t rush the process. When it comes to meeting casting directors, agents and show producers, its easy to easy to get in the door but much harder to get back in the door if you’re not ready. Again, be prepared! First impressions are everything.