Do you want to be an actor? Do you not know where to start? Look no furthur than Irene Dreayer. Irene is the executive producer of shows like "The Suite Life" and has worked with talent like Cole & Dylan Sprouse, Tia & Tamera Mowry, Milly & Becky Rosso, and Debby Ryan. She has launched The Dray Way, where she is looking to help mentor fresh young talent.
So kind of advice does Irene offer? Debby Ryan tells us exclusively, "During my Disney screen test for Suite Life, Irene pulled me aside and told me to trust my instincts. This was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment, and I think being comfortable and genuine in the final audition is what helped me book the job."
1. What is the Dray Way?
My name is Irene Dreayer but everyone calls me The Dray. The Dray Way is my method of supporting and coaching talented kids (and their parents) who are interested in pursuing the entertainment business. At first, I evaluate and access the emotional and psychological preparedness you and your parents have for this crazy business. My first question to kids is always, "Is this your idea or is this something that your parents want you to do?" Meaning, is it your dream or your parents? If your parents are pushing you to be in the business then it is not the business for you. You would be surprised at how many times kids roll their eyes while Mom or Dad respond before the kid even takes a breath, "oh it is theirs."
Next I ask…Do you and your parents understand what it means to be in show business? Can you both handle the responsibilities to go down this path of potential success? Usually they answer, "Of course we do." Trust me, you don't! There is so much you have to take into consideration. Do you have the right training and tools to face a room full of people in an audition? Are you able to do your scene completely focused? Trust me, auditioning in front of TV show producers such as myself is radically different than doing it in your living room. Twenty people laughing in your family room is not the same as 20 million people laughing in their living rooms with a remote in their hands. As a producer, I look for the kid that can command the attention of 20 million viewers. Tough.
Then I map out "The Way"...Once you are completely sure this is the road you want to take, getting all the right information from the Dray can give you a much better chance of success. I guide kids to the correct training and to what I want to see from talent. This is key. I teach kids how to take direction, give them a full understanding of the audition process, show them how to give the best audition, how to stay focused, what questions to ask before the audition, the and learning what listening in character means? I tell kids what to do and not do. We talk about how to deal with rejection and self-esteem. I review with all my Dray Way Kids on how to handle the pressures, unconventional lifestyle that is of a child performer's life. We talk about what your parent's role is in navigating your career? The financial side of the business… What are the real chances of getting a job? And that is just the beginning of what you must consider.
Preparation in this business is vital and yet, so many kids are not prepared enough or ready to pursue showbiz...let alone "make it".
2. What are the key elements I look for in a young talent?
Let's talk about when I meet a kid for the first time in an audition or casting session. Here are The Dray Way Rules:
1. Will I remember you? Make me remember you. You must have talent, yes but you must be different, able to connect to an audience, confident in your abilities, show no fear and love performing more than anything else in your world.
2. Do you take your career seriously? Show me that you are working on your craft with classes, show me you are disciplined, improving, willing to work hard and have incredible work ethic. Also, I must see you enjoying what you are doing!
3. Do you really understand what you are saying in a scene? Memorizing does not mean you understand what you are saying in the scene. You must know how to act and you must be able to act a scene in many ways when asked by a show producer, director or casting director. So understanding your character is key in addition to the ability to memorize.
4. If it is a funny scene can you find the joke? You must be able to show your comedy side, find the joke in the scene and make it your own.
5. Are you focused in an audition? Darting your eyes around the room means to show producers that you are not focused and not able to focus. Being nervous and ill prepared will not get you a call back.
6. When you act will I believe you? Talk like you do to your best friend.
7. Do you want to be a star and pay your dues? Are you willing to do what it takes? Even Justin Bieber practiced and studied music and learned how to play drums since he was 2…
8. You must want it no matter what it takes because it is the most difficult business to work in. It can also be the most award-winning business so you must be your top priority.
9. You must train all the time. Singing lessons, acting lesions, dance lesions, local theatre, school plays, you must be in training during your entire career. And you must be out there performing as much as possible to develop your talent and stage presence.
If you follow these steps…hopefully my Dray Meter will rise to the top when I meet you.
3. What are some things aspiring actors/actresses should not do?
OMG, Where do I begin? Remember, CUTE OR SEXY DOES NOT MEAN TALENTED. Get those ribbons out of your hair, take off those fake eyelashes and high heels. You must look your age. Your head shot must be shot in the last 6 months and age appropriate. I can't tell you how many times I have walked up to a kid to wipe off their make-up OR ask them to take their hair down and act their age. NEVER walk into an audition and ask me, the Producer or the Casting Directors, "How do you want me to do this?" Make a choice. It may not be the right choice but commit to your interpretation of the role. If you are prepared and have the right tools to make an adjustment you will be ok when asked to do a scene differently. At that point you have to make another choice, be prepared. You must be able to take direction on a dime. This is very important. If you are sitting outside the casting office and you see lots of actors that look different than you do reading for the same role…do not compare. Many times, we as producers do not have a clue what we are looking for in this role; therefore, we ask for many types of kids to come to a casting session. We will know what we want when we see it…so just stop looking at everyone, be focused, calm your mother down…we just don't know…
4. Dylan and Cole Sprouse, the Rosso Twins, Debby Ryan, what was it about them that caught your eye? What made them successful?
Well, they followed The Dray Way Rules. I have made a career of finding twins and doing shows where both twins are stars, as opposed to playing only one role, like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. In their early career as tykes, they played one roll. But kids love twins, they are fascinated with them. Tia and Tamera of "Sister Sister" were my first set of twins, then the Sprouses and then the Rossos. All my sets of twins have been easy to market, leads in the show are cast and because they are all identical twins, there are lots of fun ideas that can be developed into TV shows and movies. On the other hand, someone like Debby Ryan, also fit The Dray Way bill. A new character on an already successful running show had to be a completely different type than any of the other female roles on The Suite Life Series. She was a pro and worked well with the cast. She also had a great support system with her family and is very grounded. It is always hard to come into a show that has been on the air for a while, but she had what it took and yes she followed my rules for success. I believe that all of these kids had a tremendous support system, parents that paid attention, kept their kids as normal as can be and these kids were pros. It's a winning formula. Note to parents. KIDS have a better chance to be successful if they have normalcy in their lives such as doing chores around the house. Taking out the garbage, making your bed, walking the dog. Yes, even Debby Ryan takes out the trash in her house! Do not consider kids on a show as the ';breadwinners' for your family. That spells doom; your child will survive that pressure or have continued success.
5. What is your favorite part about working with young talent?
I love the entire process. I love the beginning development of a kid and I love it when they reach success to take them to yet another level in their career. I love watching kids evolve and handle all that is required to manage their careers and help them make it big. I love disciplining the parents! Yes that is true. I help the kids be great actors, role models for other kids but boy I do have to work with the parents as well. This process of working with young talent has to involve the entire family. Everyone participates because being a kid star can take over a family dynamic unless parents are trained on how to handle it. I love working with kids, helping them develop, helping them achieve not just as actors but as human beings. It brings me joy.
6. Are there any young stars you think will be the next thing?
Absolutely yes! If I could buy stock in these kids now I would. The Dray Meter is off the chart with these kids so remember their names. Caroline Kudelko, 13 years old, country rock singer-songwriter, plays guitar and piano. Plus, she writes songs like she has been doing this for many many years. I just got her signed with the WME Agency, where they only sign recording artists with a record deal yet WME signed Caroline with no label deal. Carline has a huge career ahead of her. Listen up folks! Those CMA or the AMAs will be going to Caroline Kudelko very soon!
Noah Gray, is an 18 year old news journalist, documentary director and on-air news reporter. He just launched his new site, http://www.noahgray.com as the voice of the next generation. Sought after by CNN at the age of fifteen, I am very excited to have launched his new website, where he will be reporting daily on video and from his dorm room at American University in Washington, DC about issues pertaining to his generation. He has star presence, is a fantastic writer, and has the commitment and work ethic to succeed. He's wanted to do this since he was 5 years old and he is now on his way. Yes, he is now on the WAY in The Dray Way process.
7. What advice do you have for parents of kids who want to act?
First of all, I believe that acting lessons and performance training is invaluable for kids whether they want a show biz career or not. Acting builds self-esteem and confidence and gives kids communication skills they will have for their entire life. If a kid really wants to make a career of acting...then parents should think long and hard about what this really entails for both you and your child. When do we move to Hollywood? What will this do to our family? What do we do about school? How does the business of the business work?
Getting the best advise is what its all about! Real honest advise about the business from someone like myself is key. I have been working with parents and their showbiz kids for 30 years...and I have seen it all!
The parent's role is to protect the child and create the most normal life as possible while going through the rigors of auditions and getting parts. Staying grounded and supportive during the audition process is so important. You must not only deal with your child's rejections but your own frustration and disappointment as well. The parent has to be a better actor than their kid when it comes to this! If your child books a show and becomes a working actor, kept things normal at home. Schoolwork and chores must be done. The parent has to be the solid force that stands behind the young actor all the way. I have seen so many out of control parents who actually hinder their child's career with their bad behavior.
The entertainment business can be a wonderful experience and it can also be a nightmare. It all depends on your parenting skills and doing what is right for the child first!
8. Why should parents and kids check out The Dray Way?
I started The Dray Way because after 30 years producing shows, discovering young talent and making them stars, I am committed to sharing the truth, the good the bad and the ugly, with families who are considering this path. I have been talking to kids and their families all over the country via Skype on The Dray Way.com so you don't have to come to Hollywood to sit with me in person...I come to you!
I help kids and their families navigate so many factors once the journey begins…the audition process, rejection, self esteem, self-image, the business of the business, success and how to keep it real!