Dreya Weber: Interview With The Aerialist Lead
Dreya Weber, lead actor and producer of feature film THE AERIALIST talks to us about the making of the movie, breaking boundaries in the entertainment industry, and some of her career highlights. THE AERIALIST is the latest film from Weber that follows the rehearsal schedule leading up to a rock tour and the protagonist battling age, injury, and a young director scheming to end her career. Due to Covid-19 restrictions the film was released in May 2020 on Amazon US and online worldwide.
Thank you for taking the time to speak to us at TheatreArtLife. How are you doing and how is the Covid-19 situation where you are?
I am well. I’m grateful that my friends and family are healthy. This pandemic continues to be very disturbing but perhaps exposing the lack of leadership in response will be positive. I am grateful to be alive in this historically seismic time and I hope we are witnessing profound shifts in our country.
Congratulations on the release of THE AERIALIST, I loved the film. The story explores universal themes of time and womanhood through the strong female lead, Jane Hawkins, and revisits her character from the 2005 film THE GYMNAST. We know the plot of THE GYMNAST was somewhat autobiographical, taking inspiration from your career change into the world of dance and choreographing aerials. How has your experience over the last 15 years shaped the creation of the sequel, and Jane’s narrative?
Thank you so much. The pop world is a high stakes industry and the people who inhabit it are hardworking, ferocious and often very colorful. That being said, the dramatic structure and key story elements were conceived by director/writer Ned Farr. I certainly contributed details from personal experience and stories that I had heard.
You shot the entire film in just 10 days! How was that for you and the team?
Shooting a feature film on that tight a schedule, with the constraints of a tiny budget is a wildly stressful endeavor. The director, Ned Farr, and cinematographer Alexandre Naufel, shouldered the worst of it. There was never time to shoot a scene as planned, no time to get the next shot or to get coverage. It was heartbreaking to witness. That being said, we were blessed with an extraordinarily determined cast and crew.
Many people volunteered to help us, a generosity I am still astounded by. And if you asked the cast, they had no idea that there were challenges. I am proud of that, the performers need to be in a safe environment to do their work. I wonder if folks are that interested in the difficulties that filmmakers encounter.
I hope that a person who rents or purchases a movie gets caught up in the story regardless of our challenges in making it. I am so grateful to the many loyal, talented, and creative people who stuck with us on this project based on the faith they had in its value.
The film’s Writer/Director Ned Farr said of aerialists and the circus tradition “In such a dangerous endeavour, you don’t exchange experience for youth”, and this sentiment is felt throughout the film. Do you think ageist attitudes are improving thanks to the work that you do? And is there hope for this sentiment to extend to women working across the Performing Arts and Entertainment sectors?
Ageism is particularly brutal for women in the performing arts. I’ve witnessed it in every discipline I encountered. I used to be afraid to speak my age in professional situations out of fear that it would be used against me.
But now for better or worse, I am proud to shout my age from the rooftops.
Like so much that is happening in the world right now, we have an opportunity to examine our biases whether they be age, race, religion or gender based. I am proud to tell a story that sheds a bit of light on the problem and I hope that our film affects underlying ageism in the industry.
THE AERIALIST focuses on “The Fam” and the importance of strong working family relationships. Do you have your own “chosen families” from touring and performing?
Yes! I have the most beautiful family from work and performance. I’ve always aspired to the community of people who make their paths in performing arts. That’s why my career has been so diverse.
I love working on projects. I love pushing toward a shared purpose. I love people who choose the arts as their life.
It can be expression through dance, storytelling, song, film, sculpture, or aerials. To me they are all part of the same tapestry. I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve been fortunate enough to make my way exploring this tapestry.
Your career has been a formidable one – you’ve worn many hats from gymnast to aerialist, choreographer and teacher to designer, actor to writer, producer to director and dancer to singer, and people also might know you from the P90X workout series! How do you manage your projects and time to balance your varied workload?
I love the variety of my work. Maybe it stems from being part of a large family, I am the fourth of six children. We were not well-off. But my mother always encouraged us to work hard and make opportunities. That often meant getting a ride from a neighbor to gymnastic practice or getting a job to pay for ballet classes.
She encouraged determination in the pursuit of one’s goals and gave us an astounding example in her discipline as a singer. Our home always rang out with vocal scales and rehearsal. When I determined that I wanted a profession in the arts I realized that I would need diverse skills.
Balancing a busy schedule is a privilege that I am so grateful for.
What have been your career highlights or “defining moments” that stand out?
I have been blessed by so many career highlights. I’ve worked internationally with incredible theater makers, with extraordinarily gifted and ferocious pop stars, with dedicated unswerving filmmakers. But making and completing THE AERIALIST is definitely a highlight, and I am so proud of our film.
Though the entertainment industry is mainly on hold right now, what can we look forward to next from you? Are you working on anything at the moment?
I’ve been working on a one woman show titled WITCH PIECE, it was meant to be a live theatrical endeavor, but who knows when people will be sitting shoulder to shoulder again. So perhaps it will turn into a film project!
I produced and directed a little “shelter in place – Zoom” show; “All Hail Caesar: An American Love Story”, that will be on YouTube from June. I was supposed to be performing Puck in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM at Opera Zuid in Holland right now. They hope to produce it two years from now.
And I am part of the creative team for Magic Mike Live and we have four shows internationally that will hopefully come back to life in the next year. I’m grateful to be here and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to answer your questions. Thank you.
THE AERIALIST is out on Amazon in the USA, and is available to watch online worldwide here.
Full details and more information on THE AERIALIST can be found on the film’s dedicated website.