The writers' strike was a drag for Brady Reiter. This is pilot season, and she should've been in Los Angeles auditioning for producers and directors. Now is the time of year when aspiring actors need to be seen, and the three-month strike, which ended in late February, put those plans to head for the West Coast on hold.
But this story, of a girl named Brady, has only just begun.
Reiter is a precocious 7-year-old who knew at 4, after some early modeling jobs, that acting was the life for her.
Her parents, Judy and Eric Reiter of Pebble Creek, knew very early that something was different about Brady — she's named after the TV show The Brady Bunch because she was part of a blended family with six kids.
"From the moment she was born, there was something about her," Judy Reiter said. "When she was with the other kids, she was like everybody's toy. She loved to perform in front of everybody."
Living in Naples, Fla., at the time, the Reiters met with a modeling consultant when Brady was 3 and began the arduous task of finding the right manager and agent. Realizing there's not much work for toddlers in the entertainment field, they kept up her photos before Brady landed her first modeling job in 2006 for Bonita Bay Properties in Bonita Springs.
Two months later, Brady landed her first acting job in an advertising campaign for Disney's "Year of a Million Dreams." She won the principal role among hundreds who auditioned, her role depicting Disney through the eyes of a little girl.
Those commercials have been seen on national TV, Disney Web sites and at Disney hotels.
Her photos have been in numerous Disney pamphlets and brochures. She has also been on the Travel Network to promote Disney World.
She was in a commercial for the Toronto Blue Jays during spring training last year that ran in Canada, and this January went to Fort Myers for a commercial involving the world champion Boston Red Sox.
Brady earned a part as an extra in a movie filmed in Tampa last year called It Could Be You, a true story about the first girl whose face was shown on a milk carton and who lived in Tampa. The movie should be released soon.
But while their child prodigy has time on her side, the Reiters are realizing much of the process is hurry up and wait.
Brady auditioned in October for the lead role in the film version of Eloise in Paris, adapted from the popular children's book series. She made the top 10 in the state from among thousands of kids who auditioned.
More recently, she was up for a feature role in an Adam Sandler film, auditioning at Sandler's request.
Now the Reiters wait for a phone call while taking Brady to other auditions. And it's all based on a maybe.
"You change your schedule, drive to Orlando and not get a call back," Judy Reiter said. "We chalk it up the same way as kids who have to go to Little League practice or swimming lessons. That's all part of it."
It's all good with Brady, who loves everything associated with the craft, from memorizing lines to wowing directors at auditions.
"I like how every time it's a different character," Brady said.
When she watches all the Disney shows, she envisions herself playing those characters.
"All the time," Brady said. "That's why I started taking dance and singing because the Disney Channel kids can do all those things. I love Hannah Montana."
With the auditions coming on a moment's notice, often Brady might have a day to learn her lines and add what her mother calls Bradyisms, her own touches, to the character.
"It's not like memorizing facts for school," Judy Reiter said. "She has to memorize the lines and act them out. Once she learns the script she adds her interpretation of it."
And the gigs keep coming, with a recent part in Beethoven, The Reel Story, which is in production.
A second-grader in the gifted program at Turner Elementary, Brady finds her schoolmates don't quite get her career.
"At times Brady is like a fish out of water at school," Judy Reiter said. "So one of the joys for Eric and I is when we go to Orlando for these auditions, there are kids like her with agents, kids that have to memorize their lines. It's a wonderful feeling to see that she is connected to a group where she belongs.
"As parents, to watch what happens to her when she goes in for an audition, it's like a light switch, like watching a different child. We get the best joy out of that; seeing how much she enjoys it despite the running around. It's worth everything when you see what she becomes."
While all of this could be heady stuff for a child so young, the Reiters and their agent have worked to keep Brady grounded.
"We've been blessed with a manager and agent that believe the child comes first," Judy Reiter said. "Brady had an audition on Halloween, but she wanted to be around for that and she likes that holiday, so we stayed home. We've tried not to take her childhood away. And we associate with the parents who feel the same way."
Agent Sheri Kebbel, of Mosaic Talent Development in Winter Park, gives Brady acting lessons and prepares her for TV or film auditions. Kebbel said Brady certainly has the "it" factor to propel her career forward.
"At 6 or 7 there's a kind of natural ability that shows up as an artist. Some kids it could be dance or theater; for Brady it happens to be acting," Kebbel said. "She's a great storyteller; she loves the business side of it, memorizing the material. You can see the charge that comes from walking into the [audition] room and bringing her interpretation of the character."
Kebbel said Brady is a quick study, with acting ability that comes from the heart — a sign Brady has what it takes for a lengthy career.
"Even if the character is a liar you have to make it believable — like with Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar," Kebbel said. You really believe him even if he's lying. Brady has that.
When you see Brady coming down the hall, you can't help but smile. She's always ready, always prepared, with those pigtails. She has that spark of energy everyone enjoys being around."
The writers' strike, while unfortunate, did not hurt Brady all that much, Kebbel said, because "there really are no overnight successes in this business.''
As young as she is, Brady understands how unpredictable it can be. "You can't be really mad that you don't get the part because they may want a little girl with red hair, or a little girl with glasses," she said, proudly displaying her portfolio. "They look for certain things and you might not be the right fit."
But Kebbel said Brady has what it takes for a full-time acting career. "A lot of what happens with Brady is up to her."