The life of a movie extra is filled with life-changing moments of revelation while arranging Cheetos and M&Ms at the craft service table waiting for the cameraman's eighth lens change in the last hour. Or, you may shine everlasting on the silver screen wielding an eggbeater as I did in my student film debut.Thanks to a recent casting call for an independent movie filming in the Sisters area, a few Central Oregon aspiring actors will have a shot at silver screen immortality and all that goes with it, including Cheetos. The film, titled The Wait, is a quirky indie-drama revolving around two sisters who return to a small town following their mother's death. Shooting begins this week and continues through mid-July.
Among the movie industry hands who have converged on Sisters is Crystal Walen of Simon Max Hill Casting who recently corralled a steady throng of nearly 400 would-be actor s from all over Central Oregon who stopped by Sisters High School last month with the hope of being in a movie. They arrived on bikes, in buses or with dogs and sleeping infants in tow to stand in line and have their picture taken, hoping their look would capture the fancy of some benevolent casting agent or producer.
Mike Garcia and Aubrey Kelleher of Sisters diligently completed their stat sheets then stood against a wall to have their pictures taken.
"We're both interested in acting as something for the future and this is a good way to get our foot in the door. We thought there'd be more people here and got up early, but that's OK," said Kelleher.
Although an independent (but not necessarily low-budget) production, The Wait is hardly a fly-by-night project. It's directed by M. Blash, the recipient of the Director's Fortnight Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his first film, Lying. That micro-budget film, starring Chloe Sevigny and Jena Malone, explored the nature of white lies amid a group of upstate New York girlfriends. Sevigny and Malone will team up again as the two leads in The Wait.
While his film work is appreciated within the industry, most know Blash (probably without realizing it) from his memorable "O Pioneers!" Levi's television commercial that's been airing for more than six months. In it, a series of striking images of Oregon youth unfolds as actor Will Geer recites Walt Whitman's famous poem.
"It's been steady all morning" said casting director Walen, between freezing gusts of wind from outside at the initial audition. "We're really happy with the response. Casting calls bring out all sorts of strange and beautiful people. Most entertaining were the two guys who showed up totally wasted and nearly fell in the door."
A second casting call for remaining principals - actors who will have more significant roles in the film - took place Wednesday morning, June 9 at Sisters Art Works. Sixteen people were called back for six roles yet to be cast, including a few parts with lines. Persons selected will quality for the modified Screen Actors Guild day-rate of $270. Fran Dillewaard of Sisters got lucky and was offered a reading part for the role of "Mexican Worker." The character called for a weathered Hispanic man between 30 and 60 and required the utterance of just one line: "It ran to the fire!" (He's talking about a runaway horse.)
"I just read it a couple times while they filmed me. They said to act alarmed. That was it. Simple stuff," Dillewaard joked. "I'm not really Mexican, but close enough."
Line producer, Brett Cranford, an industry veteran who has worked on such successful TV series as Without A Trace and Gilmore Girls is based out at Black Butte Ranch for the duration of the shoot.
"This is a beautiful area and we hope to get the whole community involved and make it a great experience," he said.
Walen explained the necessity for extras and day players in order to provide a naturalistic composition. "We're looking to fill out many scenes in the screenplay that call for a playground crowd and another set at a public swimming pool," said Walen. "There's also some scenes of the characters shopping downtown."
"Casting is sometimes a tricky business," she said, handing out more pens and stat sheets. "Sometimes you hit it spot on, and sometimes it takes a while. I love it, though, and can't think of doing anything else."