The Open Call Party!

What do you do when 1700 people show up for your party?  You welcome them in!  Now that Slate Casting has 3 open calls under our belt, I have begun to think of these open casting calls as parties- really.  It never ceases to amaze me how much fun they can be, how passionate and enthusiastic everyone is, and how incredible the team of people working on it are. 

We just held an open call in Orange, MA and we had no idea what to expect.  All we could do is plan, plan, plan.  We reached out to an amazing group of people:  Molly, Marina, Mike, Eddie, Kim, Ro, and Erica, and armed with snacks, lots of water, pizza and Orange’s very own Orange Tonic, we were ready to open the doors to the largest party we have ever thrown.  Before the first guest even arrived, I looked around at our group and felt so incredibly grateful.  Grateful for their willingness to help, and for their genuine commitment to making the day as successful, stress free, and as fun as possible for the hundreds and hundreds of people who were waiting to be seen.  Oh, and did I say it was hot?  Like, really, really hot.  (We forgot about the heat hours later over the coldest, most awesome blueberry beer I’ve ever had!)

The people of Orange welcomed us with open arms.  People who had never even thought about doing something like this were coming out to try something new and exciting.  I give them so much credit for coming out of their comfort zone and joining us.  It could be a once in a lifetime opportunity and 1700 people were not going to let this pass them by.  Local businesses were so supportive (we heard the market across the street was so busy that they ran out of ice cream!) and the residents of Orange and the surrounding communities could not have been nicer.  As I dripped with sweat (kinda gross, but if you saw me there, you know what I mean- ha ha), I was amazed at how upbeat and happy everyone was even with temps well into the 90’s.  They laughed at Mike’s jokes outside, they laughed at Ashley and Aaron’s jokes inside, and they smiled all the way through.  Even the local police officers got into the fun- posing for a big group photo at the end of the day.

Casting, as you’ve read about in past blogs, can often be stressful and insane, but what open calls remind me of all the time, is that casting is about people.  We have one of the best jobs in the world because we get to meet so many new people who are excited to go on an adventure with us.   An open call is often someone’s first experience with the world of on-camera acting and we want to be sure that each person has a good experience.  As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good first impression, and we hope that everyone who attends their first open call with Slate, will have awesome memories of the experience.  If that happens, we have done our job.  I’m already getting excited for future open calls- nothing scheduled yet, but don’t worry, we’ll let you know when it is because we want to see you at the party!

-Julie

Kids Casting

My son, three and a half years old, is cautious.  Pretty much from birth we had no reason to worry that he would put something dangerous in his mouth, because nothing went in his mouth unless he knew exactly what it was.  This made getting him to eat a colossal pain in the buns, but at least I was never the least bit concerned about finding pennies, or worse, in his you-know-what. 

My not-quite-two-year-old daughter, on the other hand, is ridiculously and terrifyingly fearless.  Like Amelia Earhart or Alex Honnold (google him) fearless.  Forget her brother, there is nothing that an adult can do that she can’t do herself.  She recently scaled, to my horror, an almost two story high inflatable ladder at a funhouse (she should not have been on that ladder).  She routinely picks fights with wild turkeys that are easily twice her size (our neighborhood has turkeys.  It’s a whole thing – they’re terrible). 

The two of them, as a weird little tag team, have taught my wife and I more in the last couple of years than we ever imagined we didn’t know.  So, while I am by no means yet an expert on children, as my friends with older kids like to remind me, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two, as that awesome actor says sometimes in commercials.

Which brings us to the relevant part of this entry.  At Slate, we do a lot of kids casting.  It’s not for everyone, but it’s something that we pride ourselves on being very good at.

Working with kids requires a completely different toolbox than working with adults.  Sure, adults are all unique.  We have distinct experiences, varying levels of talent and education, diverse viewpoints, etc.  But adults who come in to audition for us, from the most accomplished trained actors to “real people” who have never been on a set before, all at least understand what they are doing, why they are there, and what you are saying when you give them direction.  And they are capable of sitting still for more than .0003 seconds. 

Kids…not so much.  With an adult, you can tell them what you want.  With kids, you have to show them.  Phrases like, “bring it down” or “bring it up” or “use a British accent” or “give me full valley girl” draw only blank stares from a six-year-old.  Instead, you have get on your knees and demonstrate.  If you want them to be sad you have to show them a sad face.  If you want them to be excited, you have to be excited.  You have to jump up and down like a fool, dance with them, sing with them, and play with them.  More than anything, you have to make the audition room FUN. 

If that is not exhausting enough, you also have to take into account what my children have taught me.  No two kids are alike.  At all.   Some kids just need a high five and few seconds of silly music.  Others need a little time to adjust.  If I was auditioning my son, I would let him watch other kids from the back of the room and wait for him to let me know he is ready.  For my daughter, I would just throw her in front of the camera and hope that in her frenzy she did something approximating the action.  They would both do great, but getting them there would require totally different approaches. 

You don’t have to be a parent to be good with kids.  Some people are just naturals.  But you have to be patient, you have to be observant, and you have to be willing to participate on their level.  My little lunatics have helped me immeasurably to understand that. 

Now, if I could only get some sleep…

-Aaron

Extras Casting

Okay, so I’ve gone back and forth about writing this blog post… but I’m going to go for it :)  I just wrapped extras casting for Daddy’s Home 2.  It was a demanding, 12 week project, but I’ve had a couple of weeks to detach myself from the chaos (although still flooded with paperwork), so this blog post will be a little better than the one I wrote when I literally had not slept more than 5 hours in 3 days!    This project was a long (in my eyes) 46 day shoot that brought me a lot of laughs, a few tears, the opportunity to make a lot of people happy, the challenge of disappointing a few and an immense lack of sleep.  But, all in all- I’m glad I did it!!

For those of you that know me, you know I have a history of handling extras casting for quite a few movies, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said “I’m never doing extras again”… but I always end up doing it.  Why?  Who knows?!  I haven’t had a child- but I equate it to that whole childbirth experience- you forget about the torture, lack of sleep, and stressful parts!  (Moms, I know I can’t compare it… but just roll with me for now).

Anywho- I figured I’d blog about extras casting as a whole, because I think it’s a really crazy process that those on the outside may not realize and understand.  Also, it's a little therapeutic to write it out ;) 

The whole process starts with a meeting with the ADs (Assistant Directors) and the producers where they outline the show and what they are looking at in terms of extras or "background".  Typically, Aaron Kahl and myself sit in those meetings and smile and nod and show as much enthusiasm as we can while we exchange small glances of panic, where I can internally hear him say “how the heck are we going to pull that off” (in stronger AK language) and “no… no… don’t say it… fittings!”.  But, we sit there and say “Yea, awesome!  No problem!  Can’t wait”.  Then we get in the car, Aaron says a few choice words that I won’t repeat here and I say “it’s okay- we got this.  It won’t be that bad”… and then we get a margarita ;)

After that, we go deep into prep mode.  We geek out over getting organized.   We have fun hosting a couple open calls and getting people excited about the project. We set up our workspace, we shop for all the office supplies we could ever need (we both have a deep down love for shopping at Staples… weird I know).  We hang up these beautiful calendars and outline how many extras and what types they need for each day and we feel PREPARED!!  Then, we get a new extras breakdown…

EVERYTHING CHANGES. 

EVERYTHING ALWAYS CHANGES.  And then extras casting really begins.

For the next 12 weeks, everything would change, every day.  This is on every show.  The numbers of extras is constantly changing, people’s schedules are constantly changing and they are no longer available for when you thought they would be working, start times are shifting and I become the multi-tasking queen.  I am on my phone and email from the moment I wake up to the moment I shut my eyes for the couple hours of sleep I manage (with a few text messages happening throughout that brief sleep time). 

Amidst the chaos, we get to work with some awesome and super talented crew members, both local and new to filming in Boston.  The 2nd AD on every project becomes an Extras Casting Director’s best friend.  It’s funny actually, someone you’ve never met before quickly becomes the center of your every day.  I sometimes feel like the crazy girlfriend to my 2nd AD, calling, emailing and texting them and checking back every 5 minutes in hopes of getting a response.  They hold all the answers to my questions but they are also super busy on set, so it’s one of those relationships ;)  I had a fantastic 2nd AD on this show- I don’t know how she did what she did in terms of organizing such a big show.  Kudos all around to her.  Aside from the 2nd AD, I got to work with some familiar faces on this show like Roger, my fav set medic, Steve- one of the best in terms of background PA’s , Nikki in accounting, Shari in the production office and many, many more. 

This show gave me an opportunity to really connect Slate with both new and familiar faces in terms of extras.  It was nice to set a precedent in how Slate works with people, both in small and large numbers.  I spent many early mornings on set greeting those hard-working, committed folks, and I am so appreciative of each and every one who made the effort to show up, on time, and put in a long day of work.  Of equal importance to the amazing crew and the fantastic extras- I have to give a huge shout out to my standins and photo doubles.  Aside from the 2nd AD, they are the people I communicate with the most, and when you get a solid crew like I did on this movie, they actually make the day a bit easier.  So Chris, Robert, Maegan, Beau, Anastasia, Kristen, Ellen, Casey, Mai, Brooke, Brody, Giovanna and Catherine- you guys rock.  I am so grateful for your commitment to the show and for being the best standin/photo double group a girl could ask for!  For all the late night text mssgs and early morning calls, please know that I appreciated each and every day you were there for me :)

Lastly, the extras casting team- it’s everything.  Not only are they the ones helping it all come together and get done, but they are the emotional, mental and pick-me-up support that is needed on a daily basis.  We drank a lot of coffee (we should have stock in Dunkin Donuts), ate probably one too many slices of pizza, consistently enjoyed Thai Take-out Tuesdays, sent a lot of text messages, laughed a ton and made Aaron Kahl smile more than he ever has ;)  So George, Marina, Floris and Kim- you are the dream team.

For the past 12 or so weeks I have completely devoted my life to extras casting.   I have sent hundreds of thousands of booking emails, my team has made thousands of phone calls, I have seen smiling faces on set at 5 in the morning, and I’ve worked with many amazing crew members!  It’s been tough but awesome all at the same time.  I have not seen any of my outside of work friends or family and I’ve been a terrible wife… but I survived it all and can go back to reality now.   I met some really awesome people through this show and I’m grateful for the experience.  Plus, it taught me new multi-tasking skills that I never thought possible!

Will it be my last time doing extras for a movie?  Who knows?!  If we’re placing bets… probably not.  See you on the next one :)

-Ashley