“That was so fun!”. “I really liked what you did!’. “Don’t feel like you need to rush. Give yourself more time- let the words breath.” This was the feedback from a director during one extremely memorable day-long casting session. Words of encouragement that brought out the best from each actor who walked in the room.
On that day I had the honor of working with Boston Director/Writer/Editor John Stimpson to cast his short film, Soul Candy. When John called me at Slate, I jumped. I’ve admired him for so many years and realized that although we knew each other, we had never actually worked together. If you don’t know John you may know his wife- she’s the bubbly woman on the Wachusett Mountain commercials- that’s her family’s business!
The experience working with John left an indelible mark on how I view casting, actors and even life. John’s enthusiasm, love and passion for what he does is contagious- I felt it, the producer and screenwriter in the room felt it, and most importantly, the auditioning actors felt it. John was so present, so willing to take the time to work with each actor (even if I had to move him along occasionally to avoid dreaded lines in the lobby) that he instantly created an environment where you knew something special was going to happen. We were working together to cast a movie and it was fun, really fun.
As John worked with the actors, he didn’t rush them. He took the time to help them take the words on the page and turn those lines into true, genuine dialogue. One comment in particular has stayed with me, and I know it always will. Time and again he told the actors to slow down- don’t jump on the words. In real life, he said, no one knows exactly what they’re going to say next in a conversation. We all need to listen to the other person talking and respond accordingly. Our lines in real life are never scripted, we make them up as we go along. I know I’m not always that quick with a witty remark or meaningful comment. I sometimes have to gather my thoughts and take a moment- that’s real life. Sometimes I wish I had a script (and a crystal ball) but that will never happen. It was the pauses, the collecting of thoughts, the genuine reaction that John wanted to be sure he captured. And he did.
I told each actor as they walked into the studio that the audition was going to be like an acting class. This particular film called for actors in their late teens and twenties. Actors in Boston who were just starting in their career, who were pursuing their passion. I loved researching actors for these roles. I reached out to the community, to colleges and to theater programs- SAG, Stage Source, Boston University, Boston Conservatory, Emerson, Tufts, Boston Arts Academy, Boston Children’s Theatre, SpeakEasy Stage Company to name a few- and met some incredibly talented young actors (please stay in Boston!)
Each actor who came in to audition brought something special to the project. The actors’ energy combined with the commitment and passion of the screenwriter (this was her very first film!) and John’s producer was invigorating! I couldn’t just let this project go after it was cast. As a result, I can honestly say that I did something I have never done before- I contacted John to see if I could go to the shoot. I just had to see the actors and John together on set- to see if that special feeling from the audition would translate on the shoot day. I am so glad I went. It was such a special experience and I was so proud of the actors, so honored to be part of this project. Thank you John for giving us all a reason to do our best work and to….. pause.