Despite the rather philosophical and metaphorical nature of the title of this blog, all I'm doing today is talking about my weekend, specifically this past Saturday morning. This past Saturday morning happened to be one of the best examples of how life is just full of opportunities waiting to be taken, most of which are fed to you on a silver platter but you may not even realize it. However, in my case, it all started with a newspaper ad.
Let's backtrack to earlier last week. It was about mid-Wednesday when I walked back into my dad's house after staying with some friends for a couple of days. I usually swap between my dad's place and friends' houses every couple of days; when I'm home, I'm working on writing and playing video games or watching tons of NCIS; when I'm with my friends, I'm not doing much else except play video games, hang out, go to parties and eat Taco Bell. Needless to say, I like being home for a few days in between being with friends, just as a breather.
When I returned home, I walked by my dad's computer table and my eyes instantly darted toward a piece of laminated paper. On top of the paper, but also laminated, was a small newspaper clipping and on the paper, a written note. It was from my dad's girlfriend, saying that he should address the newspaper clipping. Written in the newspaper clipping was an add seeking people for an upcoming movie called, “Noah.”
Now, I've never done much of any acting, but it's always been a personal dream to get into it, as it may be for many others. However, it's never really been a passion strong enough for me to take classes or get into theater. For me, it's always been something that I thought would just “happen” for me – maybe I would impress someone one day and end up with lines in a movie. Hey, it could happen right?
Of course, another way to go about it is to go to casting calls, where casting agencies look for people to put into movies, televisions shows, plays, commercials, even web series. If you're not already in the business, it can be rather difficult to just break into a Hollywood career, and it's still rather difficult if you already are.
Still, I saw this as an opportunity. If anything, it'd be a fun Saturday morning with my dad, who looked rather excited to be in attendance. The ad was looking for “slim, slender men and women, with runner's bodies.” While I'm not in the best of shape, I'm definitely slim and slender – my dad, on the other hand, is a big, bald, muscular dude who would probably be better fit for playing the role as a football player or a wrestler. Nevertheless, he really wanted to go and, since I had nothing to do that morning, I tagged along.
The casting call was about a half hour away from my dad's in a town called Brookville, which is the same town that I had lived in for one year just after I moved from my hometown and just one year before I moved to Connecticut at the end of 9th grade (technically, I lived in Upper Brookville, but whatever). The entire ride there, my dad and I talked about what exactly the casting call would be like, what we may be doing, and, obviously, how cool it would be if the both of us got into the movie.
Mid-ride, I looked up the movie and found that, contrary to what I was thinking, this movie “Noah” is going to be a big-budget film, not some indie short or something to that effect. Once I found out that Russell Crowe and Emma Stone were going to be in the movie, I knew shit was going to get real. This was now more exciting than ever – if we got into the movie, I could meet these people! Maybe!
Anyway, we finally arrive at the location of the casting call, which happens to be at a local church. We find our way into a decently-sized room with about one hundred chairs. Some people were already there, but overall the room was rather empty. No one there seemed important, either.
This is pretty much what it looked like.
It wasn't until almost an hour later, when the casting call was about to begin, that not only a parade of wannabe-actors and actresses walk in, even some that seemed qualified by holding resumes and portfolios or headshots and whatnot, but also some rich-as-hell and important-as-hell-looking people strolled in. These people were the ones that seemed to be running the entire thing.
Not long after, the two of us and everyone else in the room were given a form to fill out. Apparently, this form was just for basic information that they would use to cast for future projects – once you're in their database, any time they do a casting call, you'll be automatically put into the running and possibly considered without even moving a muscle. However, this form was far from basic...I mean, how in the hell am I supposed to know my neck size and jacket length off the top of my head? And why was my dad's Ford F150 considered a “prop” when I'm at a casting call for a movie set in biblical times? Does Russell Crowe not finish the ark in time and needs a getaway vehicle to escape the flood? I guess I'd have to be in the business to know that information.
When I was filling out the form, another man walked up to me and gave me a card, telling me to write my name on it and keep it on me. It was entirely vague and almost a bit creepy, but I nevertheless felt very excited because I was specifically picked for something!
Soon after, one of the important-looking dudes grabbed a microphone, apparently from a dimensional portal inside the right pocket of his jeans, and began to speak to us. We were told that the call is based primarily on filling out that form and then getting a picture taken of us. Once both of those things were done, we could leave, since the building was getting packed with people and a huge line was forming behind us, so they wanted to keep things moving. Though, if you were given one of those cards to put your name on, you must go outside once your done and wait. He also explained that the casting call was for another movie called, “Wolves of Wall Street” or something like that, but after that I heard nothing more on the film.
Guess I wasn't leaving anytime soon.
I felt bad for my dad, considering it was his idea to go, but he didn't get one of those cards. Then again, I didn't know what exactly the cards were meant for, so they could have been for something bad (there's always that possibility), but no one knew at that point. I still hadn't got called up for my picture to be taken yet, so it wasn't of much concern.
When my row of chairs finally did get called, we all stood and formed a line for our pictures to be taken. After a few minutes, I got up to a table and handed a short man my form. On both of his arms, he had some pretty cool Super Mario Bros tattoos that wrapped around his biceps and fore-arms. I pointed them out and told him that they were cool, in which he only replied, “Thanks.” I shrugged it off and walked by him to get my picture taken.
This was one of his tattoos. He also had Peach dressed as that chick from Waterboy and Mario as Jesus from The Passion.
As I stood at the tape on the ground, waiting for the camera guys to find the right backdrop for my awesome picture (apparently, after using the same part of the wall for other people, now it was decided that they needed a new place to take these pictures), the tattooed guy turned in his chair and stretched out his arm, in his hand a small card. I took it, finding that it was one of those name cards from earlier but with information on the back: the name of a film and an email address. He told me to send pictures of myself to that email address.
Fuck yeah, I'm good. I get picked for movies without even trying.
So, now I was in the running for three different films, one of which being the one mentioned on the back of that card. I guess they weren't casting for that film that morning, so to be picked for some role or position for that movie got me really hyped. I'm still pressuring my dad so I can get headshots of myself as quick as possible (after I finished this sentence, I got up and reminded my dad again, just to be more of a bother).
With pictures taken for both my dad and I, we stepped outside and I seemed to be one of the first ones out there to be waiting thanks to that card. I didn't really converse with anyone – there was a small group of people talking to each other that all seemed hand-picked for this specific movie and were there because the casting guys asked them to be. Other people stepped outside in small bunches and they all seemed disconnected, so I didn't make any moves at anyone. I just stood near my father unit and talked with him for a while.
Finally, one of the casting people walked outside. I had no idea if he was the director of the movie, but he might as well have been – he spoke like how I thought a director would speak and dressed like how I thought one would dress, he was definitely playing the role well if he wasn't director already. I'll call him the director.
The director was now addressing us, letting us know that we were chosen because we fit the bill rather well and now we were going to do some small acting routines that will be featured in what seemed like an action scene in the movie. Next to him was a bulky, curly haired man that looked of Hawaiian descent. The director told us that we'd be split into two groups, one with him and one with Hawaii man, and would do some basic acting then switch stations (so, we'd be with Hawaii man first, then the director or vice versa).
Pretty much exactly what he looked like but much more muscular.
I was split into the Hawaii man's group first. We walked farther away from the building with the guy, who was very much less director-ish than his buddy. On our way to our “station,” he explained that we were all basically cast for the movie and now they were looking for people to do some minor action stuff that isn't exactly stunt-worthy, as in we'd be getting paid a bit more than regular extras because we were going to be doing some physical work, though we were considered stunt-doubles or anything.
This was awesome news. I wasn't sure how accurate his statement was – that we were literally cast in the movie or that our chances of being cast were much better, to the point that we might as well be – but either way I was excited as all hell. To be simply cast like that, as if it were the means of snapping one's fingers, was such an intense experience.
Over at the Hawaii man's station, our first acting had to do with pretending we were holding a shield and spear and had to poke upward, as if we were fighting something much larger than us. I could explain to you why, as we were told, but I don't want to be “that guy” nor do I like spoilers, even if the movie doesn't come out until 2014. Let's just say that if you've read the Bible or at least just the story of Noah, this movie doesn't exactly follow that story exactly.
Anyway, I was one of the first to go and with a loud, “ACTION!,” from Tito of Rocket Power fame, I marched forward, doing my best impression of a guy with a spear and a shield fighting something much larger than himself. I felt like I did a pretty good job, but once I was done, I knew I definitely did a good job – Hawaii man pointed to me and said, “Good job, kid, good job,” while giving me a nice thumbs-up. Achievement Unlocked – Hawaiian Man Likes Your Style.
I am, of course, not an actor by trade, so for a random guy like me to actually do well in some acting felt good. At the same time, I was absolutely baffled by the performances of the others – over half of my group was made up by guys and girls that had come to the casting call with portfolios, resumes, pictures, etc, many of which claiming to be actors and actresses. But, holy shit, did some of them suck! One guy thought he was a boxer, using his “spear” like a dagger and his shield like a baseball bat (???) to deliver too many strikes in an unrealistic amount of time. Another guy wasn't even trying. His performance was so pathetic that I was actually surprised at how bad some people could be at acting. If he actually went to war as a guy with a spear and a shield, he'd be the last to die because no opponent would consider him enough of a threat to actually waste time on killing him first.
After that session, which also included some formation drills (which weren't hard and no one seemed to do those particularly awful), we left Hawaiian man and made our way back over to the director. At this station, we had to run at about 3/4th speed and come to a quick stop, as if something comes out of nowhere and stops our progress.
As much as that sounds somewhat easy, it's a lot harder than it seems. 3/4th speed still means that you're giving it at least a jog and then to stop on as close to a dime as possible due to something that doesn't exist, and not fall over, and make sure that your facial expression mirrors a situation in which you're rather desperate and for this calamity to happen is terrible...well, it's a huge clusterfuck of stuff you have to do and it's not easy, especially for someone with no acting experience like myself.
Because of how many people that were waiting, I only got to do it twice. I have to say, I did the exercise rather well – not the best, but definitely one of the best out of the people in my group. I definitely tried my hardest to make it convincing.
After a couple of rounds, we were done. The groups came together with the director and Hawaiian man. The two explained to us that the working conditions would be hard, as the scene has action and isn't exactly set upon a yacht or anything like that. However, we would be getting paid more. Still, he stressed that people that don't think they can handle it should just back out. No one did, but considering some of the performances I saw, I wish they did. Jeez, shit was bad at times.
We also had to do a scene in which we pretend to be a super hero and cry about it.
We all lined up and met the director and Hawaiian man individually, which basically boiled down to handing them the cards with our names on them and getting a handshake. I thanked them for their time, then walked over to my dad so we could head home.
Of course, the entire way back we talked about the experience. My dad, though disappointed that he didn't get specifically picked for anything, was still happy that he went and was proud of me. He talked anxiously about finding more casting calls so that he could one day be in a movie with Russell Crowe, which would be awesome for him. He also sent a text to his girlfriend's daughter, who is a photographer, so I could get headshots done for that other movie that I need to email out.
And then I went home and played Street Fighter. All I wanted to do was play more Street Fighter.
So, the moral of the story is to always take opportunities and pursue your dreams, even if you think it's impossible. You'll always lose if you never try, even if the stakes are high or your goal is unreachable. Sometimes, things can just go your way and an opportunity will present itself that may change part or all of your life. I mean, is this just some acting work or the beginning of a full-fledged Hollywood career? Am I the next James Franco? I could very well be! Or we could be in the sequel to Pineapple Express together, that would be sweet.
Or, at the very least, always take time to read the newspaper and peruse the ads. You never know what you'll find.