Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sometimes it pays to work with amateurs.

I just finished shooting a job in New Brunswick.

A lot of people I work with couldn't find New Brunswick on a map, which isn't to say anything negative about the place, just that it's not exactly giving Hollywood a run for its money as a hotbed of film production. Let's just put it this way: Ambitious filmmakers in New Brunswick generally move to the big city, and by that I mean Halifax.

I've worked in New Brunswick before, so I know how to adjust. The crews are great. But most of the people who come in for an audition don't bother putting together an acting resume because the only experience on it would be 'Football Player 3' in their high school production of 'Grease' twenty years ago. 

If that.

The spot I was working on called for four roles: a father, mother, son, and daughter.

The father I cast was an absolute pro. He'd worked in larger markets and moved back to New Brunswick because he preferred the lifestyle. But the rest? Two of them hadn't even been to an audition before.

For the son I cast a brash 11-year-old who tagged along to his brother's audition. He talked the casting director into letting him read –– sold her, really –– telling her that even though he was too young for the part, he'd work really hard and do a great job. Our mom had been on one shoot as an extra and thought acting might be fun. And the daughter had taken a few acting classes at the community theater.

Not that there weren't plenty of other, more "qualified" people. Actors with a ton of professional experience, some of it in huge markets like New York and LA. But what I saw in these three was magic. The boy's confidence; the girl's awkward innocence; the sparkle in the mom's eye. Of course, I'd have to work that much harder –– not just in directing each of them, but in educating them to the process.

But I was creating a family and a family –– at least a family of my creation –– is made up individuals who have personality.

Sure, there are times when a line needs to be delivered in 3.2 seconds or a mark hit precisely. But if I have a choice between personality and perfection, I'll take personality, thank you very much.

As it turns out, I got lots of both.