This is typically a blog about books and writers, and my journey through publishing. However, today, I have something different to share, and it is a doozy!
A couple of years ago, there was an escape at the maximum security prison near my home. The event rocked the North Country for three weeks, shackling its residents with fear. It made national headlines. The drama that unfolded during that time was something my little corner of the world had never experienced, and was the stuff Hollywood scripts are made of.
Once I got a grip on my fear during the escape, I began to write, because that’s what I do. I journaled, I blogged about it, and I began to formulate a novel; fiction inspired by my events and experiences during that time. The book will be called #PrisonBreakADK, and the first draft is nearly complete.
This past year, it was announced in the news that Ben Stiller (BEN STILLER!!!) had pitched an idea for a mini-series about the escape to Showtime, and we found out recently that the project is moving forward. This has been big news for my sleepy little town, because as part of the production, they held auditions for extras here, just yesterday, and I was a part of it!
I have been involved in a number of theatrical productions through the years, but those productions are musicals, and my role is to be a musician in the pit. Never have I been on stage, reciting lines. Ever…at all. But when the announcement was made about the open casting call for extras, I just knew I needed to be a part of it.
Here is what I experienced:
It had been reported that the casting call was to begin at 10:00, but my friend Christina and I arrived at 9:00. When we got there, the line already stretched around the city block. We were numbers 76 and 78 in the queue. By the end of the day, the number of hopeful actors topped one-thousand, which was way more than anyone expected. The photo below was taken while we were on line, around the block from the theater.
While we waited on line to enter the theater, we conversed with the others, getting to relive the prison break days. Every one of us there, had shared in the same experience those years before, and talking about it made me realize how so many of us were affected profoundly. In line with us were officers who took part in the search, residents of the local area, like me, who experienced the helicopter searches and k-9 units patrolling our wooded areas, investigators and reporters who had been involved in the search and media, the shop owners who fed the workers in the search…It was nice to talk to those folks about our experiences.
It took a while for the casting company to get organized, considering it hadn’t expected the number of auditioners, but once they were ready, we were lined up by number, filled out paperwork, and took headshots. Below, the photo was taken after we had our headshots, and shows my vantage point from the waiting area to the left of the stage. You can see the line of people waiting for their headshots.
From there, we were seated in another part of the theater, and waited for the interview process. The next pictures show us waiting for the interview to start.
The interview was pretty short, and while we answered questions about our profession, where we were from, our hobbies and interests, etc, the casting director sized us up, organized us into groups. Our groups were directed below the theater stage where we would have to read a script.
Yes, a script.
This may sound unbelievable, but I hadn’t expected to have to read one. So, yes, I got super nervous at that point. I wanted to be an extra…in the background! It turned out that there were still a few cast parts with speaking lines left to fill. Smaller roles with limited lines and such. So, with trembling hands, I took the script they handed me, and began to study it. I was to read the lines as “clerk”.
I tried to convince myself that I could rock it. I am a writer, and a teacher of the performing arts, albeit music. I could do this!
As I mentioned, this was the absolute first time I had ever read a script so I could perform in a production of anything. I have, however, worked on writing a screenplay with someone who was adapting one of my novels, but that is pretty much it. So there I was, sitting in a hallway in the basement of a theater, studying my lines.
When it was my turn, I was called into a small room. There was a video camera set up, and a man who was going to read the lines with me. I hadn’t expected a camera. Cue: internal freak out #97 for the day. I ended up reading the lines four times, until there was a decent enough take.
For Christina and I, the process took about three hours. It took longer for others.
I have to say, kudos to actors. To be able to pull inflection and “attitude” from just a script with a few lines on it is actually really difficult. As a writer, I didn’t expect that. Thinking and writing what you want is far different that performing what you want. Believe me.
In the end, my friend Christina got a call-back! While I have not, I am super proud that I had the courage to take part in the open casting call. I felt that I needed to do it as part of having closure with the prison break. I don’t know if I will get cast as an extra or not, but, even if I don’t, I can mark “Audition for a TV Mini-Series” off my bucket list..and I only realized it was on there a couple of weeks ago!
I send my gratitude to Ben Stiller, and his entire production team, for bringing this opportunity to my little corner of the world. We were part of something big with the prison break, and I am excited to see how this mini-series plays out.
Thanks for reading about this experience! Have any of you participated in a TV or movie casting call before? I would love to hear about your experiences!
Hi Susan, Wow, what an experience!. It would be great if you do eventually get a walk on part…Good luck to your friend. I KNOW how difficult the audition must have been for you!! I’m retired to Spain and won the lst prize in Torrevieja’s first International Short Story comp.way back when. Thrilled, I blanched when being interviewed for the TV/radio (in Spanish!) Help.A later phone call said “The sound was all wrong. You have to do it again.” More colly-wobbles. I have been on stage a few times since then, but don’t like the experience. I’d much rather carry on writing (music in background) in the privacy of my office! A vibrant friend, who is a natural at stage-work interviewed me on Facebook in a video, and when I heard my voice, I wanted to run…. Hey ho. Thank you for sharing your story and good luck with your writing.
[…] done” pile. On July 22, I had the opportunity to audition for Ben Stiller’s Showtime Mini-Series, Escape From Dannemora! So that was awesome… Auditioning for the mini-series was a […]
Good luck to you and your friend with the show! I got to work on a student film in college and be in the audience of a few shows, but never read for an audition. Sounds exciting!
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