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Monday, March 01, 2004


Fun and Games at the Gus Van Sant Casting Call

From the Oregonian:

Last call: Director Gus Van Sant and Pie films are holding an open casting call from 10 am to 4 pm Sunday in search of principal actors and extras for a film about the Northwest rock n' roll scene to be shot in Portland this spring. The open call is at the Child Services Center. Details: 503-248-6741.

I dialed the number. They were looking for actors between the ages of 16 and 25. I double-checked my driver's license to be sure. Perfect. I thought things over. To get to this casting call would require the ultimate sacrifice: rising before 10 AM on a Sunday morning.

Now I have no formal acting experience, unless you consider reading lines in monotone during a handful of high school plays. My chances of landing any sort of role at this film are, roughly, .000008%. If the casting director ever got a look at this, the number would likely drop to a big, fat 0%. Was all this going to stop me? No, sir.

So I diligently forced myself out of bed yesterday morning and rolled up to the CSC at 10. Every 18-25 year old in town was already there. I took my place in line between two girls comparing headshots and a hoard of bouncing punks. I was a dork dressed in Old Navy in a sea of vintage clothing. The last time I felt this out of place was during an evening at a JW church a few years back.

Talk about your weird scene: 6,000 hipsters and punks standing in line on a Sunday morning, some of them nursing hangovers, all hoping to land a staring role in an indie movie. I had the camera with me but suppressed the rude urge to take pictures of everything in sight. At one point, a guy walked by with a shaved head and a green pony-tail jutting out of the top of his skull. Scribbled in white on the bottom of his black leather jacket were the words "Go Kill Yourself."

While the punks tried climbing a row of mold-soaked trees, I started talking to a guy named Justin. He moved to Portland from Illinois two weeks ago and considers himself a professional actor. For him, this casting call was Serious Business. He carried with him a pack of headshots and resumes and spent the whole time nervously checking his cell phone. When I told him I was there because I had nothing better to do on Sunday, he scowled at me with rage that would make Mike Tyson blush.

We didn't speak another word to one another and I felt like I should have left. Instead, I broke out the camera in order to make this awkward little moment all the more uncomfortable. The result are the lame shots you see before you.

Maybe I should have left. Still, the bastard in me forced me to see this thing through. The potential irony of being an extra in a Van Sant film after poo-ing all over Elephant was too hard to pass up.

The line wound around a football field. Along the way, a concrete divider was covered in empty Red Bull cans. I wasn't the only one fighting sleep deprivation. Every few minutes, someone with a name tag wandered by to interview people in line. One of them asked a girl "Why do you want to be a star?" Her response? "Because I'm tired of living with my fucking parents." Another kid's response? "Because I don't want to go to college."

Surprisingly, the line moved swiftly and we were inside in under an hour. Someone handed me a card with a number on the back. I was applicant number 3,238. I filled out my name and number and put "sleeping, eating and talking" under a slot inquiring about my hobbies. Gus was nowhere in sight.

Afterwards, we were lead into a large room with several lines of blue tape. I was lead over to row #10. With all the enthusiasm of a prison photographer, someone said, "Hold up your card with the number showing please."


And that was it. My shot at a role in this movie will be based entirely on my appearance and the card that was submitted. The kids that brought along their guitars and resumes were told to keep them.

So how did I feel after being binged and purged from this dream factory? Gloomy, dispondent and hungry for nachos. Gus Van Sant probably deserves a soul kiss for filming his movies locally and organizing open casting calls like this. Nevertheless, this seemngly endless blog entry wouldn't be complete without this quote from George Burns by way of Bart Simpson:

"Hollywood is a horrible bitch goddess."

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