Pick me! Pick me!
Open call for ‘Mack Daddies’ and blue-shade geeks
The fluorescent poster board taped to street sign poles with a hand-written “Auditions” looked like something the student council would hang on the hallway lockers at my high school. It wasn’t what I expected as I followed the trail to the big movie casting call at the Chico Chamber of Commerce on a recent Sunday afternoon. But my starry eyes were not dimmed.
Sacramento’s Media Casting, the same company that came through town in the early ‘90s to stock the locally shot made-for-TV movie Stolen Innocence (Chico-raised starlet Amanda Detmer’s springboard film), had taken over the chamber’s conference room.
I’d brought along my “favorite picture” as the announcement had instructed—a vacation shot of me in a wrinkled shirt, clowning around with my beat-up acoustic guitar for my in-laws. I was fully prepared to make an ass of myself, which I did almost immediately, as I laid my goofy 4 x 6 on the table next to a pile of glossy b&w pro headshots. The spunky woman taking applications was kind to me, though. “What song are you singing here?” she asked.
“Uh, something I just kinda made up.”
All right, so I wasn’t really prepared for this.
The room was filled with several dozen aspiring actors filling out forms and ponying up the $20 for two year’s worth of registration with the casting agency (it was another $20 to be part of the online database). Parents ushered smiling kids through the line; a tall, sophisticated middle-aged woman in a pink sweater and freshly pressed black skirt played it cool in the stuffy room, and Kathleen Lydon even put her friendly Butte County Search and Rescue border collie “Yogi” into the pool.
The company was casting for several currently filming or soon-to-be-filmed projects. There are a few low-budget films, Chopper Shop, 75, Isolated, plus a couple of pilot reality TV shows, American Mack Daddy and American Diva.
Head casting director Everett Blix (looking like a Magnum P.I. stunt double for Tom Selleck) “comped” my registration fee and explained that, with the rise of independent filmmaking plus the expansion of cable television and the proliferation of Internet-based programming, there’s actually a glut of roles available.
“Independents make this system go,” Blix explained, adding that his company has cast seven projects for Hallmark’s made-for-TV movies in the past three years. “People who can’t be in the big-name movies [now] have a chance.”
I am no actor, but with the characters being cast here, especially for Chopper Shop, the job didn’t seem too complex. Even I could handle Gimp, “Dave the Pirate’s ‘gimpy’ friend … a spaced out, short biker who drives a sidecar and is always smiling and waving at others while he rides.” He only has one scene!
I asked Blix what the chances were for a guy like me, signing up with absolutely no experience. He suggested that I might fit into the inglorious category of “real people casting,” maybe playing the part of a person on the street who tries on sunglasses in one of those blue-shades infomercials, adding that people won’t believe in the product if the person in the commercial “looks like an actor.”
The only actual auditioning going on was outside, where Mark Cameron was on hand to shoot footage for two pilots, American Mack Daddy and American Diva. Erik McClain, a handsome 6-foot-plus Chico State recreation major, who was scouted the previous day on campus, stood with a microphone outside and waited for Cameron to bring young female “costars” out to audition with him.
Priscilla Perez, a smoldering 22-year-old, appeared and was given instructions by Cameron: “He [McClain] is going to interview you to see if you’re the next American Diva.” Since he was trying to be America’s next “mack daddy,” McClain laid it on thick, getting real close and putting his sleepy eyes and fashionable dreads to good use.
“I think I want you,” he purred, convincing Perez (whose boyfriend stood a few feet away) in under a minute to give him a kiss and write her phone number on his chest.
Pretty impressive—and way out of my league. I got nervous just watching.