Next up in my rummaging around for old writing is ‘Castin Call,’ an essay I wrote in high school about my experience auditioning for a movie that was filmed in Texas. It was printed in “TeenInk” magazine shortly thereafter.
The short blurb in the newspaper said it all: Casting Call. Opportunity for kids, ages 6-12, to co-star in the next Kevin Costner motion picture. Tryouts at Westgate Mall this Saturday at 2:00 p.m.
My mother alerted me to this article, and almost immediately we started preparing for my Hollywood debut. We selected my best headshot, even though a yearbook photograph can hardly be considered a “headshot of celebrity.” Together, we hand wrote my resume, less than half a page.
With the basic preparations done, I still had four days to daydream about my future success. I could just picture the articles in Entertainment Weekly and Premiere. I could envision my interview on “Entertainment Tonight.” The possibilities seemed endless. Destiny was calling, and I seemed the natural choice for the role.
Saturday morning finally dragged around, and the time came for my trek to Austin. My aunt came from Austin to take me there and back. We found out that the movie was “A Perfect World,” and not only starred Kevin Costner, but also Clint Eastwood, who was the director too.
This was only my first tryout, and I was sure the movie would be a blockbuster! Not only will I ace this, I thought, but I will also be hobnobbing with some big-name celebrities. On the way into the city, my aunt drove along the picturesque Austin skyline. If this movie becomes a summer hit, I thought, I could one day own those buildings.
An hour later, my aunt and I were still standing by a store entrance inside the Westgate Mall. The line of at least 100 kids had not moved. Kids were everywhere. I could clearly see the easily recognizable Channel 7 logo. The station was evidently doing a story on the tryouts. I promptly straightened up and donned my most respectable, most dignified look. I assumed the reporter, after seeing such a professional looking eight-year-old, would want to interview him before the director called him in for a read-through. I resumed my slouch the moment the reporter sailed past me without so much as a glance.
By this time, I was approaching the tryout room. I took firm hold of my resume and trotted over to the casting director’s table. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied another television camera, only with a DayGlo orange “24” plastered on the side. I gave my postured look another try. I snapped back out of my trance only seconds later when the cameraman left, and handed the casting director my resume. I was handed a small stack of papers, told that they were practice scripts, and I had five minutes of memorization at my disposal.
Whoever said young children have great memories should be kicked in the head. This script made no sense whatsoever. I thought the movie’s storyline was about an escaped convict. The script before me featured orphans in a large city. Words that I didn’t understand plastered the whole page. I tried glancing over the lines a fourth time when I heard the casting director calling me into the next room. Five stone-faced people greeted me.
Most of what happened next remains a blur. What I do remember is one of those people abruptly telling me to “get in the cart.” At first, I thought “get in the cart” was a Hollywood term, until I turned and saw an actual shopping cart. The small, dollar-store sized cart was painted a gaudy shade of yellow, with the words “Everything’s Ninety-Nine Cents” emblazoned on the side. Carts of such size could not hold a four-year-old, much less an eight-year-old. It should have been obvious to the casting crew: The sky is blue. The grass is green. Eight-year-olds do not fit in shopping carts. When I calmly explained this, I was given what is known in show business as The Great Brush-Off: “Thank you, we’ll call you.”
The next thing I remember, I was back in my aunt’s car, heading home.
By the time I got home, the sweet smell of success had disappeared, replaced by the foul odor of defeat. Good-bye, “Entertainment Tonight.” Farewell, Pre-miere. What had gone wrong? Questions flooded my mind. Could I have tried fitting into the cart? Should I have read my lines at all? Most important, why didn’t they give my resume back?
Evening settled in, and I absently turned on the television. Channel 24’s reporter mentioned the tryouts, and, intrigued, I looked at the screen in time to see a partially shadowed vision of me trotting by the casting director’s table. I smiled. I had made my way on screen. True, television is not quite the same as the movies, but I was grateful for any opportunity. Now, my fantasies of the future involve being on one of the local television stations, reporting the news to the masses. Personally, it seems the natural choice.