In order to find local actors for some of the film’s secondary roles, Beneath The Harvest Sky held open casting calls in several cities and towns throughout the state of Maine. Beneath The Harvest Sky Casting Associates, Ben Harris and Peter Kousakis, of Allison Jones Casting, each flew out to Maine, from Los Angeles, to help identify talented Maine-based actors and non-actors at the casting calls in Portland and Bangor.
Ben and Peter discuss the importance of finding local talent for Beneath The Harvest Sky, and their experience at these critical casting calls in Maine.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourselves and how you got into casting?
PETER: I was an acting major in college. After I graduated, I moved home to Los Angeles and decided that I was not ready to perform, so I started thinking of other fields I would enjoy in the entertainment industry. I got an internship at a casting office and after two weeks there I realized that I really enjoyed being a part of the casting process and pursued a fulltime job in casting. After a month at my internship, one of the assistants I was working with introduced me to Allison [Jones] and Ben, and I have been working with them for four and a half years now. It was and is my first casting job.
BEN: I started out as a PA – production assistant – and after gaining a better understanding of the different departments within production, I was very interested in casting. I started as an assistant and bounced from a few different casting offices until I found Allison Jones.
Q: Can you talk about your approach? Having read the script, what strategies did you use to identify potential local actors for Beneath The Harvest Sky?
PETER: The story of Beneath The Harvest Sky is very real. These characters are fictional, but they could easily exist up in Aroostook County, so the approach that I took was to find people who sounded natural when they read the lines we gave them. We wanted to make sure it didn’t look like they were trying too hard to get the lines out. The hope was to find as many people as we could that would make Beneath The Harvest Sky’s audience feel as if what they were watching was almost documentary-like.
Q: In Portland, there were a number of non-professional actors trying out. What are some common mistakes that those with no acting experience make?
BEN: Many times aspiring actors or people without a lot of experience will be overly animated or bring too much energy to the audition or performance. It is an easy mistake to make, as the actor wants to stand out and be remembered.
Q: What advice do you have for people who have never done a casting call? What should they think about as they prepare?
BEN: I would say try to keep your performance as real and grounded as possible. Just say the lines the way you would in a regular everyday conversation.
Q: Why was it important to cast in Bangor, Maine and other cities and towns throughout the state?
PETER: Well, I think for this movie it was important to try to find casting in as many cities across Maine as possible. This movie was filmed on a small budget so it was important to hold local casting calls to try and find new talent that was local. Plus, Bangor is a pretty big town, for Maine, so the hope is that we would get a lot of people showing up, which we did.
Q: A few hundred people ended up coming out to the Bangor casting call? What did you think of the turnout and support?
PETER: Iwas initially overwhelmed. We started very early in the day and didn’t take one break. Aron, Gita and I wanted to make sure that we could read as many people as possible and the line never went away. So many people showed up and everyone was being so patient, so we really wanted to try and give everyone a chance to audition. I was so impressed by everyone on the Beneath The Harvest Sky team that was running the auditions. They kept smiles on their faces and never got flustered. Looking back, it was a very fun experience.
Q: What were your reactions to the casting calls in Portland and Bangor? Were they beneficial?
BEN: Portland was great. It was very different from the usual day-to-day auditions we have in Los Angeles. It was refreshing to see real people. A lot of them had some real talent.
PETER: Looking back I think it was beneficial to go to all of the towns for casting. It was a good idea to try and see as many Maine locals as possible. We read a lot of people in Bangor and a lot of them were very good. I was really impressed with the talent that showed up.