April 01, 2020

Hundreds brave storm for chance at TV role> Audition for miniseries crowded despite weather

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — So what if lines were out the door? So what if you had to wait more than an hour for a five-minute audition? So what if the National Weather Service said it was dangerous outside?

This is Maine and this is winter, and if there’s a chance to be near the hottest thing in town besides your car heater, you’d be a fool to pass it up. At least that’s what some of the nearly 1,000 people who came out Thursday to auditions for extras in the ABC mini-series “Storm of the Century” said.

“Why’d I come out today? This is what’s going on!” said a jubuliant Grif Fenton of Lamoine. “What else is there to do in winter?”

On a day when schools, programs and just about everything else was canceled because of bad weather, it seemed the whole town — and then some — tried out to be one of several hundred extras in the six-hour mini-series.

Based on a Stephen King screen play about a Maine coastal town sacked by a blizzard, parts of “Storm” will be filmed along Main Street here in just 10 days. As the date nears, Southwest Harbor is rapidly being transformed into Storm Central. Everyday, more store fronts downtown are being altered to fit the film’s 1989 timeline. Construction workers raised the first of several sets to go up — a fake U.S. Post Office — on Thursday.

Anticipation for the big event was undoubtedly most evident, though, inside the American Legion Hall Thursday. Giddy school children, curious couples and excited individuals filled the hall with the noise and anticipation of a New Year’s Eve party.

Despite a waiting period of more than an hour to audition, no one seemed to mind. Seated around the hall’s beano tables, hopeful stars filled out their stats (gender, height, weight) and joked about being “discovered.”

Some truly wanted to be. Katy Kutny, a College of the Atlantic junior, came to the audition with three friends, skipping the first day of her “World Poetry” class and risking being dropped from it. Kate Hatfield, a Southwest Harbor woman, brought a Tupperware container filled with homemade chocolate chip cookies for the casting director.

Others discussed their qualifications to be an extra. “I acted a lot in high school,” offered Sarah Heifetz from Bar Harbor. “I was in `Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’. I was Augustus Gloop’s mother.”

In an interview, Cooke explained that she was looking for “Maine types,” young couples and fishermen, to make up a realistic background. She will choose some extras by next week for use in the Jan. 20-23 filming. Others will be chosen for shoots later this year. Because the starring actors have not yet been cast, she will use videotape and photographs to find actor “look alikes.”

When their numbers were called, the aspiring actors ascended the stairs to the Legion Hall’s quiet second floor in groups of 10 where Dee Cooke, Rainfall Productions Inc.’s local casting director, discussed the life of an extra.

“You’ll need to dress very warmly if you work during the winter shoots,” she said. “Bring something to do while you’re waiting around all day — a book, a deck of cards. It’s a long day as an extra.”

Nothing is a guarantee, added casting assistant Sue Violette. “You could wait around all day and not be used. Or you could be used, then end up on the cutting floor.”

None seemed deterred. When Cooke instructed the group to act out a potential scene from the series, they acquiesced.

“There is a huge storm approaching. It hasn’t hit with all its fury yet, but you know it’s coming. We want you to pretend to walk around downtown,” Cooke instructed. “Be natural.”

While Cooke took notes, some hopeful extras ambled along an imaginary street. Some pretended to greet old friends. Others clutched their sweaters with mock shivering. Several children staged a snowball fight. Others appeared not quite sure what to do and just stood.

After two minutes, it was over. “Okay. That’s great. Thank you very much,” said Cooke.

Emerging from the audition room, some hopefuls looked embarrassed, others as if they’d just gotten off of a great amusement ride. Southwest Harbor residents Benjamin Sawyer, 11, and his sister, Erin, 9, came out flushed with excitement. Benjamin said he thought his audition went well. “I just really want to be in this movie,” he said.

His sister was less pleased with her performance. “I don’t think I’ll make it,” she said sadly. “Oh well,” said their mother, Anne Patterson, with a grin. “At least we can always say we tried out for a Stephen King film.”

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