Saturday, February 9, 2013

Divergent Casting

Imagine a post-apocalyptic Chicago: Lake Michigan turned into a marsh, buildings and trains abandoned, people separated into five separate factions based on distinct character traits they value (selflessness, honesty, peacefulness, knowledge, and bravery)--this is the world of Veronica Roth's novel Divergent.

Now imagine making a movie version of the novel, filmed in Chicago and featuring Illinoisans as the hundreds of faction members inhabiting this dystopian world. Movie and book fans young and old would line up, down the block and around the corner, just to submit their applications to appear in the background of the movie.

That was my Saturday. I woke up early and went to open casting calls for Divergent, filming here this spring/summer. I heard some people got there at 7 am, but Jesus and I held off until a more reasonable 10, when the doors actually opened. We stood in line for about an hour and a half, hopping around in the cold and trying not to think about having to use the bathroom, before shuffling into a giant room that held several hundred people. Final reports are that over 1,500 people came to the call--some had to be turned away.

Once inside, we separated. Jesus got to join the special area for people with military, combat, or gymnastics training. I was with the regular folks hoping to get cast as an extra. We filled out applications that asked basic questions (special skills, experience, hobbies, body measurements for costuming, willing to cut/dye hair, etc), then joined another line to get our photos taken.

With his special blue star, Jesus skipped to the front of these lines and got sent right through. I waited, but once I was at the front, the guy did mark a red star on my sheet, sending me to a shorter line. All that was left was smiling regular for a picture, then giving the photographer my best "adorable, Little House on the Prairie smile"--seriously, that's what he asked for.

Since Jesus has read most of the book, and I've read at least 100 pages (all within the last few days, when we found out about this), we basically know what extra parts we'd fit into--Jesus the brave faction, willing to jump on and off moving trains and from buildings, tattooed and pierced and tough-looking, me the hippie/bohemian long-haired happy fun time peaceful faction--and we spent most of our time in line putting all the other hopefuls in their prospective factions.

Even if they don't ask me to be an extra, I'm glad I went to check it out. Who knows, maybe the casting company has another project in the works that I'd be right for. Either way, I can say I was a part of this movie's pre-production phase and I'll be interested to see if I recognize any of the extras from the time I spent in line with them.

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