From working on a previous webseries for pre-teens and children, I realized how much I enjoyed working with younger actresses / actors. The energy and inhibition of young actresses and actors really inspire me. I found it very helpful to take some opportunities working with kids. These experiences along with reading my childhood diary helped me get into the mindset of my younger years so I could to do full justice to oRaNgEdReAmS.
So now without further ado, CASTING - This was a really fun and exciting process because it was when I really started to see the story come to life. Like any writer, I think there is always a tinge of insecurity about the authenticity of dialogue until an actor works with it and says it out loud. I kept in some pretty un-PC lines because the crassness of how middle schoolers can be immature is a crucial part of the charm I needed to capture; not to mention I included some direct inspiration from my own diary! We held casting calls on several casting websites in search of the principle cast. I was happy to see that we garnered several hundred submissions for the roles. There were many inspiring, young, talents that came out to our numerous auditions at nearby local community rooms. However, I had very specific requirements for each character which I will explain below. My expectations were not only met but exceeded in many cases with the wonderful cast we decided to go with. It was such a great process in that I was able to learn even more about the characters. I am truly humbled to work as a team with the talent. They each brought their own twist to the characters and we were able to fine-tune and add additional depth to their emotions and motivations.
Evelyn Warner - our lead actress simply 'wowed' us with the depth that she brought to "Jessy". Jessy is definitely very temperamental, excitable, angsty, boy-crazy and determined to be a pop star and not live a "regular life". This was the role I was most apprehensive about since not only would it be a role based on my own younger self and a challenging role with a broad range of emotions. Well luckily Evelyn not only molded the role into her own but is also an amazing singer! We were so happy to have found her and loved her dedication! Not to mention she also looks great in the 2000s style too and was able to truly appreciate the time period.
Shay Backe - plays "Felicia" aka the best friend of Jessy. She is a supportive friend but is much less of an over-thinker than Jessy, making her very impulsive. She's the friend who always has advice to give even though she has never had the experience. This funny and relatable character goes on the mall date with Jessy as if she was watching a movie - wide-eyed, voyeuristic and expecting the best date EVER. I knew right away that Shay would be great as she played the character effortlessly and she was able to channel her own energy into it. Shay and her dad Gary were very amused to see her wearing color for her character as she usually lives in pop punk band tees.
Reilly Jimenez - is "Stevey" the suburban wangsta who's theme song is deestylistic "Hella Hard to Love a Gangsta" but may be a very sensitive middle schooler looking for acceptance. Reilly did a complete 180 for this role. Being a full fledged theater kid and Beyonce lover - he not only changed what was on his playlist but even the way he walked. We visited Reilly's home and worked with him on the character and minor details of his wardrobe such as using rubber bands on the bottom of his jeans. Reilly did such a great job on set and had everyone cracking up by the charm of this familiar middle school character. He was so fun to work with and made the entire cast and crew feel even more bonded with his antics ( need I mention pretending to strip-tease with his North Face vest between takes?)
Jordan Franco - walked into the audition with a smile and wonderful energy. He simply blew me away with how much he gave in his performance as "Maven" - the class clown who hasn't quite matured yet to the sensitivities of dating ( or in other words as Jordan and I agreed on the "proud smurfer" (smiling surfer)". We were happy to find that he was not only fond of the role but had plenty to praise of the story itself. The young actor was so passionate that it also inspired myself even more! He was able to not only embody the goofy characteristics but the inner-lying motivations of the character as Maven later has a shift in power from his often controlling best friend "Stevey". Let's not forget to mention he practiced using Heelys for this role.
Eichin Lim-Chang - plays Jessy's "Mom". Asian American mothers have often too familiarly been parodied as irrational, nagging, heads of household. I instead wanted to portray the mother as simply someone who is trying their best to connect with their daughter who is worlds away, immersed in the American tween pop universe. Eichin's character was as much about giving voice to Jessy's frustrations as to her mom's. Our goal was to humanize the mother's own misunderstand of a teenage daughter - a universal feeling that everyone can relate to. We were able to fine-tune this character and show her off-beat sense of humor as well as a tinge of disconnect and sadness that her character felt in not being able to connect with her child. Eichin was very dedicated and explained her own similarities to the character being a mother herself. On set, despite our limited time to shoot the scene, she nailed the delicate emotion of the parent.
Kimberly Cohen - "Jennifer" aka "Perfect Hair" is the popular girl in a higher grade than Jessy and Felicia. Her character is the type of popular person who was voted Perfect Hair in the 8th grade yearbook polls AND is the student body president. She is diplomatic and nice to every one but what is she really thinking? It's hard to tell if she's really being genuinely nice or if she just wants your vote and will make fun of you later. Her boyfriend is a Justin a high schooler and she loves macking with him! Kimberly was amazing in the role and tethering the fine line between snobby and friendly. She was one of the first that we auditioned for this role and she definitely stuck out to us. She was a perfect fit for it.
Andrew Lutheran - plays "Justin" aka the "Popular Dude" who's in high school. His character is completely obsessed with his Razor scooter and has a very stunning wardrobe ( No Fear and Big Dog tees with pants...that zip off into shorts). Andrew is a rising star who has been in Palo Alto, Breaking Bad, etc. We were really happy to have him as a part of the film as our DP, Mike Mcmillin recommended him. He flawlessly played the character and also did some pretty epic runs around the mall with his Razor! Justin is such a hilarious character simply due to the fact that he would've been someone we all looked up to as a popular, cool kid though nowadays not so much.
These were an amazing set of characters that I can confidently and proudly say were casted perfectly and executed extremely well by the talent. I am really grateful and humbled by the amount of dedication that all the actresses / actors put in and have to say that they all inspired me. I think that casting was such a crucial yet enjoyable process to me because I got to see the characters that I wrote and created come to life! I enjoyed working with everyone and respected everyone's different approaches to their characters and truly believe that the talent and director should work together in crafting the role.