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CASTING WILL SHEPHERD 06/13/2012

Posted by landfallprods in Purple Mind.
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CASTING WILL SHEPHERD

Here’s where it starts to get weird.  One of the actors who responded to our casting notice in Backstage West was a New York model named Will Shepherd.  The son of a retired country sheriff, Will had been wandering the country, enjoying a nomadic life-style straight out of Jack Kerouac for several years until he made the decision to become an actor and move permanently to New York.  Gutsy, right?

From the “Series 2010” YouTube, you can see that Will has some chops and the looks to go with them.  But what else was he bringing to the table?

Will and I connected first by email and then by phone.  He told me of his commitment to acting and how he spent all his money on coaching sessions with Drew Barrymore’s mother, Jaid, who, according to Will was a brilliant acting coach.

It’s embarrassing to admit how badly I wanted to make “Purple Mind,” and even more embarrassing how I ignored every rule in the book when it came to casting Will Shepherd.  Will had no reel.  He had no credits, except for another indie he’d had a lead role in, “1/20.”  But at the time, none of that footage was available.  What was available, in spades, was Will’s tremendous enthusiasm for the role of Roy Matthews.  Will swore up and down how the role was “written for him” and how he would go to any lengths to make Roy come alive.

So, I auditioned him.  Me in Portland and Will in New York – via YouTube.   I could kick myself now for not downloading those audition videos, but I didn’t and Will has long ago taken them off-line.

The first audition scene he did was a long monolog from an interview with a V.A. therapist where he describes why he hadn’t mentioned anything about symptoms of PTSD during his exit processing from the Army.  When I watched Will’s work I thought it was pretty good, but wasn’t as convincing as I’d hoped.  I felt I was watching an actor doing a scene.  What I needed was an actor who had become the character.  So, I asked  Will to do it again and gave him a little direction via email.  Two days later, another YouTube video was waiting for me.  “Take two.”  It was GENIUS.  No kidding.  Will had absolutely nailed the scene and brought Roy Matthews to life right there on the funky YouTube machine.

This was at about the same time that I drove down to L.A. to see Emily and her father on stage at Theatre West performing the play which they’d co-written based on the Richard Boleslavsky book, “Acting: The First Six Lessons.”

Working with her father, Beau Bridges, Emily was sensational.  Exciting in her full range of emotions and nuanced responses.  It was clear that what I was seeing on stage was the result of generations of dedication to the craft of acting.

Afterwards, at a cafe next to Theatre West, I sat down with Emily and we spent a half hour talking about the project, the lack of money, my wearing all the hats and my great discovery of Will Shepherd.

I suppose the only thing that sells a movie is enthusiasm, and mine must have been infectious because not long after meeting Emily, she and Will began a month long phone conversation that eventually led to them sitting across the table from each other at our house in Portland, Oregon, a week before production was to begin on “Purple Mind.”

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