Calling all sports figures ready for Action
By Paul Andrew
You might think professional athletes get a fair share of opportunities to be involved in the film industry; the odd commercial comes their way to supplement their income.
But the fact is, it doesn’t happen very often. And when they do get the opportunity, athletes may not be paid what they feel they are worth.
That might all change if Whistlerites Sherry Newstead and Rob Boyd can persuade the dozens of expert and pro athletes in Whistler and elsewhere in B.C. to become part of Action Casting, which will act as a representative for athletes wishing to do more than just compete in their chosen sport.
Even though Boyd retired from the World Cup racing circuit two years ago, he and Newstead are both professional athletes — most notably as members of last year’s Whistler-Blackcomb Freeride team. Boyd recently appeared in a commercial for Goodyear Tires in which he races a car down a ski hill. The car wins, of course. But the bottom line is, the way Boyd got the job was complicated because he isn’t part of the union that fills the slots.
"I met the director for that commercial, Bill Heath, through Greg Stump. He did a segment for Warren Miller’s Freeriders two years ago in Whistler," Boyd said. "He called me and said ‘you’re the guy.’ I was lucky because he was adamant about using me. I’m not part of the actor’s union so I had to come in as an apprentice member."
Boyd said those occasions are rare. And because of the hoops and barrels people have to go through to get high-profile acting jobs, which pay a minimum of $250 for work as an extra, and $500 per day for a principle acting role, most athletes don’t bother with the hassle. For an annual fee of $30, Newstead and Boyd will catalogue the biographies and 8 x 10 glossies of any sports figure interested in earning a few extra bucks. Newstead says part of the problem for production companies is tracking the people down in time for a shoot. So the pool of pro-athletes interested in acting just doesn’t exist in any organised form, until now.
"We are filling a void in the industry," Newstead said. "No one else is doing what we are doing. A lot of the time people are just picked off the mountain because they are in the right place at the right time. Rob and I have a lot of connections with pros. I work in the industry as an assistant director and I talk to a lot of directors and producers and they all love this idea," Newstead explained. "So we’ll fill our data-base with skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers and all extreme sports athletes. It’ll be like one-stop shopping for filmmakers. Directors and producers see a need for this."
The timing for Action Casting couldn’t be better. Newstead says casting is underway for a film being shot in Fernie, B.C. called Hangman, which will be in production for three months after Christmas. Although the main actors needed for the movie are snowboarders, snowmobilers and skiers are also required.
So far Action Casting has been little more than word of mouth, Boyd says, and the trick is for people to come forward with bios and photos. Once they do that, they are in the data-base for a year. Action Casting will take 15 per cent of payment on any jobs it gets for its members.
Boyd said he was told by the Union of British Columbia Performers what to look out for when contacted about an acting job, but not everyone is privy to that information. With their contacts in the sporting world and combined knowledge from appearing in films and videos, in addition to Newstead’s on the job experience, they plan on sending well prepared athletes onto film and video shoots in order to get the job done properly.
Both Newstead and Boyd admit there is much competition in the filming industry. But with the B.C. film industry now third largest in North America, behind New York and Los Angeles, they can see Action Casting becoming a busy company in the future.
"Our service is highly specialized and we’re approaching an area of the industry that no other agency is representing," Newstead said. "I started out as technical consultant on a commercial for Chapstick because they needed somebody who was savvy about the snowboarding scene. Now as an assistant director, I deal with talent, ad agencies, talent agencies. I’m responsible for an actor’s best interests.
"But the bottom line is, whoever we send out to do the job, it will be done right and won’t waste a director’s time on the set."
To contact Action Casting, call 604-932-4283, or check out the web-site at www.action-casting.com.