PENDLETON — Kate Brizendine sat in the hot seat.
Several light beams sliced through the darkness and lit her dramatically. A microphone with a fuzzy cover hung overhead and a camera captured video. Brizendine was essentially onstage. She smiled brightly at four interviewers sitting just outside the pool of light.
The interview, held Monday in the basement boardroom at the Pendleton Center for the Arts, was a casting call for a full-length feature film called “Out of Character.”
The movie’s co-directors, J.J. Hill and Liberty O’Dell, asked Brizendine questions designed to reveal her personality, passions and background. Two others, photography director Jeremiah Marshall and composer and sound designer Alan Arnson, listened intently. The actress, hoping to snag the role of an extra, answered conversationally as if she was on a coffee date rather than getting grilled in an audition.
Brizendine was one of eight hopefuls who responded to the Pendleton casting call. Thirty-five others showed up in La Grande last week. The panel will conduct another casting call in Baker.
Hill and O’Dell — actors, writers and friends who met while attending Eastern Oregon University — are new filmmakers with high-octane dreams. They both have day jobs. Hill, of Pendleton, works at Blue Mountain Community College as a student success counselor. O’Dell owns La Grande’s liquor store. They will shoot the movie on weekends from March through July.
The men describe their project as a fantasy documentary involving live-action role playing, more commonly known as LARP. The movie, which Hill described as “Lord of the Rings” meets “Best of Show,” has a couple of plot layers.
“It’s a character story of six seemingly everyday people who portray different characters in competition to win $100,000,” Hill said. “They are everyday heroes on an epic quest.”
The six characters are working together against other teams in the competition. Each actor’s role has a sub-character which is assumed 12 hours a day. The fantasy pseudo-documentary will feature each of them doing side interviews about their strategy in the vein of reality shows like “Survivor.” The extra twist of playing a character who plays another character will bring some reality paradigm shifts, O’Dell said.
“It’s going to be like meta, meta, meta,” he said, grinning.
The film features six principal roles, some featured extras and 80-150 regular extras. The latter will participate in a battle scene in the middle of a big, open field and in other scenes. Filming will take place in Eastern Oregon with an all-Eastern Oregon cast.
“The film will highlight the talent of Eastern Oregon as well as the beauty of the area,” Hill said.
As they conduct their interviews, the men are looking for actors with strong, but realistic, personalities.
“Film, in general, sets actors up to fail because if you play too big, if you act too much, it doesn’t translate into film,” O’Dell said. “A lot of people trained for stage acting, they’re used to acting with their whole body. Their whole physicality is being used to interpret their lines. In film, you see exactly what the camera sees and that kind of physical performance can be too big. We’re looking for people who can easily access their own personalities. Then they just say lines as themselves. That’s perfect for the camera.”
Though neither Hill nor O’Dell has directed a feature-length film before, each man brings broad experience to the effort. Hill is an actor and writer who did theater and stand-up comedy in New York and Alaska and has a national radio award through his work as BMCC’s recruiter.
O’Dell attended the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City and co-founded the Secondhand Theatre Company there.
Hill and O’Dell acted together in a short comedy film called “Vampire Pioneers from Lake Terror.”
The Eastern Oregon Film Festival in La Grande has designated “Out of Character” as its current sponsored project. Those wishing to donate to EOFF’s Filmmaker Support Fund will find a “Donate” button at eofilmfest.com. Would-be supporters may also go to the movie’s Facebook or Twitter pages.
Contact Kathy Aney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0810.