“I know what this is, Dad. England is a punishment,” said 14-year-old McKinley Fallon as she practiced audition lines with her father in the hallway of Ellis Medicine’s School of Nursing on Erie Boulevard.
She was hoping to win the part of Daisy, a girl from Manhattan who is sent to live on a farm in England shortly before the outbreak of World War III. Daisy is also the lead role in director Kevin MacDonald’s new movie “How I Live Now.”
More than 200 girls showed up to audition, surprising casting directors who only expected about 50 girls to try out for the role, according to Schenectady Film Commission Co-Chairman Don Rittner.
“We really had a great turnout. The line went down the block,” he said.
Casting calls for the movie are happening nationwide, but Schenectady was chosen as one of the sites because New York City’s Cindy Tolan Agency was impressed by the local casting done for “The Place Beyond the Pines” in June and wanted to return.
“Could you imagine if we launched the career of a local girl because of all this?” said Rittner. “It’s just great for Schenectady.”
Unlike with “Pines,” the movie likely will not be shot in Schenectady, but Rittner hasn’t completely ruled out the possibility.
Based on Meg Rosoff’s novel of the same title published in 2004, the beginning of the story is set in New York City. Because Schenectady has an urban look many directors like, Rittner said it would make sense to shoot the beginning scenes in Schenectady if a local girl was picked.
Since the rest of the story focuses on Daisy living on a farm in England and learning to cope with her new life, the rest would be shot across the pond next year.
Eliza Figueroa of Rotterdam said she was “insanely excited” over the prospect of spending time in Europe.
She’s acted in the past and is currently playing the lead, Sarah, in a rendition of “Ragtime” being put on by the Schenectady Light Opera Company. Figueroa had wanted to audition for “Pines,” but changed her mind at the last minute so she could continue with the musical she’s already in.
“We were a little bummed after because we learned the part was to play Eva Mendez’s daughter and they look so much alike,” said her mother, Jane.
With so many girls showing up, auditions went almost three hours later than planned. Out of the 206 girls who had their picture taken and were interviewed by casting directors, 46 were called back to read the script.
Miranda Hart of Albany was called back to read.
She described the process nerve-racking, but the chance to go to England was a once-in-a-lifetime experience so she had to do the best she could.
“I thought it went pretty well, but I don’t know what they’re looking for,” said the 17-year-old. “They had me read twice and the second time they gave me a little more background about the character and that she’s supposed to be very sarcastic.”
The scene the girls read showed Daisy leaving her father at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as she departs for the English countryside.
“He’s sending her to England to live with her cousins. Her father sees it as a new beginning, but she thinks of it as a punishment and sort of scoffs at him as they say goodbye,” explained Hart.
Nicole Emmons, also of Albany, was asked to read as well.
She auditioned for “The Place Beyond the Pines” and was called back, before being told she wasn’t right for the part. Casting directors then told her to come back to try for this new role.
“I’m hoping to do better this time,” said the 16-year-old, who mostly models rather than acts.
A few hours later, she came out feeling good about her audition.
“It’s an exciting feeling. It makes you feel alive,” Emmons said, adding how she might read the book to be prepared in case she gets a third call back.
Rittner said the girls should be contacted about the part as soon as their audition tapes are seen by MacDonald.
“The director always has the final say,” he said. “I’m just glad this has been a success. For a movie that’s not even being shot here, them coming back says a lot about our area.”
Rittner is hoping to now get three or four movies a year to come to Schenectady to promote the area and help boost the economy.
Randall Dottin’s new movie “Indelible” will be in the area in November to shoot a few scenes. About a scientist mother trying to save her teenage son from a disease, the movie stars Tristan Wilds from the new “90210.”
“We’re happy to have them,” Rittner said.