October 20, 2004

Beyond the Lens: Film at Cornell

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Beyond the Lens In this installment of Beyond the Lens, The Cornell Daily Sun’s continuing series on four student filmmakers, we look in upon the arduous audition process that took place two weeks ago for the films of Pietre Valbuena ’05 and Amir Noorani ’06 The auditions took place in the lobby of the Schwartz Center and, although turnout was larger than anticipated, both Valbuena and Noorani were still anxious about finding actors for unconventional roles. Since Valbuena’s movie, Errare, features lengthy flashbacks to the protagonist’s childhood, he was mostly preoccupied with selecting a child actor. It became apparent at the auditions that it was nearly impossible to find a child able to handle the demands of an intense shooting schedule, while also maintaining a balance between the childish innocence needed for the role and the maturity needed to work on a film. Noorani, on the other hand, was dismayed by the lack of South Asian and Middle Eastern actors since his film, Breaking the Habit, is partially concerned with cultural exchange and interracial relations. “I know it’s sort of unfortunate that I have to make these judgments based purely on how someone looks,” Noorani admits. “But film is an aesthetic medium, and I have to know how my characters will look on screen.” Generally, however, Noorani seemed exhilarated by the interest: “Obviously, a lot of these people are professional actors and theatre students. But there are also just random grad students and interested community members who heard about it from their friends.” Both Valbuena and Noorani used fairly similar audition techniques, asking their applicants a few simple questions about their personality and tastes (“What is your earliest memory?” or “What make you laugh?”), and then requesting they read a few lines from the directors’ respective scripts. However, Noorani was frustrated that he only thought to videotape the proceedings after several South Asian actresses had auditioned. Jill Streja ’06 was one of the students auditioning for Noorani’s film. Although she is pre-law, her interest in theatre in high school led her to the audition. “The audition was unconventional and caught me by surprise,” she says. “I wasn’t able to process some of the questions immediately, but I know he’s looking for a personal feeling that corresponds to his film.” But the most remarkable student was a 14-year-old who is obsessed with Hitchcock, Broadway, and conspiracy theories. The director of his own movie (“an evil scientist makes a wonder drug”), the boy offered hope that Valbuena would be able to find a child actor with intelligence and talent.

Archived article by Alex Linhart
Red Letter Daze Staff Writer