Fern Renville, our leader of the Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theater group, based in Seattle, Washington, sent out a message to all of us though Facebook. A casting call: for a feature film based on the novel Winter in the Blood, written by James Welch. The Casting director, Rene Haynes (casting director for The Twilight Saga) was searching for young Native American actors to play a young boy, a young woman, and a young man. This fit for a great deal of us. Needless to say, we all were drooling to go. The one issue was: the call was in Missoula, Montana.
Dreadfully early in the morning, van packed, coffee cups filled, and snacks galore, my mother and I began our journey to Missoula. First stop, gas station. The day was already half spent by the time we had hit I-5, three more persons packed in the already half filled van. How we managed it, I will certainly be pondering for more days to come. The caravan of four cars brought a total of eleven of us to Missoula. Imagine that. Eleven teenagers and three younger siblings all ranging in ages eleven through nineteen, four vehicles packed with knees and elbows and I-pods, and endless sound track on repeat of “Are-we-there-yet?”‘ all the way to Montana.
Eight hours after we began our journey, we sleepily stumbled in the door of the front desk. We three teenagers drifted zombie-like down the halls… until… until… there it was… the pool. We stood there, eyes wide, mouths agape. Then it finally hit us. It closed at midnight, and it was only eleven. Squealing we ran down the hallways, threw our stuff in the corners of the room and changed as quickly as we could. Moments later we jumped into the pool.
The next morning came too soon as the alarm on my phone brutally woke me. I, and the rest of Red Eagle Soaring had a short period of time to make it to the college campus till the auditions began. Groggily we placed a mask of very convincing perkiness on our selves, passing most of us off as much older than we were, and some, much younger. I sat impatient, script in hand with only a few short lines on it. There were at least a hundred fifty people that day. How many were waiting to read, was hard to tell. I was number fifty four.
“This trip to Missoula, Montana was a wonderful experience with the Red Eagle Soaring group. What I learned, I will bring with me on my journey up through the film industry.”
Well past three o’clock and I had yet to eat a shred of food, I mingled from group of friendly strangers to group of strangers. The volunteers were friendly and I struck up a nice chat with one of them. Our group stayed mostly together in a circle in the middle of the room. It dawned on me, that they had formed an instant village. Our chaperones were busy talking up their kids to the parents of other hopeful actors. The small children played and laughed at jokes played on each other. The older kids were napping, chatting, flirting, or helping each other out with lines, presenting a wonderful zone of peacefulness.
Up until then, I had been just dandy. Other than my lack of an appetite I had been fine. Then, my number was called. “Numbers 54… 55…. And 56!” Oh boy, here we go. I sat by the door to the room where the panel of directors held the auditions. Feeling much like I would outside a doctor’s office, breathing deeply I attempted to calm myself. After 5 minutes in a slight meditative state, a woman’s fiery red head popped out, “number 54?” I stepped in the small room filled with a few important looking people behind a long table and large camera pointed in my direction.
“You’re only sixteen?” said the redheaded woman I later will find out was Rene Haynes. “Yes.” I smiled up at her and her colleges. “I see that you are one of the Red Eagle Soaring kids.” Rene said, looking at me over the top of my resume. “That’s right.” I kept my voice even, my heart thudding away in my throat. “Well, it appears that you have done this before. Go to the tape on the floor look into the lens, and when we say so, speak your name and your height.” Walking to the tape I did as I was told. The next few minutes flew passed as I read my lines, easily fitting into the character. I finished my last line, and smiled at Rene. Under some one’s breath I heard, “Wow…”.
The directors and I talked for a few minutes giving feedback. Those hours the rest of the group made its way up through the line, I spent with a beaming smile. Various outcomes occurred. Mostly good though.
Saturday night, most of the group went to a screening of ‘Trail of Tears’ with a Q and A by director, Chris Ayer. For the rest, it was party night: food, movies, games, and the pool till oh-god-thirty in the morning. Good thing the next day was our day off. Sunday was a day of sleeping in, games and a hike for most of us. Stress Relief for One and All.
Monday was a panel discussion, with Rene Haynes, Chris Ayer, Tracy Rector, and several other renowned directors in Indian country. My mother, a few of the Red Eagle Soaring kids, Alex, Jullian, Brittany, and I all attended. It was enlightening. I enjoyed hearing the words of men and women who all succeed in the career I am taking on one day at a time.
The ride home was similar to the ride to Missoula. Only quieter, everyone was sleepy as we pulled onto the highway. homebound, the mountain passes were in broad daylight. The scenes were beautiful; rolling hills and grass lands were gorgeously painted by the setting sun.
This trip to Missoula, Montana was a wonderful experience with the Red Eagle Soaring group. What I learned, I will bring with me on my journey up through the film industry.