Works and Days

Fall Externship with simon max hill '01

            I learned in early September that simon max hill ‘01 was sponsoring an externship over fall break. After reading his interview on Works & Days, I knew I wanted to apply. I had just switched my major from biology to English, and I felt that I connected with simon on several levels with regards to his experience at Reed. I was very interested in his work in film and advertisement casting, and as someone interested in media and advertising, this felt like a logical next step.

            Nine days later, I found myself lying in bed and checking my email before French class, when my sleepy eyes read the subject line, “Dan, meet simon, your fall externship sponsor. simon, Dan Pogust!” I was so incredibly thrilled for the learning opportunity ahead of me, that I accidentally made noises of excitement that startled my roommate. 

            I began my externship early, on Saturday October 18th, with Liz Vice, a freelance casting director who was helping simon cast extras for the movie Green Room. This process began by working five and a half hours contacting roughly one hundred extras via email, text, and repetitive phone calls. The whole process was an excellent lesson for me in casting extras, and an excellent introduction to the externship as a whole. 

            I resumed my externship on Monday morning at 9am, in simon’s windowless office. Upon entering, I met Crystal, one of simon’s casting assistants, and Lauren, their friend who normally works as a real estate agent. simon calls Lauren in when they need an extra hand in the office. Lauren taught me just about everything I needed to know about “driving,” which consisted of greeting actors and models; taking their photos; collecting and scanning their information and résumés; organizing their files on the computer while keeping track of who had auditioned. It was a rather slow day, and I didn’t do much until Rachel ‘11, simon’s other casting assistant, came in later that afternoon. simon sent Rachel and me into another room to call actors who do not have agents. Calling all of the independent actors took several hours.

            I spent a portion of my shift on Tuesday sitting in on auditions, so I was able to witness the process from the beginning. The audition room was next to the main office and accommodated four members of an advertising team. I sat down, simon began the auditions, and I watched fourteen actors audition for the main character of a PlayStation commercial. It was interesting watching a commercial be deconstructed. After lunch, I returned to the main office to help Rachel take photos and organize the actors’ packets. Overall, Tuesday was a pretty easy day and I was able to experience the preliminary casting measures for an advertisement. Before I left, simon warned me that Wednesday was going to be brutal, and that I would be “driving” for its entirety. I was up for the challenge.

            I came in for work at 8am on Wednesday so I could witness the preparatory measures for photo-casting a mayonnaise ad, and the rush began only an hour later. I organized 121 models and their information on the office computer for the photo-cast. While keeping track of over one hundred mayo models, I concurrently had to direct 53 actors through a sign-in process for their Dr. Pepper callbacks. A written description of my experience on Wednesday does not accurately convey the stress and workload of working at the front desk, because the position demands the prompt completion of myriad tasks, simultaneously. I quickly developed a rhythm, and with Rachel taking on the photography, we were able to complete everything by 8pm. Before I left for home, simon offered to send me to the movie set for Green Room, the movie for which I had helped cast extras, on Saturday. 

            The crew call for Green Room was at 2pm the next day, so I had sufficient time to drive myself to Sandy, OR. I spent eleven hours watching the cast and crew film eight scenes, and enjoyed every minute. I learned a lot from my supervisor, Jeff, and several members of the crew. The workers told me about their jobs and experiences on set as well as the paths that they took to get there. 

            Despite the mentally taxing array of tasks that I was expected to compete simultaneously, I found the entire experience strangely intriguing, fun, and calming. I’m not really sure what to think of my feelings towards a receptionist type job, but I want to thank simon, Rachel, Crystal, Jeff, and everyone else who contributed to this experience. It was definitely the most fun and educational fall break I have ever had.

Tags: externship, fall, entertainment, casting, acting, modeling