Want to learn more about filmmaker Shelli Ainsworth? Read on to hear about how she cast the main character, Eddie Baird, of her feature length film, “Stay Then Go.”
I have a son, Dietrich, who has autism, and you know, I’ve been an artist almost my entire adult life, and there was, a time when I just thought, how can I not have this experience and not try to report back in some kind of way creatively? Casting the 18-year-old Eddie Baird was such an interesting and kind of scary process because we had a casting agent in New York, and we had one in LA. And I was getting just tons and tons of tapes and finally narrowed it down to 60. And then just went really hardcore and narrowed it down again to 40. And then I went to LA and had to see 40 people (laughs). And the thing that was really intense and difficult about it at first was that all those young men, they all wanted to show me autism. And it was just excruciating. And certainly I understand, but I just felt like I just had to sort of stop that.
And so on the second day of auditions, I talked with the casting director, and I asked her to call all the people that we were seeing that day and ask them to drop any kind of performance mask. It would be an audition, certainly, but I was gonna kind of structure it like a mini workshop. They certainly needed to be prepared as far as the text and the scenes, but what I did was I asked them to read, to work on a certain part of a scene and in a kind of random way, every third word or something, stop and make sort of a picture for themselves about that word. If it was “other,” you know, they had to come up with an image for “other” before they could move on.
And so it started to do this thing where all of them just became so much more interesting, and you could kinda see this life of their mind. And I feel that the character has a lot of challenges language-wise, but this very rich life of his mind going on. I felt like we got to this place where there were like two or three or four, maybe, that were just like, you know what? I could really work with them. They’re good, it’s really interesting what they’re doing, but then there was Matt Zane. You want somebody to certainly meet you half way, but there are those people who will meet you 99.9 percent of the way. He just really brought it. It was just– there was no doubt that he was the right person. I felt really lucky that we got to work with him. He was amazing, amazing, amazing young actor.
I just felt like the character, the 18-year-old Eddie Baird, was really going to be the soul of Stay Then Go. And I certainly felt it had to be a really wonderful actor who would have a kind of truth, simplicity. We wouldn’t have something poke out was actorly, and that’s a very hard thing, I think, for young actors. But Matt was really able to bring that. I knew that was going to be the hardest role to cast. And it was. But lucky us, you know?