The Atomic Screen Test

Andrew Posts: 378 Enthusiast
edited September 2011 in Practical Filmmaking
(click image to play)
Hey all!
Andrew here from Atomic Productions (or Atom, as you may know me from the FXhome Forums.) Today I'd like to share with you guys an unlisted link to something we've been working on. You see, the past week or so Ben and I have been developing a scene for a director's workshop course he's currently taking. The course requires a casting call, rehearsal, and then shooting of whatever sequence you pick.
Here, we just didn't people for rehearsal. But instead of running a generic casting call and getting some bad theater actor, we called some friends-of-friends and drove in actors from another city (200 miles or so) to participate in it. Why? Because when you know the actors you want, that can deliver best for you, you go out and get them.
In this instance, we didn't so much go with a sure thing as we did take a chance on an actor, Corey Cleary-Stoner, who we had seen in some of our friend's work and really loved. He came, rehearsed a scene for the class with us all, and then had to return back to Dallas for the week. (We're shooting the scene on-location next week.) He was doing such a great job, that late in the night before the morning he was to leave, we decided to do a quick screen test with him- in costume in our backyard- to get a feel for his camera presence, and to have as a marker of his ability and 'look' for future projects we might cast him in.
The result is
[size="6"]The Atomic Screen Test[/size]

Anywho, we think he did a pretty phenomenal job, especially for just a dry-run single take, and wanted to share it with you guys. This all comes as preparation, on a bigger level, for the western feature we're continually trying to work out- and testing settings, speed, and new actors is all a part of that. Screen tests.
For those that may not know what a screen test is, it is essentially a pre-production tool that aids in casting and instilling confidence in choosing certain actors. It's amethod of determining the suitability of an actor or actress for performing on film and/or in a particular role. The performer is generally given a scene, or selected lines and actions, and instructed to perform in front of a camera to see if they are suitable. The developed film is later evaluated by the relevant production personnel such as the casting director and the director.
So yeah, check it out.


  • MatthiasClaflin
    MatthiasClaflin Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
    To be honest, it wasn't very interesting to watch, I skipped through a lot of it, but it was pretty cool to see this guy act, it'll be interesting to see a new face in the atomic talent pool as well. I agree, I think he did a fantastic job with those lines. Will you guys be posting the scene for Ben's class online when it is finished?
  • Andrew
    Andrew Posts: 378 Enthusiast
    Thanks for the feedback, man.
    Yeah, it's a bit stagnant, because it doesn't go anywhere or change angles- but since we drove Corey in for the rehearsal, we wanted to capitalize on his presence and test him out on-camera. Sorta the nature of a 'screen test' more than anything- see what he looks like and how he reacts in the Western setting to see if we should stick with that.
    We are going with the Western costuming/look/feel, I think, so it was nice to put it to practice. The final project and principle photography won't be for another week or so. For that we'll be shooting in a remote area/farmland to sell the overall aesthetic of the scene, so it was doubly-nice and convenient to be able to 'test out' the costuming and lighting setup, albeit in a rather quick and thrown-together fashion. (Though I still think it looks pretty cool on the screen test.)
    So yeah, it'll be up online soon enough. Just wanted to share it as another part of the process as to how we go about making the films that we do, and the steps we take to get there. Trying to become one of those Hitfilm forum contributors, I suppose. ;)
  • MatthiasClaflin
    MatthiasClaflin Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
    Haha well nice to hear back from you Andrew. I think it is cool to see how you ran your screen test, although after a couple minutes of it, it gets rather boring. Not a bad thing, just the way it is. So is this western scene you'll be shooting have any relation to the western movie you guys want to make? The way I understand it, this is for a school project for Ben, correct? Will it also be practice for you guys as far as western style shooting goes for your future feature?
    As always I look forward to hearing form you again!
    PS I thought it looked really cool. The footage looks good as far as grading and costuming and such.
  • AxelWilkinson
    AxelWilkinson Posts: 5,255 Staff
    Nice, Andrew, thanks for posting this up. As screen tests aren't the sort of thing that make it to the public eye very often, its cool to see this one, and to have you explain the purpose it serves. I'm sure many users will find it both interesting and beneficial.
    Corey did a great job with the scene, especially considering the circumstances. Hang on to that guy. :) The costume design was good as well. The only complaint I had, which is not even that relevant for a screen test, was that the audio was pretty low, and being able to her the offscreen line reader, to get a better idea of what Corey was responding/reacting to, would have made it more engaging to watch, to me as an audience member. Of course, as screen tests aren't really intended for the audience, and I get that. But I thought I'd mention it in case you ever shoot other screen tests with the intent to show them. Even as it is, though, I enjoyed watching through the whole thing.
  • Andrew
    Andrew Posts: 378 Enthusiast
    Thanks, guys.
    Yeah, this is for a class of Ben's- a 'Director's Workshop' course, where one of the major goals is to try and 'recreate' a lesser-known scene from a film. Ben had a handful of things that him and I talked over, and ultimately we both landed on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
    Partly because the scene picked isn't between the title characters, which makes it a tad more interesting of a pick, partly because I knew of Corey before we had figured out any scene and thought he'd be best-utilized as the character Ed Miller, and partly because it allowed us to experiment with more period-style Western themes/locations/costuming/looks. (Well, that and it'll be more-impressive than everyone else's when we're done because of it. ;) )
    The final of what this is will be a single recreated scene from that film. It's not required, and nobody goes for it ever, but we're going to try and recreate it as close as we can. (Which we luckily have some practice at by now. ;))
    Since we had a compulsory in-class rehearsal and had to go get Corey for it this week, we just wanted to fully-utilize our time with him and better prepare for what is (likely) going to be a tough location to shoot by screen testing. That's essentially what this is, yeah.
    As far as a feature-length Western goes, it's something we're ever-developing almost always. We've been swarming through commercial projects the past 9-12 months, and all of that work has helped allot us the opportunity (hopefully) to push through with this bigger project. Fingers-crossed, obviously, but yeah- planning and scouting actors like Corey especially, who I am half-writing a certain character for following his work in a friend's project, is just really helpful for prep, too.
    And Axel, yeah- the audio is a bit low. As you mentioned, and as was intended, the key of the video is to see the visual presence onscreen. How line delivery and costuming and everything else come together, down to facial ticks and slight hand movements, translate- so we can see how they can better serve the scene on-location.
    It's definitely a less-recognizable or appreciated part of the prep process, and not oft-seen by the public/audience- but as a part of including some of this community in on what we do (as well as our fans), we wanted to share some works of ours stage-by-stage as we go through them.
  • SimonKJones
    SimonKJones Posts: 4,370 Enthusiast
    He's good! Got a great look and I like his style. Understated, slightly tortured, lots of subtext playing on his face. Definitely a good addition to your company of actors - quite a different style to some of your other regulars, as well. It'd be good to see Corey going toe to toe with Gitlin or Redlinger.
    Also, on a side note, the lighting and look of the screen test worked well to set the tone.
  • Andrew
    Andrew Posts: 378 Enthusiast
    Thanks for the comment, Simon.
    Yeah, we think Corey is a really fantastic actor and hope to utilize him in projects with some of our other-known actors previously-used. Much of the way we've found a dynamic between, say, our friend Chase and actor John Redlinger in our recent project A Long Walk In Mexico, we hope to find a similar duo in Corey and, say, Reese or Josh or Trevor.
  • Hendo
    Hendo Staff Posts: 160 Enthusiast
    He was great, I could tell from just the still image that there was something about him. I look forward to seeing your western film!
  • StormyKnight
    StormyKnight Posts: 2,618 Ambassador
    Thanks for this post, Andrew. Very informative and cool to see.
    Also, I'm in agreement with everyone else- Corey is really good! Wish I could find talent like that.
    Good luck with your production!
  • Max
    Max Posts: 53
    He is definitely a keeper, good presence and he has an interesting face. It's cool to see this sort of stuff, and brave to put up a 5 minute take that is essentially an actor at his least prepared and vulnerable, without the benefits of editing etc. It looks great too, the lighting and the costume are really strong.
    You really are cultivating a good little pool of excellent actors, looking forward to seeing more from you guys soon.
  • Andrew
    Andrew Posts: 378 Enthusiast
    Thanks guys, appreciate the kind words.