Here’s the rough idea:
You’re a waiter at a 1940’s cocktail party, dressed in a dinner suit, with a white napkin draped over your arm and a silver tray in hand. You’re told to keep your head high and your shoulders straight, and politely offer the sparkling glasses of champagne to those chattering and chuckling around the room. Give a nod of the head and “sir” or “ma’am” when they thank you.
“We don’t care if you’ve never acted before – we’ll make you look good, we promise!”
Avid bushwalker turned local filmmaker Steve Cooke from The Walk World Productions is preparing to film a local adaptation of one of Stephen King’s short stories, and he’s looking for about 30 extras to help.
“Four of the roles have a little dialogue and there’s some other roles such as champagne waiters, chauffer, and bellboys,” he says.
“We also have several extra roles as housekeeping ‘maids’, just to add that busy hotel vibe we’re looking for.”
Calm down – he’s used to working with people with no drama experience. You might remember him from his ghost story, The Blacksmith, which premiered at Dendy last year and starred former ACT police inspector Adrian Craft.
This time, Steve is on a mission to give Dedication “a Canberra feel as if it had happened in 1940s Canberra”.
Famous American novelist Stephen King specialises in horror and crime and Dedication, released in October 1993, is no exception. The story is among his collection called Nightmares and Dreamscapes and recounts how a maid working in a hotel uses black magic in the hopes of harnessing the talent of one of the hotel’s frequent guests – an eccentric writer – and passing it on to her unborn son.
Steve has always been a fan of Stephen, “right from my early teens when my mum and dad first allowed me to read his books”. He’s a born-and-bred Canberran and left 33 years as a cop behind to get into his dream career of film production in 2017.
“It was something I’d always wanted to do so it seemed like a good time to start.”
His works began with a documentary, but quickly moved on to feature films including Letter from Bobeyan (which won multiple film festival awards, Hear No Evil (won Best Short Horror Film at the Tokyo International Short Film Festival), Transformation and The Silence.
He wrote to Stephen King last year, asking if he and his crew of young people could film a Canberra adaption of Dedication.
“He offers small independent filmmakers an opportunity through what he calls the ‘Dollar Baby’ program,” Steve says.
“You basically write to him, tell him about yourself and why you’d like to make one of his films (including the story you’ve selected) and if you’re lucky enough, you get the rights to make a film based on that story.”
However, making a film isn’t cheap, especially when you’re planning to book out iconic locations such as The Mercure hotel in Ainslie and The Hyatt Hotel as sets. So Steve had to think outside the box.
“The reality of local independent filmmaking is that funding is very limited and it’s tough to raise funds, so we’ve tried to be creative,” he says.
A “really talented bunch of local actors with up-and-coming names” are volunteering their time for the major roles, but the rest will be taken up by the hoi polloi of Canberra.
“Rather than just ask people to donate money and give them the usual film poster and T-shirt, we thought that it would be a great concept to open the extra roles for our contributors as a way to thank them and actually get them involved in the film,” Steve says.
Up to 30 extras will be styled with hair products and makeup, dressed in garb of the era, and join the crowd at the cocktail party. The only requirement is that you’re over the age of 18, for obvious reasons.
“Really, I’m just after people with a sense of fun and adventure, people who want to be involved and help us bring this story to film,” Steve says.
“I’m really loving that people are starting to take it up, as I really want to create a sense of Canberra community with this film.”
The cocktail party will be filmed during the first weekend of June 2023, with a release date at a local Canberra cinema for the whole film pencilled in for September.
Available roles range in price from $50 to $200. For more information or to ‘buy’ roles, visit The Walk World Productions website.